Harm Caused by Quack Cures and Aversion Therapy, etc.

Various sham "cures" victimize autistics. People who profit from these treatments are able to convince parents that they will exchange an autistic child for a "normal" one. The harm is not only financial, as many of these "treatments" and "cures" are highly abusive.

Various statutes of limitations preclude lawsuits initiated beyond a particular time period (e.g., 2 years) after discovery of the harmful act (called a "tort"). A major exception is that the time to file a case usually begins after the victim has reached the age of majority.

A victim of abusive treatments has a limited time within which to file a suit to collect damages (sometimes shortly after reaching the age of majority). It is useful to know where to find legal help.

These "treatments" include adversion therapy, some forms of Applied Behavioral Analysis (A.B.A.), intensive behavioural intervention (IBI), chelation therapy, DMSA (also TTFD, 5-HTP, DMPS, EDTA), and biomedical intervention.

"Off-Label" vs. "Off-Label and Unorthodox"

Not all "off-label" use is a bad thing.

There is a difference between "off-label" and "off-label and unorthodox". If a medication can be documented as having benefits for a particular disease and condition and its use is reasonable in view of it's approved use, then it is "off label". This is a combination of the existing use being comparable and documentation that the "off label" use is effective.

An example is the use of birth control pills for dymenorrhea. It is known that birth control pills are useful for dysmenorrhea, and in fact some have been approved for that purpose. If a particular formulation of birth control pill is better tolerated by the patient, a doctor would be likely to presecribe that formulation for dymenorrhea, "off label". This is reasonable because:
  1. The prescribing of a birth control pill is considered reasonable because the risks are balanced by the benefits. The pill is regarded as safe enough for its intended use (as a contraceptive in long term use)
  2. The use of the pill for dymenorrhea is well-documented.
  3. In this case similar medications are approved for that purpose. The side effects of the "off label" prescription would be similar to the side effects of a contraceptive pill approved for dymenorrhea. Therefore the prescription would not be considered "unorthodox".
"off-label and unorthodox" occurs when a particular drug or other medication is not indicated for a particular condition, and there is no documentation that using the medication for that condition is reasonable. Using drugs to treat autism is likely to fit into that category.

Physicians can usually get away with prescribing "off-label and unorthodox" because the time between the writing the script and the child being old enough to file a lawsuit independently is probably beyond the retirement age of the physician.

Use of Drugs Not Certified for Pediatric Use

The use of drugs which have not been certified for pediatric use may be "off-label and unorthodox".

Consider if:

  1. The drug's prescribing information specifies that the drug has not been tested for pediatric use.
  2. There are no extenuating circumstances that indicate the drug is safe for pediatric use.
In this case, the prescription becomes experimental. Any adverse event which occurs because of the drug will be the result of the doctor prescribing the drug counter to the manufacturer's recommendation.

State Action on Quack Cures

In most jurisdictions, oversite for medical treatments is the jurisdiction's medical review board (state or provincial medical review board in North America). These are either government organisations or government sanctioned organisations in charge of medical licenses and the like.

If someone files a complaint with a medical review board concerning unorthodox treatments, they will look into the complaint, and possibly take enforcement action against the practitioner. If they are successful, the determination may be probabitive in a lawsuit, should one be brought concerning the unorthodox treatment.

Not Legal Advise

This document is not presented as legal advise. Each case is different, and legal advise also dependent on the particular jurisdiction, and properly provided by a practitioner licensed in that jurisdiction.

Filing complaints

In filing the complaint for unethical practice, one should be specific, both in the type of unorthodox treatment being used and why the treatment is "unorthodox". Reasons should be "factual" in nature. If possible, include documentation. If, for example, the medical personnel use disclaimers and the like, these may be useful as demonstrating that they are aware of the fact that they are using unaccepted treatments.

A complaint can be made by any person, and the complaintant need not be of the age of majority to file a complaint.

To file a complaint for unethical practice, locate the medical board, and either request a form by telephone or use an on-line complaint process if it exists.

