May 04 2011

Mark Geier’s License Suspended

I learned this morning that the state of Maryland has suspended the license to practice medicine of Mark Geier – elder of the father-son Geier team who have notoriously been treating children with autism with chemical castration.

This is very good news. It is heartening to occasionally see a state medical review board actually do their job and discipline physicians who are practicing abject quackery. I am only partly blaming state boards for their general lack-luster performance in this area. In many cases their hands are tied by state laws designed specifically to hamper their ability to discipline unscientific or substandard medical practices.

For further background on the Geier lupron protocol, here is a good article by David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine. He has been following the story closely.

It is usually a good thing to have such issues reviewed by expert panels. Often we get sucked into a “he said, she said” battle in the mainstream media and on blogs with cranks and pseudoscientists, and that can be a frustrating experience. It is often refreshing to have independent experts review the claims and practices of such practitioners, and state in unambiguous terms how absurd and unethical they are.

The court ruling details numerous substandard and unethical practice. Here are some highlights: They concluded that Mark Geier

“Misdiagnosed autistic children with precocious puberty and other genetic abnormalities and treated them with potent hormone therapy (“Lupron Therapy” or “Lupron Protocol”), and in some instances, chelation therapy, both of which have a substantial risk of both short-term and long-term adverse side effects. The Respondent’s treatment exposed the children to needless risk of harm.”

In addition they conclude that Mark Geier

– Misrepresented his credentials (as both being a geneticist and epidemiologist)

– Ordered “extensive and expensive” batteries of tests that were outside the standard of care

– Failed to properly examine patients (even order Lupron therapy based solely on a phone conversation and selected lab tests).

– Failed to provide adequate informed consent

– Used therapies not based on evidence and not supported by the medical community

– Used an IRB (Institution Review Board) that failed to meet state and federal guidelines

– Exploited patients and parents.

These are all things that many of us have been saying about he Geiers for years. I like to think that our constant prodding led to broader mainstream media coverage of this scandal, which in turn helped prompt this review (an article by Trine Tsuderos was referenced in the decision).

I should note, however, that Mark Geier has active licenses in many states, and this action only covers his license in Maryland. It should complicate his ability to renew his license in these other states, as he will have to disclose this decision when applying. There is also a built-in appeal which needs to occur.

But the decision as it stands is a home-run for ethical science-based medicine.



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