Chelsea doctor suspended over claims he administered 'dangerous' autism treatment to children

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A doctor at a private clinic in Chelsea has been suspended over claims he administered dangerous and discredited treatments to autistic children.

Dr David O’Connell charged hundreds of pounds for sessions to provide consultations for parents hoping for a “cure” their child’s autism.

But he is accused of offering them injections which were proved to have no impact on the disorder and have even been linked to the death of a child.

He is being investigated by the General Medical Council after it emerged he was using unproven forms of treatment at his autism clinic at O’Connell Autism Clinic.

One treatment Dr O’Connell is accused of practising involves injecting the pig gut hormone secretin into patients. 

The use of the hormone is based on the theory that autism is caused by the “autistic enterocolitis” disease – an illness invented by the now struck-off British doctor Andrew Wakefield.

The GMC is also investigating whether Dr O’Connell used the potentially dangerous treatment of chelation, which clears the body of lead and mercury.

The method has been linked to the death of a five-year-old boy who was taken to the US for the controversial treatment in 2005.

Abubakar Tariq Nadama died after suffering from cardiac arrest during his third round of treatment. 

It can cause kidney damage and dangerously low levels of calcium and is considered particularly dangerous in children. 

Chelation as a form of treatment links back to another of Wakefield’s claims that childhood vaccines cause mercury to build up in the body which, in turn, leads to autism.

The general consensus among scientists is that there is no evidence to back up Wakefield’s theories.

And a 2015 Cochrane review found no evidence that chelation had any effect in treating autism and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stated: “Do not use chelation to manage autism in any context in children and young people.”

Pending the investigation, Dr O’Connell has been temporarily banned from treating patients with autism by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

The 12-month suspension order explicitly orders that “he must not carry out any consultations or treat any patient for Autism related matters, or provide any online advice or information on matters related to Autism”.

The GMC statement said: “Dr David O’Connell (GMC No. 1394131) has interim conditions placed on his registration while a fitness to practise investigation takes place.”

The website for the O’Connell Autism Clinic, which was founded in 1998, says it is “currently undergoing maintenance [but] will be back online very soon”.

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