ASAT Responds to Charlotte Observer's “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is healing many ills”
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Dear Ms. Nolasco,
Thank you for your article, “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is healing many ills,” in which you gave an overview of the current medical benefits provided by hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for conditions such as decompression illness and potential amputations due to diabetes. You also indicated that there are some conditions where there is evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment versus conditions without such evidence. However, there are some aspects of your story which may cause confusion, including the overall tone and title used.
Although research has shown some benefit of HBOT for a few specific medical conditions, statements such as it has “largely outgrown early skepticism” are misleading given the breadth of conditions discussed in your article. Although research supports its use in cases of carbon monoxide intoxication, in relation to autism there is no such empirical support, and still much skepticism exists. It would have been helpful to more explicitly point out where skepticism remains.
We appreciate that you do offer quotations from several medical doctors stating that there is not enough scientific “proof” for the use of hyperbaric oxygen treatments for some disorders. We applaud Dr. Richard Moon for his comment: “I would feel (it) would be unethical for me to refer a child with autism, where I don’t even have an inkling of any evidence that it actually works.” Yet later in the article, you offer statements from another medical doctor who states that she believes autism is caused by an “immune system that is out of balance,” and who claims that these treatments are effective, although she provides no empirical basis to support her claim.
Opinions of medical professionals can often be very powerful, yet misleading. In writing your story, it would have been prudent for you to do a review of the research to substantiate these quotes. There are currently no known causes of autism which include an “out of balance immune system.” Additionally, no evidence exists that HBOT has any long term beneficial impact on a person’s immune system. Please visit us at www.asatonline.org for more information about evidence-based treatments.
Thank you for summarizing and attempting to balance the empirically supported uses of hyperbaric oxygen treatments with uses which lack such support. In future articles, it would be helpful for consumers if you provided overviews of the actual empirical evidence (or lack thereof) as opposed to professional beliefs when differentiating between the two categories. In addition, potential side effects, which may include ear pain and ruptured ear drums, should be mentioned in order to give a more complete picture of HBOT. At approximately six thousand dollars out of pocket and 80 hours' worth of treatments, caregivers of those with autism deserve to be given as much information as possible to make decisions before electing to try a treatment which a doctor “believes” will work – especially when the evidence thus far shows it to be ineffective.
Justin DiScalfani, M.A.
Media Review Committee, Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D, BCBA-D
President, Association for Science in Autism Treatment