Legal Representation

In some instances it is possible to collect damages from providers of unorthodox treatments, particularly if these treatments are deemed abusive or unreasonable. Doing so usually involves a lawyer, who is knowledgable in medical malpractice, psyciatric medical malpractice, or quack medicine malpractice.

The Legal Claim Must Be Timely.

Most or all jurisdictions have a statue of limitations during which a case can be initiated. The statutes of limitations for medical malpractice vary widely but typical time periods are 2 years after the injury, perhaps extendable until after the injury is discovered.

A major exception is that the time to file a case usually begins after the victim has reached the age of majority. (The age of majority is not the drinking age.) If the age of majority is 18, then an action must be filed within the time limit after age of 18. Since it takes time to prepare the case, especially with nonstandard facts, this means the case must be initiated shortly after reaching majority.


With the exception of some pro bono services such as ACLU (US), lawyers perform work for fees. These fees mostly come from three sources:
  1. The government and businesses who keep in-house lawyers. Examples are state's attorneys and in-house corporate lawyers.
  2. Fee for service - generally either an hourly fee or the equivalent in flat fees; however some criminal cases are handled on a flat fee basis based on the type of criminal charge.
  3. Contingent fees.

The contingent fee is significant in personal injury (tort) cases because most plaintiffs don't have the economic means to pursue at their expense. In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer receives a percentage of the award. Typically the plaintiff pays court fees (filing fees, etc.) but the bulk of the outlay in terms of lawyer time is provided by the lawyer.

A lawyer is unlikely to take a contingent fee case if the outcome is particularly uncertain, or if the potential judgement award is small. Therefore if a case is taken on a contingency fee basis, that implies that the lawyer really believes that the case has a high probablility of rendering a significant judgement. (That also means that many of the silly judgements we read about are not the entire story of what really happened.)

Loyalty to the Client

If an organisation refers a lawyer, the lawyer's duties are to the person being represented. There are instances where the lawyer's duties are to a third party but these are rare and must be clearly and unambiguously spelled out to the party. In almost all cases where the lawyer is bringing suit on behalf of a plaintiff, that lawyer is considered to represent the plaintiff, and not the organization that referred the lawyer. For example, if an ACLU lawyer takes on a case (because it has human rights implictions), that lawyer will still represent the plaintiff and not the organisation (i.e., not the ACLU in this example).

This is important because some of the groups who may represent an autistic in an abusive treatment or malpractice case may be referred by religious or political groups. That lawyer's duty is to the plaintiff and not to the referring group.

This applies to the US; however Canada and most other countries have the same standards for the legal profession.

Referral Services

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a group within the Church of Scientology has become active in opposing what they call "psychiatric violations of human rights".It seems that Scientology is involved in part because they disfavour psychiatry; instead favouring their own techniques. As far as I'm concerned, their concern is more than welcome. Thank you, Scientologists.

CCHR may be able to direct you to a lawyer willing to take the case. Please see the links for this.

What Is CCHR?
CCHR's Lawyer Referral Page
CCHR can be useful in locating lawyers willing to take on "professionals" responsible for abusive therapies.

Legal Support on Other Issues

School and Juvenile Issues

Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice - sponsored by several US Federal government agencies.

Lists of Autism Spectrum Links

Hoax Causes of Autism
Biomedical Treatments for Autism
Disguised Eugenics Research Promoted as Autism Fundraising - If you think you are contributing to an "Autism" charity, but the only connection is that autism makes an excellent genetic research model.
Homeschooling and the Spectrum
back to Relationships index

Finding This Website

The URL is www.scn.org/people/autistics/
So far, Google, Yahoo and AltaVista pick up this website by using the following searches:
relationships and the autism spectrum
"relationships and the spectrum" autism

Comments about this site: email me

Note that this is a group website and some of the pages on this website are not mine. Please get in touch with the cognizant people for the other pages. Also, let the author know which pages you're writing about. If you see text material on the net, there's a good chance that the author has written dozens of pages, and so it helps if you give the author some clue as to which page you're writing about.
written 6-02 and 7-02; first posted 9 Aug 02. First indexed 23 Sep 02 (Google). Last revised 16 Sep 12.

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