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More legal thuggery against a defender of science-based medicine

ORAC SAYS: Please note my disclaimer.

After the events of last week, I’m a bit sensitive when it comes to matters like the one I’m about to discuss. Having the anti-vaccine cranks over at the Age of Autism weblog trying to get me fired over my blogging has a tendency to do that to me. (The details are out there if you haven’t heard of it; I will say nothing more of it here.) In any case, if there’s anything the events of last week drove home to me, it’s that a sina qua non of anti-science cranks like the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement is that, when faced with serious scientific criticism, their preferred reaction is not to respond to that criticism with refutations based on science. They can’t. Instead, their all too frequent response is to try to shut down criticism. We’ve seen it again and again, and I’ve discussed it many times on this blog.

Unfortunately, it’s happening again. The favored laboratory of anti-vaccine practitioners and the “autism biomed” movement, a commercial laboratory known as Doctor’s Data is suing Steve Barrett, the man who maintains the excellent resource Quackwatch, for criticism Dr. Barrett leveled against it, criticism that Doctor’s Data richly deserved (in my opinion, of course). Not just that, it’s suing Dr. Barrett for the ridiculously overblown sum of $10 million. In case you don’t remember Doctor’s Data, I’ll just remind you that it’s a commercial laboratory that describes itself thusly on its website:

Doctor’s Data, Inc. (DDI) a premier clinical laboratory with over 30 years’ experience, provides specialty testing to healthcare practitioners around the world. A specialist and pioneer in essential and toxic elemental testing of multiple human tissues, the laboratory offers a wide array of functional testing. DDI’s tests are utilized in the assessment, detection, prevention, and treatment of heavy metal burden, nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal function, hepatic detoxification, metabolic abnormalities, and diseases of environmental origin.


To me, a more accurate description of DDI would be that it has become the favorite go-to laboratory for the autism biomed movement and all manner of autism quacks, particularly the anti-vaccine variety. The reason is DDI’s dubious promotion of “heavy metal” and metabolic testing. I haven’t mentioned it that many times on this blog, but it’s important to know that, for “practitioners” who promote the scientifically discredited idea that mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in vaccines was the cause of the “autism epidemic” that is not, DDI not infrequently is the laboratory that provides the questionable lab data supporting the diagnoses of “mercury toxicity,” “elevated heavy metal levels” (what, do these children listen to too much Metallica or something?), or various other forms of “toxicity” requiring “detoxification.” Mercury and other heavy metals are not the only tests that DDI markets, either. When dubious autism “practitioners” expanded from viewing autism as “mercury toxicity” to a combination of heavy metal toxicity and various other “toxic” insults requiring “detoxification,” DDI was (and, to my knowledge, still is) the favored laboratory that they used to measure levels of heavy metals, mercury, and various endogenous antioxidants, such as glutathione, associated with the mercury detoxification enzyme pathways within cells.

As Dr. Barrett points out, if there’s one single test that DDI is most associated with, it’s a test known as the “provoked urine test” for heavy metals, and it’s a favorite test of the mercury militia looking for elevated mercury levels that they can “treat” with their nostrums. In essence, the test involves giving a child a chelating agent, usually DMPS or DMSA, and then collecting a urine sample. The chelating agent does what it’s designed to do and binds to mercury and various other heavy metals, which are then excreted in the urine. This elevates the levels of these metals in the urine, sometimes far beyond normal. The urine is then collected for several hours after the chelator has been administered. That is the “provoked” nature of the urine test. This method is in contrast to the standard manner of measuring these metals in the urine, which involves collecting a 24 hour urine sample, no provocation. Here’s the problem. A provoked urine test, by its very nature, is designed to increase the secretion of heavy metals and thus increase their concentration in the urine. The problem is that there are no standard values for provoked urine tests, although there are reference values for standard, unprovoked, 24 hour urine specimens. Guess what values practitioners and DDI use? It’s even worse than that, though, as Dr. Barrett describes:

Neither Mayo Clinic, nor any other legitimate national laboratory, has reference ranges for “provoked” specimens. Further, the references ranges for normal urine heavy metal levels used by Mayo Clinic and the largest national reference lab, Quest Diagnostics, are the same.

In contrast, Doctor’s Data uses reference values of less than 3 ug/g for mercury and 5 ug/g for lead. Standard laboratories that process non-provoked samples use much higher reference ranges [3,4], which means that if all other things were equal, Doctor’s Data is far more likely than standard labs to report “elevated” levels. But that’s not all. A disclaimer at the bottom of the above lab report states–in boldfaced type!–that “reference ranges are representative of a healthy population under non-challenge or nonprovoked conditions.” In other words, they should not be applied to specimens that were obtained after provocation. Also note that the specimen was obtained over a 6-hour period, not the standard 24-hour period, which raised the reported level even higher.

