The Chicago Tribune today has an in-depth article about the misuse of autism research in therapy:
In his letter, obtained by the Tribune, [Florida family physician Dr. Dan] Rossignol justified the unorthodox treatment in part by writing that "a recent study out of Johns Hopkins has shown that children with autism have evidence of neuroinflammation on autopsy and (cerebral spinal fluid) evaluations."
It was [Dr. Carlos] Pardo's study.
Rossignol did not mention that Pardo's team had written in its online primer, using capital letters for emphasis, that intravenous immunoglobulin "WOULD NOT HAVE a significant effect" on what they saw in the brains of people with autism.
"THERE IS NO indication for using anti-inflammatory medications in patients with autism," the team wrote.
There's a word for doctors who offer treatments to desperate people without any evidence that the treatments will work. Or, to put it another way, if it walks like a duck...
I have some experience dealing with the allure of long-shot treatments for diseases that no one actually understands. Fortunately my mother was a solidly rational person, so when she volunteered for an experimental treatment, she understood the possibility—one in three, in fact—that she would only get a placebo, and the bigger possibility that the drug wouldn't work anyway. And the experiment was conducted by an actual science team with actual experimental methods and an actual study-review board.
Quacks are dangerous because desperate people don't usually think rationally. Undergoing dangerous, not to mention costly, treatments that come from shaky foundations and incomplete research do far more harm than good. The hope these treatments bring has a cost that many families don't understand until, much later, they regain their rationality. Then they find that only the quacks have really benefitted.