Doctor to be tried in death of child

Chris Togneri
| Friday, Nov. 16, 2007

A Butler County doctor will stand trial on charges he caused the death of a 5-year-old autistic boy by negligently ordering a controversial treatment, a district judge ordered Thursday.

Dr. Roy Kerry of Portersville ordered chelation therapy - which the federal Food and Drug Administration approves for treating acute heavy-metal poisoning, but not for autism - on Abubakar Tariq Nadama in 2005. During a third treatment, on Aug. 23, the boy went into cardiac arrest and died.

Kerry, 69, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment.

A pediatrician called to testify during Kerry's preliminary hearing yesterday accused him of "extreme recklessness" because he prescribed the wrong chemical, and because he ordered it in an IV push -- administering all the medication intravenously at once -- rather than injecting it over the course of several hours.

"If you use a particular substance regularly, you should know all the side effects," said Dr. Mary Carrasco, a prosecution witness. "And this is not a side effect, it is an expected effect."

Kerry did not answer questions from reporters outside the courtroom of Slippery Rock District Judge Clifford Woessner.

His attorney, Al Lindsay, said Kerry should not be tried on criminal charges because he did not intentionally harm the boy.

Carrasco said ignorance is not a defense.

"I cannot comprehend someone using (the chemical) in an IV push for this," said Carrasco, whom prosecutors called as a pediatric and child maltreatment expert. "How can you not know• You cannot be licensed to practice medicine if you don't know why medications are being used."

Theresa Vicker, a medical assistant who administered the final treatment under Kerry's orders, said the doctor's office regularly administered chelation therapy to adults, but not as an IV push. She said Nadama's was the only IV push she ever performed.

When Nadama stopped breathing during the treatment, Vicker called 911, and then performed CPR on the boy. After paramedics arrived and took the boy away, Vicker and other staff members cried, she testified.

Lindsay said Kerry is still practicing medicine. The Pennsylvania Department of State has charged him with practicing medicine negligently and unprofessional conduct. He faces suspension, revocation or restriction of his medical license and fines of up to $10,000 for each violation.

"This is devastating to him," Lindsay said after the hearing with Kerry standing next to him. "It is one of the most difficult things this man has ever gone through."

John Gismondi, the family's attorney, said Nadama's parents, who live in the London area, are still mourning. The family moved to the Pittsburgh area so their son could be treated for autism.

The family, who did not attend the hearing, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kerry.

"Obviously, when something like this happens, it's just beyond them," Gismondi said.

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