After a series of investigative reports revealed a controversial theory alleging injuries reported in connection with child abuse reports may actually be the result of a genetic condition leading to bone fragility, Boston Medical Center has placed Dr. Michael Holick under disciplinary action earlier this week following an inquiry prompted in February.
The reports focused focused on a social services investigation into alleged abuse against 3 week old twins in South Carolina, in which Holick was called to testify upon the parents’ behalf. Dr. Holick’s testimony was backed by his theory that the injuries were the result of Ehlers-Danos syndrome. Eight months after his testimony, one of the twins suffered a severe brain injury. A subsequent criminal case against the child’s father is currently pending.
Dr. Holick’s theory claims that many of the bone fractures reported during child abuse investigations are the result of Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that affects the connective tissues of bones, joints and skin. His theory has been cited in over 300 criminal cases, many of which he testified in on behalf of the accused. In almost all cases, his testimony has concluded no intentional abuse took place.
While studies have linked Ehler-Danos syndrome to bone fragility in adults, Dr. Holick’s claim that children with the disorder suffer bone fractures resulting from normal handling have not been substantiated by any scientific literature. His theories have drawn a sharp rebuke from endocrinologists and other specialists in genetic disorders, particularly for diagnosing children he did not physically examine in person with the condition.
Dr. Holick is better known for his pioneering work into research on Vitamin D, discovering that the active ingredient in the vitamin assisted in reducing bone disease. Holick's findings helped lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve vitamin D-fortified foods in 2003.
Boston Medical Center is affiliated with Boston University School of Medicine, where Holick currently serves as a faculty member. The dean of the medical school, Karen Antman, responded to the allegations brought against him in by Lori Frasier, the head of the Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. “As a member of the Boston University School of Medicine faculty, academic freedom allows Dr. Holick to espouse his views without censorship from the University,” Antman stated.
The action is cited on the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine’s profile of Dr. Holick. The board requires hospitals to report any disciplinary action taken against a practitioner or staff member within 30 days of filing. While the action indicates that Boston Medical Center has currently restricted Holick’s right to practice, as of this date he has not been disciplined by the board.