Quackwatch Sued For Suggesting Medical Lab Quackery

from the name-what's-wrong dept

Every so often we receive legal threats, almost always concerning claims of defamation. If it’s content that we have written, we ask for clarification on specifically which statements are false and why, so that we can review them and fix them if they are, indeed, false. To date, no one who has threatened us has responded in any way to such a request. That is, none have actually provided us with the details of the false statement, or done anything like filing a lawsuit. It appears that Stephen Barrett, who runs the excellent site Quackwatch (which, as you’d suspect, tries to highlight medical practices that smack of quackery) has a similar policy on receiving defamation threats. Unfortunately, he’s now been sued in response (thanks to JC for sending this story in).

Barrett has written a few times about a medical lab named Doctor’s Data, that he feels is helping certain medical practitioners defraud patients through misleading results. Here’s one example of such a report. You’ll notice that it’s pretty detailed in explaining why Barrett has problems with the use of these reports.

Doctor’s Data, understandably, did not take too kindly to all of this and sent a cease & desist letter at the beginning of June. I have to say, I’ve seen an awful lot of cease-and-desist letters sent to websites accusing them of defamation, but there’s something about this one that just… sounds off. I can’t quite place it, but the letter seems a bit less formal than the typical C&D. It also doesn’t cite any laws or legal precedent, which is common, but certainly not always present. That said, Barrett was quick to respond politely (even “thanking” the lawyer for the letter), despite the legal threat:

I take great pride in being accurate and carefully consider complaints about what I write. However, your letter does not identify a single statement by me that you believe is inaccurate or “fraudulent.” The only thing you mention is my article about how the urine toxic metals test is used to defraud patients: (http://www.quackwatch.org/t). The article’s title reflects my opinion, the basis of which the article explains in detail.

If you want me to consider modifying the article, please identify every sentence to which you object and explain why you believe it is not correct.

Rather than provide the details of what Doctor’s Data felt was defamatory, another partner at the same law firm sent a shorter cease & desist, that again, has a somewhat less formal style than the usual C&D:

You have been making false statements about Doctor’s Data and have damaged this company’s business and reputation, and you have done so for personal gain and your own self-interest, disguised as performing a public service. … Your writings and conduct are clearly designed to damage Doctor’s Data. … If you don’t retract your false claims and issue a public apology, the lawsuit will be filed.

Barrett responded, pointing out that he’d asked for specific evidence and hadn’t been provided any. Instead of actually highlighting what Doctor’s Data felt was wrong, the firm then filed the lawsuit instead. The lawsuit runs the gamut of the standard claims in these sorts of lawsuits: restraint of trade; trademark dilution; business libel; tortious interference with existing and potential business relationships; fraud or intentional misrepresetation; and violating federal and state laws against deceptive trade practices. Unfortunately, it’s not clear from the post where the lawsuit was filed, because it would probably help Barrett if it were filed in a state with an anti-SLAPP law. Thanks to an anonymous commenter for uploading the lawsuit, and pointing out that it was filed in Illinois, which does, in fact, have an anti-SLAPP law:

Of course, now that Doctor’s Data has brought this lawsuit, it seems likely that the claims made by Barrett are about to get a lot more attention — and it’s entirely possible that Doctor’s Data won’t like what others find when they start looking into the claims.

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Companies: doctor's data, quackwatch

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Comments on “Quackwatch Sued For Suggesting Medical Lab Quackery”

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39 Comments
The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Gee, it sure looks like quackery to me, and probably anyone else with a brain

It’s just simply amazing how many idiots fall prey to these scams, being told that they have this, that or the other “toxin” in their bodies at potentially life and health threatening levels. This, of course, will require lengthy, unproven, expensive, and unsanctioned treatments until the money runs out, at which point you will either be pronounced cured, or doomed, unless you come up with the extra dough. Let me put it this way – if I ever find that my doctor is using the services of these people, I will promptly find another doctor.

John Smith says:

Shameless plug

http://www.patchadams.org/house_calls

About health I would love to see people talking about things that work, all the bad things I know already not that they are not important there are many people who still don’t see the ugly, but I would love to find a place where people are doing good things and making it work the government is just squeaking about how they don’t have money and bla bla bla that means pretty soon a lot of people may find themselves in need of community initiatives and those people are not only the poor, it is a chance for people to seize the moment and start to rebuild the infra-structure that governments have squandered.

vilain (profile) says:

crappy lawyer == cartoony lawsuit

Sounds like the attorneys hired by the site practice law by boilerplate. Rather than specifically stating the issues, they threw everything into the suit, thereby making the presiding judge decide what’s relevant. If it’s a small shop, I can see how this might work well. Here’s hoping the judge dismisses the entire suit with prejudice making the Dr. Data clowns pay for this. And their law firm walk away with nothing.