The management at Doctor’s Data knows that provoked testing artificially raises the urine levels and that the length of collection time greatly influences the results. In 2002, David W. Quig, Ph.D. and two others presented a study of mercury levels in urine collected two hours after DMPS administration to 259 patients at a Nevada clinic. More than 75% of the patients tested at 21 µg or higher, and most of the rest fell between 3µg and 20 µg [5]. At these levels, nearly everyone’s mercury level would be classified as “elevated” or “very elevated” on the test reports. In a 2006 naturopathic textbook chapter, Quig, who is Doctor’s Data’s vice president for scientific support, acknowledged that mercury levels “are higher in specimens collected from 90 minutes to 2 hours after DMPS infusion than with longer collection times, because the peak rate of mercury excretion occurs about 90 minutes after infusion of DMPS.” [6]

I can’t think of a more appropriate way to put it, given the history of the British Chiropractic Association trying to shut down Simon Singh’s criticism of its promotion of treatments not based in science: I conclude that provoked urine testing is a bogus test. According to Dr. Barrett, only does DDI use reference ranges for unprovoked urine tests, values that are utterly meaningless for provoked urine testing, but it uses reference ranges that are lower than what is commonly accepted by reputable laboratories and academic medical centers. This combination of factors virtually guarantees that it will produce many “positive” results for “elevated” mercury and other heavy metals in the urine, which practitioners can then apply dubious therapies, such as chelation therapy, to treat. Obviously DDI disputes this, but it doesn’t provide any quality scientific data to do so, in my opinion. Consequently, in my view, what DDI does in essence is to do a technically sound measurement of mercury and heavy metals in the urine but on urine specimens collected using a completely inappropriate methodology that is not scientifically or medically valid.

As a result, DDI has had its share of trouble, including investigations by legal authorities and lawsuits by patients whose practitioners used DDI test, and deservedly so. Dr. Barrett has listed a number of these actions. Last year, in Texas, DDI was sued for fraud, along with other dubious labs and a number of physicians. Basically, DDI, Jesus Caquias, M.D., and Jeff Baker (an unlicensed naturopath) stand accused of billing a patient’s insurance company for $180,000 worth of bogus tests like provoked urine testing and dubious treatments.

Now Doctor’s Data is suing Stephen Barrett. This lawsuit started, as such suits often do, with a nastygram from DDI’s lawyer. The first letter to Dr. Barrett from DDI’s lawyer Algis Augustine is a typical letter used for the purpose of silencing criticism. It’s pure intimidation, nothing more:

We demand that you cease and desist any and all comments regarding Doctor’s Data, which have been and are false, fraudulent, defamatory or otherwise not truthful, and make a complete and full retraction of all statements you have made in the past, including those which have led in some instances to litigation. Such comments include, but are not limited to, those made in your article entitled, “How the ‘Urine Toxic Metals’ Test Is Used to Defraud Patients,” which you authored and posted on Quackwatch.com. “The best evidence for reckless disregard,” you have written, “is failure to modify where notified.” Consider this notice to you that if you do not make these full and complete retractions within 10 days of the date of this letter, in each and every place in which you have made false and fraudulent, untruthful or otherwise defamatory statements, Doctor’s Data will proceed with litigation against you and any organizations, entities and individuals acting in common cause or concert with you, to the full extent of the law, and will seek injunctive relief and monetary damages, both compensatory and punitive.

This is typical. Note that Augustine doesn’t actually list which specific parts of Dr. Barrett’s article are incorrect, false, fraudulent or otherwise not truthful in the view of his client. Doctor’s Data doesn’t appear to be interested in accuracy, at least not if the letter from its lawyer is any indication. It appears far more interested in shutting up the opposition, of purging the Internet of material that can be used against it in the lawsuit it is facing in Texas. The rest of the text of the letter comes close to actually admitting this.

I actually receive the occasional cease and desist e-mail myself for my blogging. Of course, I don’t really take e-mails very seriously, and when I do receive such letters, because I’m interested in being factually accurate, my standard response pretty much mirrors Dr. Barrett’s response to Augustine’s demand and threat:

I take great pride in being accurate and carefully consider complaints about what I write. However, your letter does not identify a single statement by me that you believe is inaccurate or “fraudulent.” The only thing you mention is my article about how the urine toxic metals test is used to defraud patients: (http://www.quackwatch.org/t). The article’s title reflects my opinion, the basis of which the article explains in detail.

If you want me to consider modifying the article, please identify every sentence to which you object and explain why you believe it is not correct.

If you want me to consider statements other than those in the article, please send me a complete list of such statements and the people to whom you believe they were made.

This is exactly the right response to demands for retraction. It puts the ball back into the thug’s court (and make no mistake, such threats are nothing more than legal thuggery in my opinion), and it also demonstrates a commitment to correcting errors, which would belie any future claims of demonstrating a reckless disregard for the truth. In Dr. Barrett’s case, I also notice with interest the part about “failure to modify when notified.” Note that Augustine is not trying to get Dr. Barrett to “modify” anything; he’s telling him to remove all the material his client doesn’t like (i.e., the entire article). Of course, the thing to remember if you ever see such a letter is that nothing short of removing all the material that the thug sending the letter finds offensive will satisfy thugs like Doctor’s Data; that is, unless the letter writer is bluffing, which is sometimes the case, but, more importantly, definitely something you want be very careful about gambling with unless you’re fully prepared to go to court. In any case, such letters are virtually always intended not to spur the correction of errors in written articles or blog posts. Rather, they are there to try to frighten the person receiving them to take down the whole article in order to avoid a lawsuit. If Augustine actually identified exactly which parts of Dr. Barrett’s articles are in his client’s opinion false, it would allow Dr. Barrett to leave the article up while only altering some parts of it. This would not do at all, as Augustine’s response clearly reveals:

You have been making false statements about Doctor’s Data and have damaged this company’s business and reputation, and you have done so for personal gain and your own self-interest, disguised as performing a public service. Your writings and conduct are clearly designed to damage Doctor’s Data. If you don’t retract your false claims and issue a public apology, the lawsuit will be filed.

