The Madrid Medical Association (Icomem) has banned Spanish doctor Isabel Bellostas for 364 days for spreading “unsupported claims, against scientific evidence, on the origin and cause of the autism spectrum disorder,” health sources have told EL PAÍS. According to these sources, Bellostas has been charged with serious misconduct for her theories on autism and for “promoting treatment and operations completely lacking in evidence that have serious health effects for patients.” Icomem has confirmed the length of time of the ban, but not whether it has been applied to Bellostas.
Never again vaccinate a child with autism
Doctor Isabel Bellostas
The case was brought by the Spanish Autism Confederation, which also preferred not to reveal the identity of the doctor, who works at a private medical center. “Our primary goal is to protect families from messages and practices that go against scientific evidence,” explained a spokesperson for the organization, which represents 77 provincial and regional autism associations.
Bellostas is a well-known figure in anti-vaccination circles. She presents herself as a pediatrician and is listed as such in listings at some private medical centers in Madrid region. EL PAÍS, however, was unable to confirm whether she is qualified in this area, nor confirm her version of events, despite numerous calls to her phone numbers.
Bellostas has claimed in various online articles and interviews that vaccines are dangerous and linked to autism – theories that have no medical basis. “A child with autism is suffering from digestive problems, with 100% of their small intestines affected,” Bellostas writes in a letter published on the website of Josep Pámies, another defender of pseudo-therapies who is currently being investigated by the public prosecutor for promoting a type of bleach as a cure for AIDS and cancer.
In the letter, which was presented in the case against Bellostas, the doctor gives false hope to the parents of autistic children, assuring them that the disorder is reversible. “Once the diagnosis is made, the future looks black and very dark, because they don’t give you hope of recovery. But that is not true, it’s just that normal doctors are not trained to help your child recover,” says Bellostas, before warning parents: “Never again vaccinate a child with autism.”
In other online texts and videos, the doctor espouses other popular pseudo-therapy claims, which go against scientific evidence and can lead to serious health risks. In one, she says she was fired from a public center for “informing parents of the existence of human fetal DNA in pediatric vaccines” and “its possible link to autism.”
Our primary goal is to protect families from messages and practices that go against scientific evidence
Spanish Autism Confederation
The ban against Bellostas comes after the Spanish Autism Confederation reported the doctor and marks the first time disciplinary action has been taken in Spain against the theory that vaccines and autism are linked. This claim is one of the most commonly repeated by pseudotherapy defenders despite having been repeatedly disproved by scientific studies. In April 2018, the Barcelona Medical Association banned a doctor for five years for “sharing and practicing with cancer patients the so-called Hamer Method, also known as New Medicine." In this instance, the disciplinary proceedings were brought on by the doctor himself, after he sent the Barcelona Medical Association a letter defending his practices.
Last August, the Spanish Autism Confederation gave the Madrid Medical Association a folder containing writings from Bellostas on autism. According to the disciplinary filing, her actions violated the medical code of ethics. The doctor failed in her duty to provide patients with “human and scientific medical attention,” to give prescriptions that respect “scientific evidence and authorized instructions,” to “offer honest and competent advice to the patient,” such as “promoting preventive activities of proven value,” and to respect that “medical information has to be objective, prudent and truthful, so as to not raise false hope or spread unfounded ideas.”
In a press release, the Spanish Autism Confederation explains that claims like those spread by Bellostas hurt people with autism, who could choose to “delay or stop really effective treatment, which is a health risk.” According to the organization, these claims “raise false hopes, something that has a high emotional and economic cost,” and also hurt public health by spreading disinformation and “causing confusion.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.