The term “snake-oil cure” conjures up images of sketchy Victorian pharmaceuticals full of dubious ingredients (cocaine for toothache anyone?). Yet to this day, strange, even harmful ‘miracle’ cures are still being peddled to the general public by suspicious groups in the UK.
Recent investigative journalism undertaken at The Telegraph has uncovered instances of a former Scientologist, Las Vegas based healer proposing a cure involving bleach in order to treat autism. Mr Jim Humble is also known as ‘Archbishop of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing’ which could suggest a heavily religious root to his medicinal beliefs. Shockingly, he has also allegedly claimed that industrial-strength bleach, found in a ‘Miracle Mineral Solution’ could be used to treat Ebola and HIV. In response, UK campaigners called for Humble to be banned from ‘The Spirit of Health Conference,’ which was a meeting discussing alternative health that took place on the 5th of May this year. The conference itself was captured in video footage that, according to the Good Thinking Society, showed the concerning promotion of dangerous substances to treat a variety of diseases.
The weakness of local trading standards authorities in being able to prevent vulnerable citizens from falling prey to such exploitative alternative health practitioners is being questioned. According to the Telegraph only 21 convictions have taken place in the last two decades. Overall, the police and the Trading Standards have failed significantly to undertake any sort of adequate preventative action, despite lives being at risk. Currently, the sentence for selling dangerous, fake cures to the public largely involves fines. This is evidently proving to be an insufficient deterrent, and a weak punishment for endangering the health of others.
After knowing and working with autistic children in primary schools as a volunteer, I am shocked to believe that some families or communities are willing to put the lives of autistic individuals at a severe risk in a desperate bid to secure a treatment. Perhaps I am naive, I was hopeful about the amount of tolerance and understanding towards autism. Yet ignorance appears to have blanketed autism as something fearful, undesirable and to be ‘gotten rid of’, instead of something to be understood and in cases where it is warranted, helped with, in order to improve an individual’s quality of life. This ignorance is unacceptable. It shouldn’t need to be said that individuals diagnosed with autism are as diverse and unique as any other human being, and as such, can’t and shouldn’t be defined by their condition.
Legal, therapeutic treatments carried out by licensed authorities with the aim of improving an individual’s quality of life and degree of independence are perfectly understandable, as long as they are safe and ultimately beneficial to the autistic person in question. Unsafe, medically unapproved ‘miracle cures’ being flouted by alternative medicinal practitioners are not only illegal but also are a perilous move towards intolerance and misinformation. Greater action needs to be undertaken in order to prevent further harm to the health of vulnerable citizens.
My overall concern drawn from this issue is that autism appears to be being perceived by some families in the UK as a disease to be ‘cured at all costs’. Where is the acceptance of what is only an innate disposition found within the huge spectrum of human behaviour? It essential that awareness is increased in order to stop the flagrant exploitation of fear and ignorance towards autism. The eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day has already taken place this year on the 2nd April, but that doesn’t mean education and awareness isn’t a priority.
If you’re unsure about what autism is, here’s a great place to start.