Legal thuggery. Pure legal thuggery. Fortunately, Dr. Barrett refuses to back down:

My letter asked you to identify the claims that you believe are false. You have not identified a single sentence that you believe is inaccurate. Since you have failed to do so, I have no choice but to assume that you cannot. My offer remains open, as it is to anyone who is criticized on any of my sites. If you identify anything that you consider inaccurate, I will seriously consider what you say and act accordingly.

Of course, DDI through its paid mouthpiece Algis Augustine didn’t identify a single sentence that was false. I think that’s because it couldn’t, because Dr. Barrett’s article on provoked urine testing is comprehensive and well-referenced. Those engaging in legal thuggery almost never do, because intimidation to silence is their goal. Shutting down criticism is their goal. It is apparent to me that, as in the Simon Singh case, DDI’s goal is not good science. It’s to silence scientific criticism not through refutation using science, but through the use of the courts. As I’ve said before, when you don’t have the data to support your claims, when science and medicine are not on your side, all that leaves is shutting up the opposition by any means necessary, and these articles on Quackwatch about the bogus test that is provoked urine testing for heavy metals are exactly what DDI can’t refute with science:

While you’re at it, you might want to look at a post I did a while back that explain how Doctor’s Data lab results have been abused by alt-med practitioners to subject a child to repeated testing as part of a comprehensive program of highly dubious therapies, up to and including the injection of stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid of an autistic girl and remember that DDI is also being sued by the father of a child with autism who was subjected to chelation therapy and whose “autism biomed” practitioners used DDI lab tests in their non-science-based evaluation and treatment of a child. No doubt DDI would say that it is not responsible for the “misuse” of its tests, but I would disagree based on the information in Barrett’s article.

More importantly, Doctor’s Data is suing Dr. Barrett for the ridiculously overblown sum of $10 million, knowing quite well that Dr. Barrett doesn’t have $10 million or anywhere close to it. Its obvious purpose, again, is to shut down criticism of its dubious testing and its marketing itself to dubious practitioners who perform chelation therapy for autism, heart disease, and other conditions for which chelation therapy is not indicated. Because of that, I would argue that skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine should treat this lawsuit as being on the same level of urgency as that of Simon Singh, the British skeptic who was sued by the British Chiropractic Assocation and managed to win against the odds, given how stacked against the defendant British libel law is. The BCA’s lawsuit even backfired spectacularly in that it provoked a campaign to reform British libel laws and turned skeptics loose investigating the pseudoscientific claims of large numbers of British chiropractors. Even so, Singh suffered two years of legal actions and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to defend himself. He’s unlikely to recover all of his legal costs. He has made a huge difference, however.

It is true that American libel laws are nowhere near as plaintiff-friendly as British libel law. Dr. Barrett isn’t at nearly as big a disadvantage, and the lawsuit against him is not likely to lead to major changes in U.S. (or even Texas) libel law. It’s quite possible that it will be rapidly dismissed, as Barbara Loe Fisher’s lawsuit against Paul Offit was. I certainly hope so. Still, no matter what happens, DDI will cost Dr. Barrett money and time and interfere with his important work on Quackwatch. Besides, it is the principle involved that should spur skeptics to publicize and protest this naked intimidation of a respected skeptic and supporter of science-based medicine, and that principle is that libel laws should be kept out of science. Libel law should have no place in what is a scientific dispute. Worse, if Doctor’s Data is successful, not only would it silence one of the most dedicated and successful supporters of science-based medicine out there, but it could well destroy what is arguably the most comprehensive site for debunking quackery that is currently in existence, Quackwatch and its affiliated sites.

Supporters of medical pseudoscience have a long history of trying to stifle criticism by any means necessary. Sometimes their chosen means are dubious libel suits, as when Barbara Loe Fisher tried to sue Paul Offit for libel and the BCA sued Simon Singh. Indeed, this is arguably the most favored technique to shut up opposition, and I’ve recently learned that “attachment therapist” Dr. Ronald Federici is suing several of his critics, including Jean Mercer, Psychology Today, and Advocates for Children in Therapy. He lost the first round, I’ve recently learned that he is appealing. Sometimes, their chosen technique is to try to harass their enemies at their job, as I have recently experienced. Sometimes their preferred technique is to try to shut down criticism by filing complaints against ISPs, as Joseph Chikelue Obi and the Society of Homeopaths did to Andy Lewis. Sometimes, the more radicalized of them, such as animal rights activists, directly vandalize property or protest at the homes of researchers in order to intimidate them. It’s all the same intent, just using different tactics, and that intent is to silence the opposition. It’s all a continuum, and many are the techniques used by promoters of dubious medicine to react to science-based criticism. What all the techniques and strategies used all share in common is that they are designed not to refute scientific criticism, but to stifle it through intimidation.

If they win, science suffers, and so do patients.

ADDENDUM: You can help Dr. Barrett, too. If you’re a blogger, please write about this. Voice your opinion and help drum up financial support for his legal fund. Everyone can contribute to Dr. Barrett’s legal defense fund by donating to Quackwatch at this page here.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

361 replies on “More legal thuggery against a defender of science-based medicine”

When I read the name of the lawyer, I was confused for a few seconds. The same name appeared quite frequently recently on this blog.

