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Thread: Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch

  1. #1
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    Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch

    Stephen Barret, M.D., is a retired American psychiatrist, author, co-founder of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), and the webmaster of Quackwatch. He runs a number of websites dealing with quackery and health fraud. He focuses on consumer protection, medical ethics, and scientific skepticism. Numerous sources have cited Quackwatch as a useful source for online consumer information.[2]
    Quackwatch has grown considerably. To help visitors with special areas of interest, we maintain 22 additional sites for autism, chiropractic, dentistry, multilevel marketing, and many other hot topics. We are also closely affiliated with the National Council Against Health Fraud, which cosponsors our free weekly newsletter, and with Bioethics Watch, which highlights issues of questionable research on humans. Our Internet Health Pilot site provides links to hundreds of reliable health sites. Our Casewatch site contains a large library of legal cases, licensing board actions, government sanctions, and regulatory actions against questionable medical products.

    Several blogs have reported on the recent lawsuit:

    A few weeks ago I posted an article about bogus diagnostic tests. I cited Doctor’s Data, Inc. (DDI), as “a company with a long history of dubious offerings.” I also wrote:

    You can’t help but have noticed that many of the links in this post are to articles on Quackwatch. That’s because the site is chock full of useful information about bogus tests, far more than can be found elsewhere. There you will find a more comprehensive list of bogus tests than I’ve mentioned here, and a larger list of laboratories peddling them. You’ll also find an article on “Dubious Genetic Testing” co-authored by the Quackwatch founder, Stephen Barrett, and our own Harriet Hall, and an article about bogus “biomedical treatments” for autism showing that—surprise!—Doctor’s Data and Genova Diagnostics are major players there, too.

    I stand by all of those statements. It turns out that Doctor’s Data is not pleased that Dr. Barrett has so thoroughly blown the company’s cover.

    As he describes on Quackwatch, about a month ago Dr. Barrett received this letter from a representative of the law firm Augustine, Kern and Levens, Ltd. of Chicago:

    Dear Dr. Barrett:

    It has recently come to the attention of our client, Doctor’s Data, Inc., an Illinois corporation, that you have, on a continuing basis, harmed Doctor’s Data by transmitting false, fraudulent and defamatory information about this company in a variety of ways, including on the internet and in other publications. Doctor’s Data is shocked that you would intentionally try to harm its business and its relationship not only with doctors but also with the public. Doctor’s Data has also learned that you have apparently conspired with and encouraged individuals to seek litigation against it, and have filed false complaints at various government and regulatory agencies against Doctor’s Data.

    “It is never libelous,” you have said, “to criticize an idea.” However, you have gone way beyond the idea stage, and our client will not tolerate it. You apparently have carried on this conduct in an intentional manner and with the assistance of others. It is clear that you have a specific intent to harm Doctor’s Data, and this conduct must stop immediately.

    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 “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.

    Doctor’s Data is a CLlA-certified company in full compliance with all state and federal regulatory and CLlA standards, and your false, fraudulent, defamatory and otherwise untruthful comments have been made to intentionally damage Doctor’s Data, Inc. This conduct will no longer be tolerated and if the retractions are not made as written above, the lawsuit shall be filed imminently.

    Very truly yours,

    Algis Augustine

    Dr. Barrett’s reply included this:

    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… 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.

    Rather than sending Dr. Barrett such a list, the firm replied:

    Dr. Barrett,

    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.

    Today is June 14th, which is the deadline that was in our letter of June 2nd. Because you responded, you have until Thursday, June 17th, to post your retractions. If you do so and show good faith immediately, this will be taken into account in proceeding.

    Jeff Levens
    Augustine, Kern and Levens, Ltd.

    Once again, Dr. Barrett asked the firm to cite the purported false statements:

    Dear Mr. Levens:

    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.

    Thank you,

    Stephen Barrett, MD

    The result was predictable:

    On June 18th, Doctor’s Data filed suit against me, the National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc., Quackwatch, Inc., and Consumer Health Digest, accusing us of restraint of trade; trademark dilution; business libel; tortious interference with existing and potential business relationships; fraud or intentional misrepresentation; and violating federal and state laws against deceptive trade practices…The complaint asks for more than $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

    It also asks the court to prohibit Dr. Barrett and others from exercising their freedom of speech:

    WHEREFORE, DOCTOR’S DATA, INC., Plaintiff, prays that this court enter an order granting Doctor’s Data a permanent injunction; direct them to remove or delete all disparaging statements and remarks pertaining to Doctor’s Data from these or any web sites under their control; and prohibit them from publishing these or any other or additional such remarks on blogs, the aforesaid websites, or any other web sites pending the outcome of this litigation.

    Sounds eerily similar to the Simon Singh case in the UK. The U.S., of course, has libel laws that are far more protective of freedom of speech than those in the UK; but any lawsuit at all, no matter how unfounded, is burdensome to the defendant, who must spend considerable time and money on his defense. Thus a corporation with means can easily cripple an individual such as Stephen Barrett, who realizes no “personal gain” from what he writes on Quackwatch and lives on little more than a modest retirement pension. Roy Poses, referring to Scot Silverstein’s post over at Health Care Renewal about this lawsuit, observed:

    Note that the Quackwatch publications which the suit addressed included one that simply described a lawsuit (filed by others), and another that simply summarized an article in Slate (written by others). Sounds like a SLAPP to me.

