More than 120 homeopaths in the UK are offering a “cure” for autism that involves supposedly detoxing children of the vaccines and antibiotics held responsible for the condition, the Guardian has learned.
The homeopaths are accredited practitioners of CEASE “therapy”, which stands for Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression. CEASE was invented by a Dutch doctor called Tinus Smits, who died of cancer in 2010.
His book and website, which lists therapists around the world, describe a method of ridding children of toxins – predominantly vaccines and medication – that are said to cause autism. It involves homeopathic remedies and high doses of vitamin C in excess of those recommended by national guidelines.
Diarrhoea, which could be a result of excessive vitamin C, and fever in children should not necessarily be cause for concern, say CEASE therapists, because it is the child’s body purging itself of toxins.
“It’s absolutely appalling,” said Carol Povey, director of the centre for autism at the National Autistic Society (NAS), which helps develop best practice. “As healthcare practitioners, homeopaths should still be working on evidence-based practice and looking at national guidelines.”
The NAS is concerned by the suggestion that autism, a developmental disorder, could be cured. It is also disturbed by the claim that autism is linked to vaccines, as proposed by Andrew Wakefield – a theory that has been comprehensively discredited. Wakefield, a former gastroenterologist, was struck off the medical register over his claims.
Homeopathic cures, like other bogus therapies on the internet, “hoodwink new parents when they are vulnerable” and can cause harm, said Povey.
A minority of CEASE therapists in the UK are members of the Society of Homeopaths. Its regulatory body, the Professional Standards Authority(PSA) has said the Society of Homeopaths must state by the middle of next month what action it will take to ensure children are safe as a condition of its re-accreditation.
The PSA told the Society of Homeopaths that “CEASE therapy contravenes medical advice by apparently advising against vaccination of children, avoiding antibiotics in the case of infection and advocates high doses of vitamins not recommended for children. We are also concerned that the full name of CEASE (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) strongly implies the ability to cure autism through this therapy,” it said in a statement.
While the society had responded that its members “should not be practising the aspects of CEASE that defy medical advice”, this was not clear on its website, said the PSA.
Mark Taylor, chief executive of the Society of Homeopaths, said it was looking into how many of its members practised CEASE therapy and whether they complied with advice on respecting medical evidence. “We are looking at the advice we will offer over the next few weeks so there is nothing more to say at the moment,” he told the Guardian.
Many other homeopaths who are also CEASE therapists are not members of the society. The PSA urges the public to choose only those on its accredited register.
Jennifer Hautman, a homeopath who is not a Society of Homeopaths member, says she has used CEASE therapy if parents have requested it. Smits’s book, she says, is written for lay people, who then look for a therapist.
“I would never promise to cure anything. I do think autism can be treated. It can be improved,” she said. Children often had gut disorders, she said, adding: “I’m not a gut specialist. That’s what Andrew Wakefield was working on.
She claimed: “There are a lot of scientists finding similar results to his.”
While the causes of autistic spectrum disorder are unclear, she says on her website that “ASD is often linked to vaccine damage” and asks parents to fill in a questionnaire “if you feel you or your children have been damaged by vaccines”.
Asked about the CEASE theory that fever and diarrhoea help expel toxins, she said: “Generally speaking in homeopathy, discharge can be a good thing. If you have infected wounds, you want the pus to come out. If you have diarrhoea you want it to come out rather than be constipated.” A child must not be allowed to become dehydrated, however.
Smits, the creator of CEASE therapy, wrote in his book that “all kinds of detoxification reactions may occur” as a result of the treatment. Most common is fever, he said, which “should not be treated with medication, as it is a healthy reaction of the organism and not a disease! ... Eliminations like diarrhea, flu, expectoration, and bad-smelling and cloudy urine should also be left alone, because they are a part of the healing process.”
One child he treated had diarrhoea that “relieved his system so much that his autism almost disappeared instantly”. After 10 days, however, his mother was so concerned that she took him to the doctor, who gave him immodium to stop the diarrhoea.
“Almost immediately the child had a setback and became autistic as before. The diarrhea was a perfect detoxification for his bowels and brain. Neither the doctor not the mother understood this, and the medication interfered with the progress of the cure,” claimed Smits.
Ursula Kraus-Harper, a member of the Society of Homeopaths, told the Guardian she has used CEASE therapy since attending a seminar with Smits in 2010 but that she uses it in conjunction with classical homeopathy. Children started improving after a certain set of detoxes, she said. She did not believe homeopathy was a cure, however.
She said she was not against vaccination, but said “vaccines can be a problem and so can medical drugs. That is more and more accepted by everybody who is not blinded by drug-driven medicine.” She denied CEASE put children at risk. “Tell me of one child, one person that has died from high doses of vitamin C,” she said. “When the body has had too much of it, it will produce diarrhoea; then you lower the dose and the diarrhoea will stop.”
The Labour MP Barry Sheerman, who chaired the cross-party Westminster Commission on Autism, condemned the claims of CEASE therapists to cure the disorder. “There is support and much we can do but there are no cures and if someone says so, show me the evidence,” he said.