Naturopath college outlaws therapy that promises 'complete elimination' of autism

A homeopathic therapy that promises "complete elimination" of autism has been banned by the regulator for naturopaths in B.C.

The College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. advised practitioners Monday that advertising or offering the treatment, known as CEASE therapy, does not meet its standards for professional responsibility.

"The board has determined that naturopathic doctors in British Columbia must not advertise or offer CEASE therapy. Any naturopathic doctor who provides CEASE therapy to patients may be investigated by the inquiry committee of the college and may be subject to disciplinary action," college registrar Howard Greenstein wrote in an email to all registered naturopaths in B.C.

CEASE, short for Complete Elimination of Autism Spectrum Expression, is based on the unfounded premise that most autism is caused by vaccines. Practitioners advertise that they can treat autistic children using highly diluted forms of those vaccines along with nutrients like vitamin C.

'Inaccurate, unverifiable' claims

Greenstein told CBC last week that he had been unaware of the practice until a member of the public filed a complaint about CEASE.

The name alone is a problem, Greenstein wrote in his email, explaining that it represents a claim "that is likely inaccurate, unverifiable, or likely to create a false impression of the results CEASE therapy may provide to patients and may be likely to take advantage of the emotional vulnerabilities of autistic individuals and their parents and/or guardians."

He said the practice likely violates the college's rules on advertising and immunization, and may also be inconsistent with the expected standards of care for autistic patients.

The college has also updated its policy on vaccination, clarifying that naturopaths must not provide patients or the public with anti-immunization materials in person or through marketing, and that practitioners should not advise against vaccination without a properly documented medical rationale.

"It is the generally held view of the college, on behalf of the naturopathic medical profession, that for most patients, the benefits of the vaccinations recommended by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control significantly outweigh the risks," Greenstein wrote.

3 naturopaths subject to complaint

Three registered B.C. naturopaths are subject to the public complaint about CEASE, which is now under investigation by the college.

Since CBC first reported on the therapy, two of those naturopaths have removed their names from the CEASE website, which advertises a list of registered practitioners in Canada.

But Victoria's Anke Zimmermann remains, and has posted a full-throated defence of the practice on her website.

In it, she acknowledges that "complete elimination" may be an overstatement.

"Perhaps a different name would have been better. Maybe it should be renamed. Maybe it really works that well but we don't have enough research to prove it at this time," she wrote.

She added that she has never promised to cure autism, and always tells patients that any autism treatment requires between one and four years. Zimmermann also said she'd be happy to volunteer for any study that might test the effectiveness of CEASE.

Zimmermann is also subject to a separate complaint about her claims surrounding the use of a homeopathic remedy made from rabid dog saliva.

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