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Nov 27 2011

A scientist would not threaten critics and try to silence them

Andy Lewis of Quackometer wrote about his concerns about the Burzynski clinic, where Dr Burzynski charges people hundreds of thousands of dollars for an unproven urine-based cancer therapy. Within 24 hours he was in receipt of a threatening message from said clinic.

You have a right to freedom of speech, and you have a right to voice your opinion, but you do not have the right to post libelous statements regardless if you think its your opinion or not.  You are highly aware of defamation laws. You actually wrote an article about defamation on your site.  In addition, I have information linking you to a network of individuals that disseminate false information.  So the courts will apparently see the context of your article, and your act as Malicious.  You have multiple third parties that viewed and commented on your article, which clearly makes this matter defamation libel. Once I obtain a subpoena for your personal information, I will not settle this case with you.  Shut the article down IMMEDIATELY.

GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.

Hm. I bet law schools teach prospective lawyers never to write ALL IN CAPS on the first day. I bet that message IS NOT FROM A LAWYER.

Andy Lewis replied civilly asking for specifics of what he got wrong. The reply sounded much less lawyerly.

FINAL NOTICE TO CEASE AND DESIST

I am not here to grade your article, or play games with you.  You fully understand what you’re doing, which is why you are trying to hide behind your so-called “opinion”.  You have a history of lying in your articles since 2008. All articles and videos posted from your little network are being forwarded to local authorities, as well as local counsel.  It is your responsibility to understand when you brake[sic] the law.  I am only obligated to show you in court.  I am giving you final warning to shut the article down.  The days of no one pursuing you is over.  Quackwatch, Ratbags, and the rest of you Skeptics days are numbered.

So, when I present to the juror that my client and his cancer treatment has went up against 5 Grand Juries which involved the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Aetna Life Insurance, Emprise, Inc., Texas State Medical Board, and the United States Government, and was found not guilty in all 5 cases, you will wish you never wrote your article.  In addition, my client has treated multiple cancer patients around the world, which is fully documented by the FDA, NCI, and Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan, and has finished Phase II clinical trials with FDA approval to move forward with Phase III.  I suggest you spend more time with your new child then posting lies and false information on the internet that will eventually get you sued, which will hurt you financially.  I am going to pursue you at the highest extent of the law.

Oooh ya that doesn’t look lawyerly at all. That “has went” is fatal, as is “you will wish you never wrote.” Dr Burzynski should get his assistant some help with the grammar parts.

Andy Lewis had a similar thought.

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.

Lewis made further attempts to get specifics, Stephens sent more threats, and Lewis said what all this looks like.

I believe my article was raising serious issues concern on matters of public health and the ethical issues of charging hundreds of thousands from the desperate parents of terminally ill children. It is an important set of issues that the Observer failed to pick up on in an uncritical piece that may well send more parents down a path that has the potential to do serious harm.

In science, the truth emerges after ideas have been subjected to thorough experimental testing, and the results critically appraised by peers. This process can be harsh – and it needs to be. In medicine, despite the best of intentions, it is possible to do great harm when you believe you are doing good. Ideas only emerge as bad because of intense critical appraisal.

Dr Burzynski presents himself as a man of science. But, I would say to him and his associates, a man of science would welcome critical appraisal, would publish all the data he has, and allow the world to come to conclusions based on how good that evidence is. A man of science would not threaten critics and try to silence them. That is a sure and certain way that you will end up harming patients.

Stay tuned.

 

 

19 comments

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  1. 1
    'Tis Himself

    GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.

    Or we’ll huff and we’ll puff and we’ll blow your house down! Assuming, of course, that you have a house built of straw or twigs. This offer is void if you live in a brick house.

  2. 2
    Patrick

    There is a Marcus Lowell Stevenson who practices law in Texas. That’s the closest name match I can find. He does defense work for health care providers, which, loosely, might include urine guy.

    Probably not the same guy. Could be though. But probably not.

    For the record, at no point were we ever explicitly told not to write in all caps. We were, however, told that threatening legal action we have no intention of pursuing was a violation of legal ethics. Of course, non lawyers aren’t required to follow legal ethics.

