Homeopaths use Legal Thuggery Against Australian and Portuguese Bloggers

Photo by flickr user rkrichardson.

In their toolbox homeopaths have sugar, water, and oodles of imagination. They tell us they have some science in there too, and they root around in there quite a bit looking for it. Personally, I’ve yet to see a homeopath wield that tool with any competency at all.

Oh, and one more thing. They have lawyers.

Today I want to highlight two recent incidents outside of Canada, in which homeopaths are attempting to shut down valid criticism through abuse of the legal process.

In Lisbon, Portugal, blogger Luis Graves Rodrigues is being sued by a homeopathic pharmacy he mentioned in a post back in 2007. In the original blog post, he wrote about widely advertised crackdowns by Portuguese authorities on counterfeit products sold in open markets, and contrasted this action with the ability of a homeopathic pharmacy to:

“…sell openly and with impunity, or better “foist” onto the public, mysterious preparations at astronomical prices, though they are little more than concoctions of water and no one has been able to demonstrate their efficacy or even their effect.” [My translation]

Mr. Rodrigues goes on to explain his outrage at a regulatory system that allows homeopathic products to be sold as medicine, even though the Portuguese health regulator requires that homeopathic products be labeled as being “without proven therapeutic indications”. Counterfeit CD’s bad; counterfeit medicine, no problem. Sounds familiar

The homeopathic pharmacy that he mentioned has, nearly 5 years later, accused Mr. Rodrigues of defamation and consequently he must appear in court on April 17th. I’m sure Mr.Rodrigues will not disappoint in defending himself:

“This is obviously a very clear strategy of intimidation, which seeks nothing more than the continuation of their sale of “snake oil” with impunity, while trying to silence the constitutional freedom to express an opinion that is scientifically justified – which will be clearly demonstrated at the trial”. [My translation]

We will keep you updated on the outcome. In the meantime my next few glasses of port and vinho verde will be raised in solidarity with Mr. Rodrigues and every other Portuguese skeptic who speaks out against quackery.

More Contemptible Legal Thuggery

Meanwhile in Australia, homeopath Francine Scrayen has had her lawyers send a cease and desist letter to blogger, Dan Buzzard. It really is a wonder that she was able to find the lawyers in her toolbox so easily, when she was never able to find anything that would have saved the life of her patient, Penelope Dingle. Tragically, Ms. Dingle ultimately died of rectal cancer on August 25, 2005 and by all accounts suffered horrifically and unnecessarily.

What makes this case of legal thuggery truly sickening and contemptible, is that Ms Scrayen is implicated in Penelope’s death.

These allegations aren’t only being made by bloggers and Penelope’s surviving family, but notably by Penelope herself. Over the course of her treatment by Ms Scrayen, Penelope maintained diaries that documented every contact between her and her homeopath. It seems that she did so, because she was convinced that she would need the notes for a book she would later write about her miraculous homeopathic cure. Further, when it became clear to Penelope that she would die as a result of following Ms. Scrayen’s treatment and advice, she wrote a series of letters in which she makes clear that she wanted Ms. Scrayen to take responsibility for her bad advice.

“Fact
Had I performed the enema you instructed me to do, the surgeon told me it would have split my bowel. Had this happened, in my weakened state it would have been unlikely I could have survived the massive infection that would have ensued.
The surgeon said “if your bowel had split, you would have died. I could not have saved you.”
I’d like you to ponder this.

Fact
Had I waited another 48 hours as you instructed me, for the remedy to work and “for the stop to go,” I would have died. The surgeon said I could not have survived another 48 hours, which means I would have died on Monday October 13, 2003.
Ponder on this too.”

After her death, Penelope’s siblings brought her diaries and her letters to the Coroner and demanded an inquest be held. Blogger Dan Buzzard wrote about the Coroner’s report and pulled no punches in expressing his disgust at Francine Scrayen’s actions. The Coroner concluded:

“I accept that Mrs Scrayen believed that the deceased had suffered from haemorrhoids years earlier and the bleeding and pain was “an old symptom coming back”, but a competent health professional would have been alarmed by the developing symptoms and would have strongly advised that appropriate medical investigations be conducted without delay.

Mrs Scrayen was not a competent health professional. I accept that Mrs Scrayen had minimal understanding of relevant health issues, unfortunately that did not prevent her from treating the deceased as a patient.  “

“Sadly in the period April and May 2003 it appears that the deceased decided to reject the mainstream treatment offered by Professor Platell and turned to homeopathic remedies offered by Mrs Scrayen. I am satisfied that Mrs Scrayen did convince the deceased that the homeopathy treatment which she was providing could provide a cure for her cancer.

In the months of April, May and June 2003 the deceased became increasingly reliant on Mrs Scrayen and by July 2003 she was in contact with her almost every single day. By this stage the relationship between the deceased and Mrs Scrayen had gone far beyond a normal patient/health provider relationship and the deceased had become increasingly dependent on Mrs Scrayen.”

“During the period in 2003 while the deceased was relying on the treatment provided by Mrs Scrayen, not only did she lose whatever chances of life she had, she suffered extreme and unnecessary pain. Evidence at the inquest was to the effect that had surgery been performed earlier much of that gross pain would have been avoided.

This situation was made even worse by the fact that Mrs Scrayen’s advice to the deceased was that she should avoid or take a minimum of pain reducing medications. The deceased accepted this advice and only reluctantly used minimal analgesia.”

This is the information that Francine Scrayen doesn’t want you to know. She doesn’t want anyone to know that she failed to recognize the seriousness of Penelope’s developing symptoms. She doesn’t want you to know that the Coroner concluded that she was not a competent health professional in any way. She doesn’t want you to know that she told Penelope that homeopathy would cure her cancer. She doesn’t want you to know that she convinced Penelope that taking medication for her intense pain would interfere with the cure she was promised. She doesn’t want you to know that she persisted with her life threatening advice, even when Penelope was so close to death that only emergency surgery would save her life.

Can anyone reasonably hold the opinion that Francine Scrayen is being unfairly criticized?

NOTE: In the next few days, I’ll be posting a summary of the circumstances that led to Penelope Dingle’s death as outlined in the Coroner’s report.

5 Responses to “Homeopaths use Legal Thuggery Against Australian and Portuguese Bloggers”

  1. Alex Murdoch says:

    Perhaps Francine Scrayen should be properly introduced to the Streisand Effect.

  2. The case studies mentioned by the author gives a clear idea about the wrong doings of less informed health professionals. In the modern commercialized world it has become significant to scrutinize the credentials of the health professional whom we plan to consult if need arises.

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  • Dianne Sousa

    Dianne holds a degree from the University of Guelph in criminal justice, public policy and social psychology. She became involved in the skeptical movement after becoming disillusioned with the addictions counselling field. Skeptical topics of interest include alternative medicine and it's regulation in Canada, pseudoscience and the law and skeptical activism. She also crochets extensively and enjoys bad film, usually at the same time. Follow me on twitter: @DianneSousa. All views expressed by Dianne are her personal views alone, and do not represent the opinions of any current, former or future employers, or any organizations or associations that she may be affiliated with.