There’s a fascinating case study going on across some skeptics blogs on dealing with legal threats from another country.
The Quackometer and Rhys Morgan have – among others – received emails from Marc Stephens, who claims to “represent” the Burzynski Clinic in Houston, Texas, and threatens them with legal action for libel, among other things.
What is notable is how both have researched both Stephens and the law, and composed their responses accordingly. From Rhys Morgan:
“I have carried out some internet research, and I have not been able to establish whether or not Mr. Stephens is a lawyer; certainly he does not appear to be a member of the California Bar nor the Texas Bar in the light of my visit to the California Bar Association’s and the State Bar of Texas’s websites.”
“This foam-flecked angry rant did not look like the work of a lawyer to me. And indeed it is not. Marc Stephens appears to work for Burzynski in the form of PR, marketing and sponsorship.”
There’s plenty more in each post, including reference to case law and the pre-action defamation protocol, which provide plenty of material if you’re ever in a similar situation – or hosting a classroom discussion on libel law.
“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.”
Ben Goldacre writes about the suing of Simon Singh by The British Chiropractic Association (you’ll see a badge on this blog on the issue), and how bloggers have helped investigate their claims.
“Fifteen months after the case began, the BCA finally released the academic evidence it was using to support specific claims. Within 24 hours this was taken apart meticulously by bloggers, referencing primary research papers, and looking in every corner.
“a ragged band of bloggers from all walks of life has, to my mind, done a better job of subjecting an entire industry’s claims to meaningful, public, scientific scrutiny than the media, the industry itself, and even its own regulator. It’s strange this task has fallen to them, but I’m glad someone is doing it, and they do it very, very well indeed.”