  3. 3
    Hatchetfish

    I seem to recall that non lawyers are required not to imitate lawyers though. Perhaps my memory is imitating being functional though.

  4. 4
    evilDoug

    If Stephens is a lawyer, somewhere there is a law school and a bar association that should be deeply, deeply ashamed. He isn’t. He is a dimwitted blowhard.
    In one of his missives he tells people they should quit asking if he is a lawyer.
    In another he says something about investigating for a living. I’d believe investigating why toilets overflow.
    Note how he says his “client has went up against” grand juries which found him “not guilty”. As far as I know, no grand jury in the US can make such a finding. Would be be allowed to present evidence of such in any case?
    He sends his demands via email from a gmail account.
    I could picture him in a courtroom with Fred Gwynn as the judge and Ralph Macchio as his client.

    Check Respectful Insolence at ScienceBlogs. Orac has something up his sleeve (or in his Plexiglass box) for tomorrow.

  5. 5
    dirigible

    Is accusing someone of lying not libel in the US?

  6. 6
    GraemeL

    He has also threatened a UK schoolboy in the same manner.

    For me, it’s easy to see that Burzynski is nothing but the lowest, scummiest type of con-artist, preying on the terminally ill. A competent doctor would simply point to the clinical trials that support his treatment.

  7. 7
    Svlad Cjelli

    In technical jargon, lolstreisand.

  8. 8
    d cwilson

    Looks like a typical brief filed by a birther lawyer.

  9. 9
    Rieux

    Hm. I bet law schools teach prospective lawyers never to write ALL IN CAPS on the first day.

    Shows what you know. No law school professor could teach that particular nuanced subject in one day; it’s a standard 1L semester-long class subject. If it’s taught by a particularly tough professor, students call it “Capital Punishment.”

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Patrick, you could have saved yourself the trouble by just clicking on le canard’s link – which is to the clinic’s contact us page. Marc Stephens is the marketing guy.

    That bit where he says you should all stop asking me if I’m a lawyer – that’s all he says! Just, stop asking. Hilarious (apart from how disgusting it all is).

    Rieux – well, good that they’re thorough about it!

  11. 11
    AsqJames

    GreameL said:

    He has also threatened a UK schoolboy in the same manner.

    Rhys’ approach there is absolutely brilliant. At nearly 40 I can only dream of being that mature, intelligent and just plain wise. At 17 I don’t think I even had the imagination to aspire to it.

    If it weren’t for the stress it bring to Rhys I’d love to see the Burzynski Clinic actually sue him and it get to court, just to see how thoroughly he destroys them. The judge’s summing up/decision would be worth a read as well.

  12. 12
    Ken Pidcock

    So the guy’s been getting away with fraud, and he assumes this gives him standing to sue for libel whenever someone exposes the truth. Interesting.

    Off the particular topic, but because the conversation is of the law, I wanted to make sure everybody’s seen this disclaimer parody.

  13. 13
    Patrick

    OB- I saw that link. Being a marketing guy doesn’t necessarily preclude being a lawyer, so I figured I’d check.

    Its really easy to do. Every state (well, every state I’ve ever had reason to check) keeps an online database of registered attorneys. Just find the website for that state’s bar, and it will be there.

    It doesn’t help you if the attorney is out of state (say, an Arizona attorney working a Texas case), but its usually sufficient.

  14. 14
    Rachel

    I have seen that he also threatened a school kid in Wales
    http://rhysmorgan.co/2011/11/threats-from-the-burzynski-clinic/

  15. 15
    Peter N

    “Quackwatch, Ratbags, and the rest of you Skeptics days are numbered.”

    Sounds like Marc Stephens, Esq. works for the firm of Mabus & Markuze.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Patrick – oh yes, so it doesn’t. I wasn’t thinking very forensically when I said that.

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Heh. Someone called Chicago D commenting at Boing Boing had the same thought I did.

    Marc Stephens is so so so not an attorney. We don’t write letters like that. We realize that we will have to live with everything we write professionally. Stephens obviously will not have to live with this mess of a “letter.”

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    Blossom Worlie

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