The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ahhh, Libel Claims...

So, a high school student by the name of Rhys Morgan has written some blog posts about a Doctor named Stanislaw Burzynski who offers cancer treatments that appear to be poorly researched, and therefore of dubious value.  Mr. Morgan has since been contacted by a man named Marc Stevens who represents the doctor (though Burzynski's own website indicates that Stephens is a PR guy and does not work for the doctor as an attorney), and his description of the matter can be found here.

The issue in short: Morgan wrote a blog entry in which he was extremely critical of Dr. Burzynski's methods, citing articles written by cancer researchers (such as this one) and court documents (such as this one) which argue that Burzynski's methods are not simply unproven, but disproven, and therefore questioning the ethics of a practitioner who continues to use them. A man by the name of Marc Stephens contacted Morgan demanding that the blog entry be pulled down and threatening legal action against the libel that this blog entry allegedly represented. 

Now, I am not an expert in the law, obviously, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to think that a high school kid writing a blog entry that cites published research to criticize the work of a controversial doctor meets the legal criteria for Libel, especially as the kid, while certainly making his feelings known, didn't really make any material claims that were not present in the journal article or legal decision. 

And it turns out that Morgan isn't the only one getting this.  Andy Lewis of the Quackometer blog has also received threats of legal action from Mr. Stephens.  And Stephens has, in his emails, demanded not only that these two bloggers remove their content regarding Burzynski, but that they also "pass the word" on to the other "skeptics" who would dare question the alleged brilliance of Dr. Burzynski.  So, it sounds like this is more of an attempt to scare people into not stating their opinions of Burzynski and his treatments than anything else.  Unfortunately, to many people the law is this strange, arcane thing, and they see a mass o' legal sounding jargon such as Stephens sends out and feel like he can do bad things to them if they don't comply.

Also, while I really don't know if Stephens is licensed to practice law, this seems like a bit of an odd qualification for a PR guy, so I suspect he does not*.

So, Marc Stephens, if you happen to be reading this** be advised that I have both attorneys and a judge in my family and my circle of friends.  Should you decide to send me threatening emails, I will seek their counsel, and if I am advised to do so by them, will hire an attorney and respond with legal action against you and your employer.  I grew up around lawyers, I am well aware of what they can and they cannot do, and mere mention of a lawsuit isn't going to intimidate me and send me cowering to the corner.

Oh, and stop picking on high school kids.  Don't you have an actual job to do?  You know, like PR work?

*On the off-chance that he sees this, the way I constructed that sentence doesn't constitute libel.  You see, I made it clear what part was my opinion and what part was based on actual information.  But it will probably piss him off anyway.

**Normally I wouldn't have the ego to assume that any particular person is reading anything I write.  However, as this guy seems to be going to blogs with the intention of sending emails to their writers, it is possible that I will hear from this guy.

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