In the skeptic community, the term ‘red flag’ is used to denote something which gives cause for alarm, a warning sign that things may not be what they seem. Science-org presents a useful guide to red flags as applied to Quackery. Note that of the sixteen featured, Burzynski has one all to himself. Short and Spiky takes it one stage further and devotes an entire blog post to the red flags raised by the Burzynski Clinic.
The shortcomings, ethical,medical and financial, of Stanislav Burzynski and his clinic, have been extensively blogged and tweeted ever since the Observer published an article about a family in the UK raising money to send their daughter for treatment to the Burzynski Clinic. This was followed by an article in the London Evening Standard and a feature on ITV’s Daybreak programme seemingly endorsing the work of Burzynski. Anyone wishing to follow the timeline of events should go to Joesphine Jones excellent blog which has a record of posts and blogs about the issues.
Burzynski has been in business for almost thirty years. During that time he has had a number of run-ins with the authorities but nothing has stopped him exploiting the sick and vulnerable. Until now. Andy Lewis has revealed that a former patient of the Burzynski Clinic is sueing Burzynski for, amongst other things, “bilking her of nearly $100 000″. The Courthouse News Service gives further details about the nature of the former patient’s complaints and Peter Bowditch has posted the court filing on his site. These documents make horrendous reading and justify all the red flags raised by bloggers and tweeters over the last few months.
Can Burzynski survive? Burzynski is a last resort for the desperate and vulnerable who may not be influenced by the proceedings in a Texas Courtroom. They may be unaware of what is happening. We cannot be confident that the Observer, Evening Standard and Dr Hilary Jones will give the publicity to these latest developments that they gave to the ‘pioneering researcher’. Burzynski is due to appear in front of the Texas Medical Board in April 2012 and hopefully that will seal his fate.
The submission to the Leveson Inquiry on theCulture, Practice Ethics of the Press by the Association of Medical Research Charities, Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust contains the following paragraph:
10. Secondly, and more worryingly, it can often raise false hope among patients. This is particularly true and damaging where it concerns treatments for incurable diseases that are not proven, yet which are portrayed as “miracle cures”. This can lead patients to spend life savings on treatments that are most unlikely to work, or on occasion to eschew the most effective known therapies in favour of alternatives that are untested or disproved.
Observer, Evening Standard and Dr Hilary Jones – please take note.