More on the Burzynski Clinic – yes Google I said THE BURZYNSKI CLINIC – and Marc Stephens and Rhys Morgan.
From Phil Plait.
In Houston, Texas, is a man named Stanislaw Burzynski. He claims he has a method for treating cancer. He calls it antineoplaston therapy. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, “No randomized, controlled trials showing the effectiveness of antineoplastons have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.” That’s a bad sign. Furthermore, the FDA has not approved of antineoplaston therapy for use. Also telling is that “… other investigators have not been able to obtain the same results reported by Dr. Burzynski and his team”. Yet, despite this, Burzynski charges hundreds of thousands of dollars for people to get his therapy — though he has to say they’re participating in research trials, since the FDA won’t allow him to use his ideas as an actual treatment.
Those are red flags, to be sure.
However, I am not an expert on cancer, so I rely on the advice and expertise of others. Dr. Steve Novella, who certainly is an expert both in medicine and the misuses thereof, has some choice words about Burzynski and his ideas. So does David Calquhoun, a British pharmacologist. So does — at great length and detail — Dr. David Gorski, and so does the website Quackometer (and again here as well) and so does the Cancer Research UK Science blog.
Oh gee. The whole threatening-trying-to-silence thing doesn’t seem to be working very well, does it.
Most importantly, so does Rhys Morgan. Who’s that? He’s a 17-year-old high school student who has blogged about Burzynski, in a factually stated but highly critical manner. So what did Burzynski’s clinic do?
They threatened to sue.
In general, it’s a little unusual, to say the least, for a team doing medical research to sue someone for criticizing them. That’s because real science thrives on criticism, since it’s only through critiques that the potential errors of a particular method can be assessed — that’s why research is supposed to be published in peer-reviewed journals as well. Suing is the antithesis of that idea.
Which must make it all the more frustrating that it doesn’t seem to be working very well.
Whether or not Mr Stephens is a lawyer, his responses to several skeptics who questioned his “client”‘s science are not, in my opinion, in keeping with good science or good public policy. The world of science has no room for angry threats when a claim is put forward. The scientific method demands that skepticism be rebutted with proof, not threats. On seeing this, I am led to the opinion that these threats are being offered because the proof isn’t there.
I also stand with the scientists and skeptics who find themselves facing aggressive, hyperbolic legal threats for doing what we should all do: carefully research and debate matters relating to life-or-death health issues. No doctor should respond to critics in this way. No lawyer should address potential litigants this way. In my opinion, these are serious ethical breaches, and in my opinion, “antineoplaston therapy” is almost certainly without merit. I urge anyone considering spending their money at the Burzynski Clinic to carefully read the notes attributed to the clinic’s representative and ask yourself why a clinic with a sound scientific footing would respond to critics with threats, not proof.
Yes, not going well at all. Not helping Dr Burzynski’s reputation. Not causing people to pipe down. Dear oh dear.