Back on topic, yeah, this legal stuff is pure bullying tactic. Shut up or I smash you.
And we are the ones “suppressing the truth”?

I hate bullies.

What a truly pathetic and obvious attempt at intimidation. Paging Peter Irons. I remember what he did when Stuart Pivar went after PZ and I think his reply to this would rather make my day.

From the quoted response to Dr. Barrett by Algis Augustine:

“You have been making false statements about Doctor’s Data and have damaged this company’s business and reputation, and you have done so for personal gain and your own self-interest, disguised as performing a public service.

Wonder if that could be viewed as defamatory. Hopefully for DDI they have some evidence to back up that attack, or they might wind up in worse trouble than just angering the blogging/skeptical community and further spotlighting their activities through a dubious legal strategy (more article material here for the Chicago Tribune?).

This is why we need “Loser Pays” rules for many civil suits. These bullying jerks would be much, much more hesitant about trying to intimidate someone with a CnD if they knew they would be wholly on the hook for said person’s legal costs if/when the case is dropped.

This is preposterous. Has the lawsuit been filed in an Anti-SLAPP statute state? While, in my very un-expert opinion, this suit doesn’t stand a chance, it is a repugnant effort by anti-vaxxers and woo practitioners to silence their critics and a nuisance, at best.

I wish Dr. Barrett the very best and am confident he will prevail. This is yet, another very bad move by sCAM artists who, in spite of their efforts otherwise, aren’t particularly acting in deference to their own self-preservation.

Wonder if that could be viewed as defamatory.

(IANAL) but I suspect not. Libel usually has to be transmitted to a third party (by the accuser). The BCA risked it when they suggested malice by Singh in one of their media releases (later modified, as I recall) but I don’t see how you can defame someone in private correspondence to that person since defamation is about reducing someone’s integrity in the eyes of others.

Since Dr Barrett published this claim first (I assume), it would be hard to suggest that he thinks it will damage his reputation if others see it.

I repeat, I’m no lawyer.

Would be interesting if all the hate-filled juvenile posts by Augie were in fact from a lawyer defending a lab against fraud they clearly commit.

Dangerous Bacon: Well.. the communication between former amoral government regulation lawyer/current amoral advocate for evil A. Augustine and decent physician Stephen Barrett was privately sent to Barrett, private, so it doesn’t really come under either libel or slander laws.

For those of you interested, DDI also does business in hair testing. Proponents of Andrew Cutler’s protocol (he’s a PhD in Chemical Engineering) have posted many such results in the files section of the yahoo group Autism-Mercury. Cutler promotes what appears to be a complex and arbitrary set of “counting rules” to determine supposed mercury toxicity.

What could be really ironic about this is that at least part of Dr. Barrett’s defense could be based on the precedent set in Barrett v. Rosenthal — where Dr. Barrett lost and the appellate Court expressed disgust that it had to rule against him due to a gap in the law.

The favored laboratory of anti-vaccine practitioners and the “autism biomed” movement, a commercial laboratory known as Doctor’s Data is suing Steve Barrett…. Not just that, it’s suing Dr. Barrett for the ridiculously overblown sum of $10 million

Sounds like Doctor’s Data is using the same silencing techniques as those used to such advantage by the Scientologists….which is kind of scary to think about.

Orac: I was very sorry to read about your “friend’s” experiences and the resultant *agita*,having gone through a similar bout during an extremely stressful(6 month) period in my life for which I am eternally grateful to whoever makes Gaviscom and Pepcid(which probably makes me a PharmaShill as well) and Dannon.

Dr. Barrett is pretty much continually being sued or threatened with lawsuits. He’s used to it by now, for sure. Then the fraudsters use the claim that he’s been sued 80 times or whatever it is to discredit him. I don’t know how he puts up with it.

This is preposterous. Has the lawsuit been filed in an Anti-SLAPP statute state?

#include IANAL.h

I suspect that Dr. Barrett’s first action will be for dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction in Texas. In the alternative, the suit should be moved to Pennsylvania on the usual grounds that in a case involving diversity of jurisdiction the case should be tried on the Defendant’s home turf.

IIRC Pennsylvania does have a SLAPP statute, although I don’t know how strong it is. Application of State SLAPP laws to Federal courts varies by District: the Ninth has ruled that California’s SLAPP applies but the First has ruled that Massachusetts’ doesn’t.

“Stop it!”
“Stop what?”
“Stop it!”
“What?”
“(Shrieking) SSSSTTTTTOOOOOOOOPPPPP IIIIIIIITTTT!!! (Normal voice) Or I’ll sue you.”

Well, with arguments like that, I’m sure this will go smoothly, maybe.

I’m telling you, folks, we need a Scopes trial of our age against quacks. I’d love to put some choice people on the stand and unleash a Perry Mason-like hail of questions on them.

Rene — heh heh. 😀

Yes, it does sound rather a lot like my three-year-old getting upset with the entire world for not meeting her whims, only dressed up in fancier language. Right down to the part where a reasonable “stop what?” only makes her madder.

