A perfect storm of press releases

Some more on the Burzynski clinic and the Observer.

From Keir Liddle at the Twenty-first Floor on a perfect storm for skepticism.

The characterisation of skeptical bloggers as aggressive and sanctimonious is unfortunately nothing new and there are undoubtedly skeptics out there who benefit from reading Hayley Stevens post on the subject but I for one am fed up of how we are characterised.  We are seen at best as spoilsports and at worst know it alls robbing the universe of beauty and people of hope. We seem to seen as the lackeys of either big pharma or representatives of some sort of scientific hegemony intent on unweaving the rainbow. But most skeptics aren’t like that in the slightest, we don’t live in a grey universe composed solely of reason and logic, we find wonder and beauty in the near infinite majesty of the Universe and the more we discover the more there is to be awestruck by. [Read more…]

Flying around the internet

Skeptical Humanities on the Observer on Burzynski:

Entire communities throw untold sums of money at the slimmest (nonexistent, really) hope that these patients will recover at the Burzynski Clinic, and the Observer finds this uplifting.

Uncritically giving a cancer quack uncritical press? How could we possibly have mistaken that for promotion? We should have just called it as it was: a shoddy, pathetic, and irresponsible attempt at journalism. [Read more…]

We never

One or two points about that first Observer article, because that blame-the-bloggers not-pology is so annoying.

One, Stephen Pritchard wrote yesterday, truculently,

that concern should have been in the article, but because it was absent doesn’t mean that the paper was promoting the treatment, as some have suggested (“pimping” it, as one science writer so crudely tweeted).

No, the fact that the concern was absent doesn’t mean that the paper was promoting the treatment, but all the same, the paper (via the article) was to some extent promoting the treatment. Bainbridge called it “a pioneering treatment” when it’s a trial rather than a treatment, and “pioneering” makes it sound new and potentially promising as opposed to more than 30 years old and so far not a success. Bainbridge made it sound more promising than it is. How is that not promoting the treatment? [Read more…]

A sustained attack on the paper

The Observer has responded to bloggers’ responses to its uncritical story about a fundraising campaign to send a child to the Burzynski clinic. Stephen Pritchard writes:

Yet what was intended as a gripping, human-interest story quickly drew a sustained attack on the paper for apparently offering unquestioning support for a highly controversial cancer treatment, known at antineoplaston therapy.

That seems like an unnervingly irresponsible way to look at the matter. However gripping a human-interest story may be, surely it’s irresponsible (at least) to report a campaign to enable a very expensive very dubious “treatment” as if it were just a gripping story. [Read more…]

Burzynski clinic issues press release

Yes that’s right, a press release. They’ll be doing the Colbert Report next.

Marc Stephens no longer has “a professional relationship” with the clinic. The clinic thinks it was inappropriate – yes that’s right, inappropriate – to send “a blogger,” meaning Rhys Morgan, a picture of his own house. The clinic apologizes.

But apology or no apology, the wheels of justice grind exceeding fine: attorneys will be contacting UK bloggers about what the press release says is “inaccurate information.” UK bloggers…why UK bloggers? Could this be another case of libel tourism?

This, as the saying goes, ain’t over.

Update 11/30 morning: Jen dug into the clinic’s list of publications and found it wanting. A must-read.





Why Burzynski matters

Craig Malisow doesn’t mince words in his blog post for Houston Press about his neighbors at the Burzynski Clinic. Maybe he’s hoping Marc Stephens will offer to threaten him too.

Here’s a warning for anyone out there considering blogging or tweeting anything questioning the greatness of cancer-curing Houston doc Stanislaw Burzynski: You will probably be threatened by the head of marketing for the Burzynski Patient Support Group.

We first heard about loose cannon Marc Stephens’s weird diatribes Monday, when a guy in England informed us that Stephens had earlier this month threatened 17-year-old Welsh blogger Rhys Morgan with a libel suit if Morgan didn’t remove any of his comments questioning the validity of Burzynski’s claims. Morgan is one of several bloggers around the world that Stephens has been threatening. [Read more…]

Don’t Streisand that blog, my friend

And more #Burzynski.

Richard Wilson at Don’t Get Fooled Again.

While the UK media has been characteristically slow in picking this up – presumably the Murdoch press are too preoccupied with their own problems and the Guardian Media Group still frozen in the headlights after the Observer got sucked into the  controversybloggers all over the world have been ensuring that this story continues to grow.

Josephine Jones has a list of posts on the subject. There are a lot. More not-going-well for the intimidation thing. [Read more…]


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. [Read more…]