Laurel Austin is a 51-year-old mother of six, four of whom are adults with autism.
According to her Facebook posts, she has tried almost every fad online “cure” for autism, including treatments for heavy metal poisoning and hormone therapies used in chemical castration. (2/9)
Laurel Austin has been giving two of her adult sons chlorine dioxide for the last year, according to her social media posts and police documents.
The FDA warns the solution amounts to industrial bleach, and doctors say it can cause irreparable harm when ingested. (3/9)
Since Bradley Austin learned his ex-wife was using chlorine dioxide, he’s been trying to stop her.
But police said there wasn’t enough evidence that it was dangerous.
A Kansas Adult Protective Services caseworker told police she didn’t see the situation as serious enough (4/9)
The Austins’ case illustrates the ways in which online health misinformation can become so pervasive that it begins to sway not only those on the fringe but also authorities, including doctors and the police, who are charged with protecting the most vulnerable. (5/9)
When police visited Laurel Austin’s home, she showed them articles about chlorine dioxide, including one that claimed the solution had the potential to heal.
“This legitimizes the claim by Laurel of her use of MMS CLO2 as a holistic treatment approach,” the officer wrote. (6/9)
Officers were convinced by a document of “Jeremy Austin’s Daily List of Supplements," per notes.
The list was signed by Dr. Sarita Singh. She confirmed to police she approved it, including chlorine dioxide.
Singh, on maternity leave, didn't respond to request for comment (7/9)
A Kansas Adult Protective Services caseworker visited the home, looked at the chlorine dioxide bottle, the doctor’s note and made contact with Jeremy.
“Although the MMS protocol is controversial, it did not meet the threshold to remove” Laurel's sons, the caseworker found. (8/9)
Bradley Austin does not speak to Laurel Austin and has not heard from his two sons since the police closed the case in January.
Although he pays child support, he has no legal rights to them because he is not listed as a guardian.
“I just want her to stop,” he says. (9/9)
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