Quackwatch sued by Doctor’s Data

A familiar story. Here’s the rundown from The Quackometer:

“Stephen Barrett [of Quackwatch] has been very critical of [Doctor’s Data] and has written that the diagnostic health tests it provides are used to defraud patients. One test in particular stood out for his criticism where patients are given a “provoking agent” that flushes out heavy metals into the urine. A urine test is then analysed by DDI and the concentration of heavy metals is compared with standards. Except the standards used are for patients who have not had the provoking agent. The levels of metals are going to be much higher than normal and this ‘elevated result’ is then used to sell expensive and unnecessary treatments.”

Sounds like a valid subject to investigate. Then:

“Doctor’s Data asked Stephen Barrett to remove his articles discussing these urine tests as they were “false, fraudulent, defamatory or otherwise not truthful”. Dr Barrett replied asking for clarification as to what specifically he had written that was not correct or fair opinion. Doctor’s Data did not respond but instead has now simply filed suit.”

The Quackometer weighs in with this:

“I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have researched and written about some of them before. DDI also offer Hair Analysis as a way of assessing nutritional status. This is simply not possible to do in any meaningful way. As I have explained.”

And so a thousand eyes turn on Doctor’s Data to see how they defend their corner. But:

“The problem with many libel cases in the UK is that you are often as a defendant pushed into proving a state of mind, much as Simon Singh nearly had to. To show that Munro deliberately misleads and defrauds requires an impossible peering into her soul to understand her motives. An aggrieved party can always claim that they are honestly going about their business, even if the subsequent analysis of the science or facts may prove them wrong. Being wrong but honest is not the same as being fraudulent.”

Meanwhile, here’s more good investigating from The Quackometer:

“Haynes [who offers testimony on their site as a “luminary”] appears to work for a nutritional supplement company, lectures in many undergraduate colleges and has had over 11,000 ‘patients’. He states that he is registered with the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (Ofquack) although I cannot find his name on their list. (Although to be fair, I have little faith in Ofquack’s IT skills). He was trained at Patrick Holford’s ION where hair mineral analysis is taught as a legitimate technique for assessing nutrient needs. Haynes is not alone.”

The skeptics/bad science field of blogs is a particularly rich area when it comes to investigative blogging. Journalists schooled in the caution of media law might find their behaviour surprisingly provocative, but they are provocative precisely because they tend to have the specialist knowledge that generalist journalists lack, the independence that professionalism takes away, and the strength that comes from belonging to a community of peers.

For this reason they should be getting more publicity for the good work that they do – and more support when company lawyers turn up the heat.

6 thoughts on “Quackwatch sued by Doctor’s Data

  1. Pingback: Do I Have A Medical Malpractice Case | Queensland Compensation Lawyers Directory

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  3. Lu-Lu

    Many heavy metals BIND to tissues. They do not circulate in the blood, to be removed by the kidneys into the urine, except for maybe a few days to a couple weeks. After that, urine or blood can’t reveal true poisoning or toxicity. Without provoked testing, you have no idea of heavy metals burden–unless poisoned the day before the test. The reference level is non-provoked, because you shouldn’t have poisons your body can’t remove.

    Doctors Data toxic metals tests were especially useful as a GUIDE to how much mercury I had & how efficiently my body was eliminating it. This was supervised by a qualified professional–an ND who is NOT a quack. Mercury toxicity is a serious issue which most MDs don’t take seriously. MDs don’t have all the answers. There will always be charlatans, & many of them are MDs. Does Barrett write about them???

  4. Ash

    Lu-Lu – you’re wrong; everyone has an existing body burden of heavy metals, much of which is retained in various tissues. These are naturally occurring substances, so even before industrialization everyone had a body burden. Anyone’s metal concentrations in urine will be increased by provoking, so comparing provoked results to non-provoked results is plain and simple wrong, and is frequently used for fraudulent purposes (typically to encourage patients to undergo dangerous and inappropriate procedures like chelation therapy).

  5. hal

    I would care to offer that ‘normal’ findings, by which I mean statistically i.e. in keeping with a dominant subset of a population, upon examination of heavy metal burden in a patient does not exclude their role in the pathophysiology of a presented condition.

    Heterogeneity of response is a phenomena that many pay only face value to. The comparison of provoked to non-provoked urine samples begs several questions and foremost “Is this appropriate?”

    Let us assume that the non-provoked reference range is taken from a ‘well’ population, this may allow us to infer that any heavy metal burden is not contributing to any acute illness states (subclinical phenomena are unlikely assessed for) thus their un-provoked urinary excretion may be viewed as representative of said population.

    Using a chelating agent in a provoked test in ‘unwell’ patients will provide an insight into body burden. Comparing these findings to the un-provoked would likely suggest an ‘abnormal’ body burden. This inference may be true but is not justified by this comparison.

    There is a growing body of literature implicating environmental exposure in the pathogenesis of many conditions and as such the tolerable limits for toxic metals move close towards the trace level.

    I would agree that such testing is misrepresented nevertheless in a patient with suspected environmental exposure or refractory conditions identifying elevated urine toxic metals may provide indication for other therapies.

    Provoked testing in ‘well’ patients would be of use in comparison of findings but would not govern the decision to administer chelation therapies.

    The intricacies of metal toxicology mean that the finding of two normal provoked heavy metal urines in a well and ill patient cannot exclude the use of chelation therapy. Loss of functional reserve in the ill patient could be compromised/contributed to by heavy metal burden, tissue distribution cannot be determined from such testing when in fact it could be critical in providing explanation for signs/symptoms.

    Those who criticise the application of clinical toxicology have the right to do so when it is misapplied yet when they conduct themselves in an overzealous and fanatical fashion they to violate the ‘scientific code’ to which they so vehemently claim to protect.

    The comment above by Ash close by stating “typically to encourage patients to undergo dangerous and inappropriate procedures like chelation therapy”

    Such is typical of the overzealous counter-position, Chelation therapy has cased deaths but in context of far commoner agents such as aspirin the numbers are insignificant.

    “Since the mid-1970s, court documents and newspapers have reported at least 30 deaths associated with IV disodium EDTA”


    I would applaud anyone correctly criticising the inappropriate application of any therapy and I believe there are a substantial number of cases for which Mr. Ash’s comments are justified, however, to suggest that chelation therapy is dangerous is extremely loaded and inevitably misleading.

    Ultimately, the reasons such issues and debates arise is because basic principles of logic are not taught in school or university and so we flounder and those who would do well with our help suffer needlessly.


  6. Tim Bolen

    Stephen Barrett is in big trouble in the Doctor’s Data v Barrett case.

    BIG trouble.

    You can follow the case at http:www.boleneport.com. You can sign up there to be on the newsletter Subscriber list.

    Currently Barrett has filed a Motion to Dismiss the case, but htere is little chance that will happen. His reason he wants a Dismissal? He claims he is “assisting the government…

    Next comes “discovery,” a process where Barrett will have to cough up thousands of documents, then go into a video-taped Deposition where he will be forced to answer questions about his support network – those that help him get his articles on the first page of search engines.

    Barrett’s lead attorney seems to have disappeared, and he has been LATE making EVERY filing deadline since the case began.

    The fun has just begun.


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