CharlesGrossman (profile) says:

Re: crappy lawyer == cartoony lawsuit

I don’t think it’s fair to say these attorneys practice law by boilerplate. Indeed (as Mr. Masnick indicates in his original post), the documents these attorneys have produced do not sound at all like standard legalese — they seem casual and unique. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of defendants’ colleagues referred to as “minions” in a complaint before, for example.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

anti-slapp would only apply is everything stated in the article is entirely, 100% proven and true, and not in any way defaming the other party. i suspect it is a losing battle, but is giving quackwatch the exposure they were dying for.

Like nearly everything you post about, your knowledge of anti-slapp statutes again appears to be, sadly, lacking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

please, enlighten us, mr masnick. dont forget to include information on your legal degree, and perhaps the date you were admitted to the illinois bar. oh wait, you havent, making your opinion no more and no less valid than mine. oh, no, wait. you are a guru. i forgot, sorry!

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 please, enlighten us, mr masnick. dont forget to include information on your legal degree, and perhaps the date you were admitted to the illinois bar.

If only lawyers could understand the law, then we’re all in serious trouble.

The problem is the lawyers (and politicians for that mater) that DO want us to believe that they are the only ones that can understand the complexities of the law (fortunately that is not all of them). If everybody could do it why would we pay them?

dorp says:

Re: Re:

Barret is a shill and he’s been anti-slapped numerous times stopping law suits he has filed. If it’s alternative then Barret automatically calls it quackery. He’s not even a medical doctor or a scientist.

Want to provide some proof to those statements? Remember, the more you defend your real employer, the more attention they will get 😉

Liz Ditz (user link) says:

Blogospheric reactions

I’ve written up a post on the background and rationale for Dr. Barrett to have written the articles Doctor’s Data objects to. As I sometimes do, I have a running list of blog posts and articles commenting on the issue. I’ve included yours.

http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2010/07/health-consumer-activist-subject-to-legal-threats.html

former cancer client (profile) says:

Barrett is a hypocrite and a quack himself.

Why? Because he points out faults and dangers about everything he can possibly find that is not chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

Mind you, I know there are alternative medicine quacks out there. I believe, for instance, that Hulda Clark’s belief that “all cancer is caused by parasites,” and that the way to get rid of them is to use something called a “zapper” to destroy the parasites, is ridiculous.

On the other hand, I have seen one of the treatmeents Barrett describes as dangerous put a close friend of mine in complete remission. It’s called “insulin potentiated therapy, and it works on the premise that cancer cells are better at absorbing glucose than are normal cells. The process is simple, and is done right in the doctor’s office. The doctor injects his client with enough insulin to bring his glucose level down significantly. He then injects a far smaller dose of chemotherapy, along with glucose, into the client. The result is that the cancer cells ingest considerably more of the chemo drug than the normal cells do, and more, incidentally, than when regular, higher doses are administered by oncologists, and the normal cells get far less of the chemotherapy, so that there is no hair loss, no vomiting, no neutropenia, no mouth sores, no neuropathy, (possibly no sterility—I am not sure about that), but in short, there are none of the horrible side-effects that happen with regular doses of chemotherapy.

The close friend I mentioned need emergency treatment because he had lymphoma tumors growing on the inside of his throat. The insulin potentiated therapy destroyed the lymphoma, and it has not returned in 14 years.

When Barrett says that insulin potentiated therapy could put someone into a coma, and that he could die, I have to laugh, because nowhere on his site does Barrett say anything about the terrible dangers of chemotherapy,(as well as radiation and surgery.) Interleukin-2, for instance, is so toxic and so damamging to the system that it has to be administered in a hospital intensive care unit!

No onE has gone into a coma or died from insulin potentiated chemotherapy,, but plenty of people have died or been seriously injured/debilated by chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. And chemotherapy, radiation and surgery have a dismal record for putting clients into remisson for any decent length of time.

Therefore, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for cancer can certainly be termed quackery, but there is nothing on Barrett’s site about the fact that chemotherapy is poison, and that in most cases, it is ineffective.

Quack! Quack! Quack, and hypocritical Quacks at that.

Tired of you says:

Re:

You are being a hypocrite here in that you automatically assume he calls any alternative medicine quackery. He bases his points on actual peer-reviewed scientific research, whereas a lot of alternative medicine bases their theories off a feeling or thought or ancient medicinal practices. Conventional medicine is tried and true with purified forms of medications, rather than mixtures of unregulated, unpurified materials that essentially provide placebo affect to the patients that believe in it. Good thing placebo effect works for people into alternative medicine, which also works in those quacks favor, because they can keep selling ridiculous tests and “medicine”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interleukin-2 is an important communication molecule that naturally is present in the body and important for the inflammatory response, among other functions. Anything in high enough concentrations is toxic (such as water, “organic” pesticides) and just because your friend recovered after a treatment, doesn’t mean that it is scientifically-based or that your opinion of it has any realistic basis, it just means it MAY have worked for him or it may have been placebo affect or something even unforeseen. So, former cancer “client”, you have no room to talk about 1) toxins, 2) cancer treatments, or 3) anything scientific whatsoever. Keep on believing in anecdotal evidence and what you “feel” works. Thank God there are people like Barrett who call out fraud artists, and although he may not be perfect, he is really providing scientifically-based arguments against fraud artists.

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