I love the fact that when I just googled “Algis K. Augustine, Esq.” that THIS post was fourth on the search results list.
😀

I have a PACER.gov account and can see Federal lawsuit filings. On June 29, the complaint was updated to exclude former defendant _Consumer Health Digest_. The complaint lacks the typical civil tone of professionalism, in my non-professional opinion.

In part, Barrett is being sued because patients are suing doctors and this laboratory — and that’s not good for business.

“16. Doctor’s Data has demanded that Defendants remove all putative information from said websites,” and they didn’t, those dastards! “[A]ll putative information,” really?!?

“28. Defendants control the content of the websites without regard to the truth of the information published thereon.” What, really? Because that’s not what the letters Barrett wrote said.

Exhibit A is a March 29th copy of http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/urine_toxic.html

DD objects to being depicted as an organization that “caters to nonstandard practitioners” although they don’t rebut it in the complaint.

DD objects to being depicted as providing test results which are used “falsely” to “defraud patients” although they don’t rebut it other to clarify that any diagnosis is not actually done by them.

There are several other exhibits, all with claims of their own.

Orac, the charge for downloading the complaint is under ten dollars, but PACER is tedious. Also, the documents are PDF without OCRed or plain text content. I will send you a copy of it, if you wish.

Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) Case 1:10-cv-03795

The problem you and your followers have Orac is that most people have commonsense. When you have commonsense the first thing that comes to mind is that ethylmercury is a potent neurotoxin and should not be injected into the bloodstream of newborns, infants and pregnant women. All these other side shows really don’t matter.

LOL, Calli. My 3-year-old eventually adds, “Please”, when I can’t/don’t respond to her incomprehensible demands, thinking that will improve her chances of getting a favorable response.

@Cattleprod

ethylmercury is a potent neurotoxin

Citation?

Methylmercury has issues and should be avoided as it accumulates. Ethylmercury leaves the system in days.

And all that has to do with a lab providing cagey alt-med asswipes with fraudulent data how?

Ahh yes, the wisdom of common sense (it is two words by the way). Certainly we should rely on gut feelings and ignore evidence. Apparently the evidence showing it is safe simply must be wrong because naive common sense based on fear and ignorance must trump everything else.

“ethylmercury is a potent neurotoxin and should not be injected into the bloodstream of newborns, infants and pregnant women.”

Please name a vaccine that is injected into the blood stream.

I guess I am wrong, commonsense can be used as an adjective. My mistake.

But also, how does this relate to this topic? There are plenty of places where you can write your nonsense and not just butt into another conversation

Travis,
I’m guessing ol’ Cattleprod was feeling left out as Orac hadn’t published an anti-vax piece in a while.

Some speaker I heard once: “Common sense is surprisingly uncommon.”

@cattleprod: actually, the first thing that comes to mind with ethylmercury is that we used to paint ourselves red with it on a regular basis, and that we also used it for years in contact lens solutions as an antibacterial without issues (unless you were allergic to it like my uncle).

No vaccine is injected into the bloodstream, but we certainly got it into our bloodstreams as my parents painted it on us liberally for any injury at any age.

Yeah, most people have common sense. They know that vaccines don’t cause autism and get their kids vaccinated, and keep their own vaccines up to date, because they use that common sense. Antivax people must have something called “commonsense” which means they don’t use any.
Strangely my siblings and I are not,despite much more exposure to “toxins” than most current children, suffering from any neurotoxicity.

Argh! Commenting error/preview fail. The last sentence about my siblings and me should be up with the second paragraph.

try again:

@cattleprod: actually, the first thing that comes to mind with ethylmercury is that we used to paint ourselves red with it on a regular basis, and that we also used it for years in contact lens solutions as an antibacterial without issues (unless you were allergic to it like my uncle).

No vaccine is injected into the bloodstream, but we certainly got it into our bloodstreams as my parents painted it on us liberally for any injury at any age.
Strangely my siblings and I are not,despite much more exposure to “toxins” than most current children, suffering from any neurotoxicity.

Yeah, most people have common sense. They know that vaccines don’t cause autism and get their kids vaccinated, and keep their own vaccines up to date, because they use that common sense. Antivax people must have something called “commonsense” which means they don’t use any.

Orac, the charge for downloading the complaint is under ten dollars, but PACER is tedious. Also, the documents are PDF without OCRed or plain text content. I will send you a copy of it, if you wish.

Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) Case 1:10-cv-03795

Just a reminder that you can install a free extension called RECAP which enhances use of PACER. When you download a document from PACER through a copy of Firefox with RECAP installed, the document is automatically added to an archive maintained by the Internet Archive. If the document you want to download is already in the RECAP archive, you have the option of downloading it from there for free instead of from PACER at a cost.

https://www.recapthelaw.org/

No, no, no… You’re right, Cattleprod, you’re right. Totally commonsensical to attack thimerosal and ignore OSR#1.

Totally fair to attack Big Pharma while being plastered, NASCAR-Like, with badges for Lee Silsby and Our Kids…

Totally.

Funny thing that commonsense, cattleprod. Especially if it tells you that a vaccine is injected directly into the blood stream.

WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO GO OVER THIS WITH YOU PEOPLE. FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIS MOONEY TELL ME HOW I CAN BUILD A BRIDGE AND EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE THIS SIMPLE FACT TO YOU PEOPLE.

“It’s quite possible that it will be rapidly dismissed, as Barbara Loe Fisher’s lawsuit against Paul Offit was.”

