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January 12, 2012

Doctor fired over autism treatment

(UPI) -- A neuroscientist who would have been in charge of a controversial therapy for children with autism has been fired by a New Jersey hospital, officials said.

Philip DeFina was to oversee an ambitious proposal by Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus to offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy to children diagnosed with autism, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported Tuesday.

The hospital had applied for permission from the state Department of Health and Senior Services for the therapy, typically used to treat burns and other wounds by suffusing dying tissue with oxygen, the newspaper said.

The application encountered strong opposition from traditional medical and psychological experts who said the treatment would offer families false hope while leaving them with a large financial burden because such a use for the therapy is not covered by insurance.

Questions have been raised about DeFina's doctorate in clinical psychology from Fielding Graduate University, a mainly online university with monthly in-person sessions.

Meadowlands withdrew the application to treat autism using hyperbarics Nov. 30.

Hospital spokesman Bill Maer confirmed last week DeFina was terminated Dec. 2, giving no additional information regarding his dismissal, the Star-Ledger reported.

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