You might remember last year how people who thought they were acting in the interests of the Burzynski Clinic issued quasi-legal threats to bloggers who took issue with his unproven “antineoplaston” treatments. I am specifically thinking of Marc Stephens, who contacted Andy Lewis, Peter Bowditch, and Rhys Morgan. As I understand it, Burzynski had hired Stephens to do web-optimization work, cleaning up B’s reputation (no small feat considering who was signing the checks!). Stephens apparently interpreted this as a green light to send a high school student a picture of his house, the unmistakable threat: “We know where you live.” This was when I first wrote about Burzynski, I believe.
Another Burzynski supporter (one at the same IP address as the Burzynski Patient Group) put up a website–albeit very briefly–which painted prominent skeptics…and somehow me… as pedophiles. (That’s my name in between those of two of my heroes, Simon Singh and Stephen Fry! Squee! Best. Defamation. Ever.) When it was discovered, the site was instantly taken down, but The 21st Floor has the goods.
Well, people who seem to somehow think that they represent Burzynski are at it again; this time it is his propagandist Eric Merola (@BurzynskiMovie), the guy behind the straight-to-Internet stinker Burzynski. He is currently putting together a sequel (working title: Burzynski II: This Time It’s Peer-Reviewed).
Not long ago, I received a call from one of the lawyers at my university. When I went over to see her, she handed me a letter that had been sent to the office of my university’s Chancellor. Honestly, from her description on the phone of how strange it was, I thought it was going to be something from Mabus, who had contacted my coworkers in the past. I was surprised to read that it was from the guy making the Burzynski movies. And now I share it with you:
How about that?
Let’s clarify a few things here, Eric. My “extracurricular” interest in Burzynski has nothing to do with my research and everything to do with my interest in science. My letters, articles, and blog posts that discuss Burzynski do not appear on my CV. The things I do in my spare time are no business of my employer and they respect that.
Your legal disclaimer is a joke; you are as competent a lawyer as you are a filmmaker.
The “present” we are going to give Burzynski on his birthday is a challenge to the Clinic to match the funds raised by skeptics for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The “something positive” you fear is what I have publicly called “Operation Cuddly Puppy,” a campaign designed to put reliable information about clinical trials and cancer treatments into the hands of cancer patients. I can see why a Burzynski supporter would be afraid of that.
Regarding theOTHERburzynskipatientgroup.wordpress.com, I will be delighted for you to discuss my (and others’) work there in your movie. What we offer there is an honest look at the patients who have not made it, patients whose stories are just as important as the ones you believe Burzynski gave a happy ending. I’m not prying either; the patients and their families have already shared this information with the world. Also, it has about 30 total views (well, until today!). What you seem to be opposed to is open inquiry into what goes on at the clinic.
I’ve yet to hear from the family of the patient you singled out in your email. I would, of course, give them my standard answer for patients of Burzynski: “I’m very, very sorry for your loss, and I don’t take down content. Your stories are too important.” All of which is true. In about a month, three of us working in our spare time have been able to accumulate as many (more, actually) examples of failed treatment as there are “successes” at the Burzynski Patient Group site, which actually opens up patient records to promote Burzynski. (Though I don’t hear you howling about the ethics of that!)
In a way, I guess I’m not surprised that you went to my employer. I have gotten threats from other wackdoodles before who were going to “expose me to my employer.” This is more of the same.
Eric, the interpretation of my actions that you put forward in your laughable letter are so far from the mark that I should warn you against replicating them in your movie–and now you have been notified of that. Furthermore, should you make any attempt to link my family or my employer to my online science advocacy, I will not hesitate to hire an actual lawyer and pursue you until you cry. The fact that you actively tried to hide it from me, to spread half-truths about me to my employer behind my back, is stunning evidence of your malicious motives. It’s like the type of thing trial lawyers dream of.
If you are appalled by this behavior, I encourage skeptics to contribute to the St. Jude fundraiser. We will be donating everything raised to the hospital in Burzynski’s name and then challenge the Clinic to match those funds. If he doesn’t participate, we will still be able to say it’s probably the best thing ever done for cancer research in his name!