    Scot himself wrote:

    This seems like a case of legal intimidation and may be a case for Senator Grassley’s whistleblower hotline (

    Dr. Barrett is well aware of this, but he is not about to surrender:

    Very few people provide the type of information I do. One reason for this is the fear of being sued. Knowledgeable observers believe that Doctor’s Data is trying to intimidate me and perhaps to discourage others from making similar criticisms. However, I have a right to express well-reasoned opinions and will continue to do so.
    Science-Based Medicine » Doctor’s Data Sues Quackwatch

    This seems like a case of legal intimidation and may be a case for Senator Grassley's whistleblower hotline (

    Finally, as a Medical Informatics specialist once called "Doctor Data", I find the company name "Doctor's Data" for a company in this business ironic indeed.
    Health Care Renewal: Quackwatch being sued by "Doctor's Data", a laboratory that caters to chelation therapists

    Thanks to an anonymous commenter for uploading the lawsuit, and pointing out that it was filed in Illinois, which does, in fact, have an anti-SLAPP law.

    Of course, now that Doctor's Data has brought this lawsuit, it seems likely that the claims made by Barrett are about to get a lot more attention -- and it's entirely possible that Doctor's Data won't like what others find when they start looking into the claims.
    Quackwatch Sued For Suggesting Medical Lab Quackery | Techdirt

    Here we go again. Another purveyor of a questionable medical therapy, when criticized, rather than refute the criticisms with evidence, attempts to silence its critic with legal action. Via Orac, read how Doctor’s Data ignored Stephen Barrett’s explanation of How the "Urine Toxic Metals" Test Is Used to Defraud Patients, and is suing him to have the criticisms removed.

    Of course, Doctor’s Data’s lawsuit is just an attempt at intimidation. We know that because Barrett replied to Doctor’s Data, asking them to identify exactly what Barrett got wrong in his write up, with explanations as to why he had been wrong. Doctor’s Data’s lawyers ignored this request and instead replied only with more threatening bluster. On June 18, Doctor's Data filed suit against Barrett and his related websites, claiming $10 million in damages. They’re also asking the court to instruct Barrett to remove immediately all criticism of Doctor’s Data pending the completion of their lawsuit (which could take years).
    Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch - Skeptico

    The Bottom Line
    Very few people provide the type of information I do. One reason for this is the fear of being sued. Knowledgeable observers believe that Doctor's Data is trying to intimidate me and perhaps to discourage others from making similar criticisms. However, I have a right to express well-reasoned opinions and will continue to do so.
    Why Doctor's Data Is Trying to Shut Me Up

    The Streisand effect
    A half-truth is a whole lie.

  2. #2
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    Re: Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch

    Thank you for drawing our attention to this latest move to silence critics of unproven or unreliable treatments by the "alternative health industry"

    If this obvious attempt at legal bullying of Quackwatch and Stephen Barrett by Doctor's Data fails, as it certainly should do unless they can produce scientific data to disprove Barrett's contentions, then there will be a useful precedent set up to evalaute spurious medical testing claims.

    The Quackwatch site is an excellent one and should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in selling lotions and potions.

    We have already heard the argument on this forum for patients' freedom to choose their helath treatment, and I think this article on Health Freedom explains the situation perfectly

    especially this part

    Quacks use the concept of "health freedom" to divert attention away from themselves and toward victims of disease with whom we are naturally sympathetic. "These poor folks should have the freedom to choose whatever treatments they want," cry the quacks -- with crocodile tears. They want us to overlook two things. First, no one wants to be cheated, especially in matters of life and health. Victims of disease do not demand quack treatments because they want to exercise their "rights," but because they have been deceived into thinking that they offer hope. Second, the laws against worthless nostrums are not directed against the victims of disease but at the promoters who attempt to exploit them.
    There are many supplemental non medical treatments for illness that can be effective, especially through diet, but they are generally promoted for health and not profit motives and do not sue their critics.

  3. #3
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    Re: Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch

    I love the work of Dr. Barrett. I quoted him when debunking the hype surrounding Evolv water. I too have stood in his shoes. When sued I held firm and fought hard. No injunctive relief was granted and not one false statement attributable to me was ever produced. It is the spend the legitimate critics into silence theory.

    Let's keep this topic active and give those frivolous suits the attention they deserve. That is one sure way to send scams down the toilet. Filing a suit just draws tons of attention to the fact a company is having problems. An intelligent refutation with verifiable facts would be the way to answer, but they can't. Doctor's Data can't even properly identify the statments they are complaining about, because no doubt they can't refute anything that has been published.

    Kudos to Dr. Barrett for standing his ground!


  4. #4
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    Re: Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch

    I think you added an extra"/" in your link--didn't work for me.

    "Health Freedom"

    A half-truth is a whole lie.

  5. #5
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    Re: Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch

    "Health Freedom"

    You are correct


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