I take this as a certainty. Olmsted made a similar threat without the slightest effort at actual rebuttal when I challenged the authenticity of a leaked document from Aarhus university. I am satisfied, if he had attempted this in a US jurisdiction where “burden of proof” is on a plaintiff, any court would have dismissed it immediately. And, Olmsted at least stated up front what claim he contended to be false. DDI’s refusal to do the same in “negotiation” phase would also be an easy grounds for immediate dismissal.

“Silenced by Age of Autism” also has something up on this. The post there mentions an accusation the Barret filed “complaints” against DDI. This leads me to suspect that their ultimate goal is less to silence Barret than to cast some kind of doubt on the legitimacy of regulatory actions against them, as Wakefield’s apologists attempted to do by claiming Brian Deer filed a complaint with the GMC.

Good grief. The “inject into bloodstream” idiocy is even worse than the “mercury in the MMR” vaccine stupidity.

I love how these guys come in and try to tell us the “facts”, only to get it completely wrong.

@Chris

I love how these guys come in and try to tell us the “facts”, only to get it completely wrong.

Who needs “facts” when you’ve got righteous conviction?

The problem is that there are no standard values for provoked urine tests, although there are reference values for standard, unprovoked, 24 hour urine specimens.

One would think that a company whose business involves frequent use of provoked tests would have both reason and the ability to establish such reference values, thus rendering their tests at least slightly more effective than ‘yeah, looks high to me, I guess.’

Cattleprod, there is a problem with approximately every third word of your post.You’ve just demonstrated an ignorance of the constituents, administration,and true side effects of vaccines in general and you still want everyone….anyone, to take you seriously.

thus rendering their tests at least slightly more effective than ‘yeah, looks high to me, I guess.’

I hear this one goes all the way up to 11.

Thank you, Orac, for writing about this very important issue. Although I am not one of the ones being sued, I have also had someone go to my Dean because of my online criticism and attempt to get me removed from my university. Thankfully, my Dean saw it for what it was and chose not to take any action. Another tactic is for anonymous posters to post outrageous lies about critics. The lie that I was fired from FSU has been endlessly repeated and even the absurd lie that my PhD was revoked was posted and comes up on Google searches in my name. The anonymous posters are very difficult if not impossible to track down and as a result, the critics targeted are not able to bring them into court. All too often it is the critics who suffer instead and get hit with the lawsuits. That’s why I’m so glad to see you taking a stand on this important issue so there can be a well-deserved public outcry against this type of thuggery.

Oh, and link, too. Link as if your life depended on it. Link until a glorious efflorescence of links to Quackwatch cover the intertubes, and the top ten Google hits on Doctor’s Data are a catalogue of their perfidy.

I’ll get the complaint (or rpenner can send it to me at catsharkAToptonlineDOTnet) and get it OCRed and then will forward it to anyone who asks nicely.

PS: The $10 million dollars is nothin special in an ad damnum clause … you get that in car accident cases … and no one should be intimidated.

Here’s a post I did on the Offit case that might give a start on understanding what hurdles DDI faces.

You need to include a link to the post, John — something like “Here’s a post I did on the Offit case that might give a start on understanding what hurdles DDI faces.”

I tried to snarkily point out that John had not actually included a link to his own post, only to discover that comments with links automatically go to the wise blinkenbox for moderation. No matter — just Google for “Some Laws Are Less Asses Than Others.”

Yet another reason for dealing with all this: An article by Purvis et al in the Journal of Child Custody recently described a method of deciding whether a child is comfortable with (“attached to”) a parent by means of urine testing for stress hormones after a visit. One of the authors owns a company that makes the test kits, but this was not disclosed.

Care to have your parental rights or custody arrangements decided in this way? It must be science, it’s got test tubes in it.

More than 75% of the patients tested at 21 µg or higher, and most of the rest fell between 3µg and 20 µg [5]. At these levels, nearly everyone’s mercury level would be classified as “elevated” or “very elevated” on the test reports.

DDI proponents/defenders would take that to mean that nearly everyone needs to be detoxified.

thus rendering their tests at least slightly more effective than ‘yeah, looks high to me, I guess.’

I hear this one goes all the way up to 11.

It’s over NINE THOUSAAAAAAAND!!!

This is exactly the right response to demands for retraction.

Not quite. A more appropriate response would be:

Dear Mr. Shyster Lawyer:

Please go and sodomize yourself and your client with a rusty railroad spike.

Yours truly,

Me, Myself and I

@Me, Myself and I

In the UK, the satirical magazine Private Eye makes occasional reference to an old legal case between its publishers and a complainant. The reference is usually expressed as ‘I refer you to the response given in Arkell Vs Pressdram”.

As reported in Wikipedia’s article on Private Eye: The plaintiff was the subject of an article relating to illicit payments, and for a change the magazine [Private Eye] had ample evidence to back up the article. Arkell’s lawyers wrote a letter in which, unusually, they said: “Our client’s attitude to damages will depend on the nature of your reply”. The response consisted, in part, of the following: “We would be interested to know what your client’s attitude to damages would be if the nature of our reply were as follows : “Fuck off”.

I believe the response would be equally appropriate for Dr Barratt in this situation.

annoying, and a bit depressing, but I guess it’s to be expected. DDI is going down and they’re trying to drag Dr Barrett with them.

