Tag Archives: Dowling

Who Quacks at the Quackwatch?

Or, quisnam planto anser sonitus procul anser vigilo? – I’m not sure that’s good Latin, don’t quote me on that. Isn’t “anser” a goose?

Stephen Barrett’s Quackwatch is an excellent place to go to find out just what sort of patent-medicine nostrums you’re being pitched. It contains useful information on shut-downs, lawsuits, cease-and-desists, and more. They were quite helpful when Robert Dowling came to town. I recall that, when Dowling found out that one of our members had put the above article into a flier-form and left a stack near the door, that he exploded, said that Barrett was being sued for libel and slander and defamation, rightfully so!

I found out that Barrett get legal threats quite a bit. It’s not an uncommon tactic; as Dr. Barrett says on his own website: “Very few people provide the type of information I do. One reason for this is the fear of being sued.”


And there is a lawsuit in the air, the fetid scent like a feotid spring in the estuaries of Mississippian coastlines after a spill of oil on crab-spawn tides.

Who would do such a thing? Well, it’s not Dowling. Nor any of the people he mentioned. No, the plaintiff here is the darling of the anti-vaccination movement; Doctors Data.

DD is a testing lab of questionable quality, allowing your local peddler of high quality serpent lipid extracts to utilize a fascinating technique, described in crude terms here by PZ Myers (what? You expected him to describe things otherwise?) “Do the doctory thing of drawing a little blood while wearing a white lab coat, send it off to a ‘lab’ that does a few tests and sends back a very official looking mass of data, and then the quack gazes into it and announces that you need powdered newts’ eyes, or whatever nostrum he’s peddling that day.”

Ahhhh, but you shouldn’t take my word for it. Nor the word of PZ Myers. Though, admittedly, Dr. Barrett takes a more hardline approach; but uses less “colorful” language, here.

You see, the crux of this issue is that Doctors Data uses an unscientific technique, “provoked sampling,” to see if your kiddy has mercury or lead in his or her little system.

It’s a urine sample test. These are designed to see how much of a toxic ingredient might be present in your urine. But unlike normal testings, the “provoked” method adds a little bit of a chelation agent to bind to the metals and draw them into the urine so that the test can find them. Orac explains it better, of course, while adding that peculiar blend of respect and insolence that only an unemoting box of blinking lights can command. In that particular post, Orac explains how the provocative test is, well, bogus.

And it is, but you should read his explanation of it. Or perhaps you’re looking for a somewhat different explanation, but still sufficiently scientific, then you should peruse this offering from Science-Based Medicine.

In the brilliant reply to the DD Lawsuit, Barrett says this: 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.

When asked to point out a factual problem, they cannot of course do so. They merely want him to shut up. They merely want this: full and complete retractions. Not corrections, not accurate representations – retractions.

And Barrett should not be forced to do that. If you’d like to help him combat this legal thuggery, then feel as though you should go and contribute to Quackwatch.