Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nov 12 - Fighting Junk Science in the Courts: Deterring Dangerous Therapies

Saturday, November 12, 2011, 1:30pm
National Science Foundation
Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA [map]

Presented by Brian J. Gorman, M.Sc., J.D. (Towson University)

An alleged miracle cure for autism known as Facilitated Communication (FC) swept the country with great promise and hope in the early 1990’s. Proponents of FC claimed that there was a special technique whereby non-communicative individuals known to have profound mental disabilities could suddenly communicate at surprisingly sophisticated levels. FC spread like wild fire until empirically sound studies repeatedly found that FC was no better than well-meaning self-deception on the part of the facilitators. The FC fad appeared to vanish as the evidence against it piled up, but not before alleged communications from FC led to criminal court proceedings for abuse across the country. Court proceedings based on FC-generated allegations had grave consequences for a number of families and individuals. Despite the tragic history of FC, the technique has been reborn through a defiant and determined social movement. A recent survey found that FC and other scientifically rejected techniques are still widely used in some school districts. With the resurgence of FC and continued use of other dangerous techniques like Holding Therapy, will the courts accept a long disregarded legal claim for educational malpractice against those educators who continue to use dangerous therapies despite the known risks?

Brian J. Gorman, M.Sc., J.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Towson University and the Director of the Biosecurity Commons information project. His research focuses on issues at the intersection of law, science, and policy from junk science to homeland security. Professor Gorman brought to bear his early career experience as a clinician and his expertise in law to address the misuse of junk science in classrooms and courtrooms in articles for Skeptic, Behavioral Science & the Law, and most recently, Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal due to the resurgence of Facilitated Communication in the courts.

FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members.
Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

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