Brett @7

That would be even worse in such asymetric cases. The wealthy party can spend unreasonable amounts (which can lead to an unfair situation in court) knowing that they can go after any assets the poorer party has. The poorer party, unless they want to liquidate assets (ie: sell the house and business) can’t hope to deal with the sort of imbalance a huge injection of money brings. Loser pays turns into a case where the folks with the most liquid funds, and the ability to delay longest win.

I’m always baffled by people who think common sense can answer any question. Do they look to their common sense when trying to figure out how to operate complex machinery or software? To fix the electrical or plumbing systems in their house (assuming they aren’t experts)? To get to a faraway destination they’ve never been to? To cure cancer?

To me, “common sense” is essentially occam’s razor. In complex situations in which I am a non-expert (like the above), that often means seeking out someone who knows more than I do for advice. Do I always trust them without question? Absolutely not, but they’re guaranteed to be a better guide than my gut. We simply don’t have the lifespan to accomodate expertise in all areas, therefore it is reasonable to subcontract these issues to the appropriate folks.

Here’s a hint: if you don’t know the difference between different types of mercury and don’t even know common injection routes for vaccinations, you’re probably not an expert and you might want to avoid being smug and self-confident in your knowledge. Stop assuming that you’re an authority and listen to the people who dedicate their lives to study in that area.

Great article that had my blood boiling until your conclusion that dragged in animal liberationists. There’s an important difference here between Animal Lib and the other fringe groups you highlight. Vivisectionists knowingly and, at least in the past, have openly admitted to having experimented on non-human animals from lab mice to chimps – all in the name of medical progress of course. (Nazis like Mengele took the process one stage further – they experimented on those examples of Homo they designated Unter-Menschen. And why not indeed, if science rules all?).

If one believes, however, that there is an ethical limit to what can be done in the name of science and that vivisection is wrong because it crosses that limit, then one has a moral imperative to do something about vivisection. But the example you cite at the start of your argument, that of Steve Barrett, is completely different to that of vivisectionists. Barrett’s offence is purely and simply that he dares to be a critic of nutters like DDI.

In my view, there’s no comparison between Barrett and vivisectionists – in this instance, you are comparing an apple with a crate of oranges.

Colenso, this is probably the wrong blog to be using the same logic as abortion clinic bombers. The point here is that intimidation tactics make you worthy of contempt.

Supporters of medical pseudoscience have a long history of trying to stifle criticism by any means necessary. Sometimes their chosen means are dubious libel suits..

Sometimes they resort to death threats. Has happened to me more than a few times. One group threatened me and others repeatedly and hacked into my computer system and got my real name and address. This was all looking pretty scary. Until the FBI picked them up and charged them. Death threats are federal crimes, felonies.

They will also try to hack into your computer systems and install spyware and malware. That has also happened to me twice.

“In my view, there’s no comparison between Barrett and vivisectionists – in this instance, you are comparing an apple with a crate of oranges.”

It’s also not the comparison that was being made.

Anti-vivisectionists are not unique in believing they have a ‘moral imperative’ to stop certain behaviours or in dehumanising thier targets (and their targets children and spouses) in order to get the result they want.

The comparison that was being made concerned the extent of behaviour that oppositional groups are willing to engage in.

There are certainly more than a few such groups involved in the vaccines ‘debate’, and – between them – these groups are more than willing to launch attacks including the spamming/online harrassing of a persons employers, through cross posting personally identifying information (including photo and work address) across hostile web forums resulting in personal threats, right the way up to making direct threats that have required FBI intervention.

Re: Common sense

I think it was Bertrand Russell who wrote that common sense was no more nor less than the sum of the most common prejudices of the day. In general, I am inclined to agree with him. After all, one’s common sense tells one that those folks who used their common sense to burn elderly women as witches were completely loco – right?

In practise, I’ve found out the hard way that there is no easy path to knowledge – common sense, intuition, expert opinion, the “Scientific Method” (see Mach, Popper, Kuhn and on this for starters), trial and error – they all have their pitfalls when actually faced with making timely decisions.

So what to do then? Often, the safest bet is to do nothing. Only if the potential risk seems greater from doing nothing than from taking action should one act. But how to evaluate risk? Hmm, speaking as a keen student of mathematical modelling, that’s tricky.

Oh dear, the problems of actually living – this no doubt is why I prefer books.

Actually Colenso, those of us who have been involved in the animal research debate are well used to the distortions and misrepresentations of science that anti-vivisections frequently use in their argumants. These distortions and misrepresentations are then used by animal rights extremists to justify their cowardly attacks on scientists and their families, including the late Dr. Arthur Rosenbaum http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-arthur-rosenbaum-20100701,0,5963890.story.

While their intimidation tactics may vary, there are certainly striking similarities in the way many anti-vaccine campaigners and many animal rights activists misuse science to further their respective causes.

If Barrett had a bit more money, he would look forward to this suit continuing. Think of what he could learn during discovery, pouring through plaintiff’s documents, deposing everyone in sight, checking their finances, etc. Just that part where they dispute his statement that they “cater to nonstandard practitioners,” should open the door for a peek at their finances.

If he had world enough and time, he could turn this suit into a mess for plaintiff.

Terrie, what’s abortion (voluntary or the much more common spontaneous form, aka “miscarriage”) got to do with scientific enquiry? Comparing abortion, spontaneous or voluntary, with vivisection is a further example of comparing apples with oranges.

