updated 8/23/2007 9:35:00 AM ET 2007-08-23T13:35:00

A doctor was charged with involuntary manslaughter Wednesday for administering a chemical treatment that state police say killed a 5-year-old autistic boy.

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The child, Abubakar Tariq Nadama, went into cardiac arrest at Dr. Roy E. Kerry’s office immediately after undergoing chelation therapy on Aug. 23, 2005.

Chelation removes heavy metals from the body and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating acute heavy metal poisoning, but not for treating autism. Some people who believe autism is caused by a mercury-containing preservative once used in vaccines say chelation may also help autistic children.

The boy’s parents had moved from England to the Pittsburgh area to seek treatment for his autism. They have filed a wrongful death suit against Kerry, and the state is trying to revoke his license.

The state police asked Kerry to turn himself in by Thursday afternoon or risk arrest, said prosecutor Randa Clark. Police also charged Kerry with endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment.

Used wrong formula?
Investigators, who have worked on the case for nearly two years, talked to several doctors about his methods, and one is prepared to testify that Kerry’s treatment constituted gross negligence, she said.

The Department of State, which licenses physicians, filed six disciplinary charges in September against Kerry. The department contends Kerry used the wrong formula of the drug and prescribed an IV push — meaning the drugs are administered in one dose intravenously — despite warnings that it could be lethal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the boy was given a synthetic amino acid to rid his body of heavy metals, instead of a similar chemical with a calcium additive. Both are odorless, colorless liquids and may have been confused, the CDC found.

The additive is used to replenish calcium, the loss of which can cause sudden cardiac arrest.

Kerry, 69, has not commented publicly on the allegations but has defended his treatment in documents.

He has argued that the boy’s autism symptoms improved after the first two treatments earlier in summer 2005. Kerry acknowledged there may have been “miscommunication” about which medication to give the boy during the third treatment, but says that did not amount to repeated or gross negligence.

A receptionist at one of Kerry’s offices said the doctor was treating patients and was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

The attorney for Mawra and Rufai Nadama, John Gismondi, said criminal charges are rarely filed in disputes over medical treatment.

“Most medical situations don’t involve criminal charges,” he said. “They may involve civil litigation, but I think criminal charges are warranted, and I think the state of Pennsylvania obviously agrees.”

Kerry could face prison time if convicted of all counts. Because he has no prior convictions, however, he is unlikely to face the maximum sentence of decades in prison, Clark said.

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