Dedj, Barrett is criticising a group for being unscientific, and being threatened by legal thuggery in return. What vivisectionists engage in is not a form of scientific criticism, but instead a pursuit of scientific research employing means that anti-vivisectionists consider to be unethical. As I’ve said, the difference is between an apple and a crate of oranges.

Paul, I tried to follow your link to the obituary of the late Dr. Arthur Rosenbaum, but got an error message informing me it was dead.

As far as I can make out, the anti-vaccine groups are nutters. That is, their alleged science is pseudo-science.

Now in the view of many mainstream researchers working in the biological sciences and experimenting on animals, the anti-vivisectionists may also be nutters, but that’s not how I see them. I see them as zealots, fanatics, crusaders perhaps, but in many cases as scientifically rational.

There’s the difference between Barrett and his opponents on the one hand, and vivisectionists and their opponents on the other.

@Colenso

Whether you care to believe it or not, there are, indeed, animal liberation activists who engage in unscientific chicanery and use threats to silence critics. Do you feel that animal liberation activists who bomb animal research labs are engaging in “scientific criticism”? Or when they threaten the lives of researchers or their families?

Even the use of the term “vivisection” is a distortion of what makes up animal research. Animals research is not solely the cutting up of animals.

That is not to say that we should minimize animal experimentation where possible, but the reality is that no other current system can replace animals in all situations. Even computer models we might develop cannot fully replace the use of a living system, since we do not know all there is needed to know about how every single aspect of life interacts with everything around it.

But, enough of wandering off-topic. There are other threads discussing animal liberation and such. Suffice to say, Orac was correct to list them among those who engage in unethical behavior toward their critics, with the caveat of “more radicalized”.

Colenso, this appears to be confusing for you.

This post is not about animal research. It is about abusing the legal system to achieve certain ends. The animal rights movement has done this before, so the comparison is valid.

Another valid comparison would be SCO’s lawsuit against IBM for violation of SCO’s intellectual property in Unix. There, SCO had made a very foolish choice in targeting Big Blue, which had the financial capacity, patience, and pig-headedness to not only tell SCO to go screw themselves but also countersue with a meticulously documented case showing how SCO had actually stolen material from IBM. SCO ended up paying IBM in the countersuit, and IBM won the original lawsuit as well. It cost IBM a great deal of money, but destroyed SCO.

Actually, there are a lot of intellectual property cases that are similar, insofar as they abuse the legal system to intimidate rather than to bring meritorious claims before a judge. SCO was actually copying other companies with a similar modus operandi, and it would have been successful if it had aimed at small shops first, rather than going for the big payout right away. The strategy goes something like this. Step one: obtain some intellectual property that you know people are using, either by buying the rights to the original art (that’s what SCO did) or by filing a patent on some relatively trivial behavior found in a lot of software. Step two: find some smallish businesses that use the intellectual property, and if possible, determine what their operating capital is like. Step three: send them the nastygram threatening to sue for more than they are worth if they do not purchase a license to use the intellectual property, making certain the license fee is just barely affordable for this small company. Many companies have been successfully shaken down in this manner.

More recently, the RIAA has been sending threatening letters to individuals and ISPs demanding that material be taken down. Some other parties have found that takedown letters accompanied by lawsuit threats are usually sufficient to get material withdrawn from the Internet, especially if the threat is delivered not to the individual but to the individual’s service provider. The ISP is not personally invested in the claims, and usually not well enough funded to fight it. In any case, the takedown letter basically asks them to either do something simple and free or brace for an expensive and painful lawsuit, often with ridiculously absurd claims for damages. (The music piracy cases can demand millions of dollars for the proven theft of a dozen songs. And even more shocking, the RIAA has actually won some of these.)

If you want to know more about how the legal system is abused to silence critics or even to gain profit (some companies have IP-lawsuit-for-profit practically as a business model), visit the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit organization of lawyers and concerned people who fight for online rights. They may even be willing to assist Quackwatch and Stephen Barrett, should it come to that.

Here is the EFF’s page listing some examples of this sort of lawsuit: the Takedown Hall of Shame.
http://www.eff.org/takedowns

Colenso, your stated “If one believes, however, that there is an ethical limit to what can be done in the name of science and that vivisection is wrong because it crosses that limit, then one has a moral imperative to do something about vivisection. ”

My comment was not about abortion, but about those who use violent and/or “legal thuggery” to oppose clinics that offer abortion among their services. The “neccesity” defense used by that man who murdered Dr. Tiller followed the EXACT logic you present. Scott Roeder argued that he felt that therauptic abortions crossed the ethical line of what can be done in the name of medicine, and that he had a moral imperative to do something about it.

Also known as “the ends justifies the means”.

While the animal rights extremists and the pro-life extremists feel morally justified in what they do, and so do many of the anti-vax and vaccines-cause-autism crowd, I suspect one major difference (and the one Colenso is getting at) is that Doctor’s Data, Inc probably does not. Judging by their letters to Stephen Barrett, I believe they are entirely aware of their own perfidy. They aren’t suing out of a moral imperative but to protect their income. In this, they are more akin to the sorts of people and corporations I was talking about in my last post (#71).

But that’s just motives. As far as *methods* go, there is a lot in common.

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