As I write this, 2013 is drawing to a close, with only a little more than 12 hours to go before the crowds now gathering at Times Square and elsewhere ring in 2014. For some of you, 2014 has already arrived or will arrive many hours before it does for me. I'm not normally one to do much navel gazing, but 2013 has been a mixed year. As far as this blog goes, for instance, readership is up, with over 3.5 million page views for the year, although that's still a little below the blog's height before the whole "Pepsigate" thing. (It's really hard to believe that was almost three and a half years ago!) It's sad to think it's taken so long for traffic to get back up to where it was before that debacle,
While it's true that the usual topics, such as antivaccine pseudoscience, various forms of "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM), and the science and clinical practice of oncology, dominated in 2013, it's clear that 2013 was also the year of one person, at least on this blog. That person, of course, is Stanislaw Burzynski, the erstwhile Houston cancer doctor with board certification—or even training!—in oncology and no board certification even in internal medicine. (Board eligibility or certification in internal medicine is a prerequisite for a medical oncology fellowship.) This interest, of course, is a spillover from 2012 and even late 2011, when I first took a major interest in Burzynski and his magical urine-derived (now chemically synthesized) cure for deadly cancers, antineoplastons. Indeed, as 2013 dawned, I had received an invitation from Eric Merola himself, Stanislaw Burzynski's very own Leni Riefenstahl (but without the talent), to appear on camera in the sequel to the first propaganda film about Burzynski, released in 2010 but not taking the quackosphere by storm until 2011. I politely declined.
Still, trying to refute the misinformation being spread about Burzynski by his sycophants, toadies, and lackeys really hit full gear in 2013 with the release of Merola's second movie about Burzynski, which, as I predicted before its release, was going to be just like the first one, only Burzynskier. And so it was, except for one thing: An all out assault on "skeptics" (i.e., people like me) who had been critical of Burzynski's science (or, more appropriately, lack of science), who are portrayed in Merola's second Burzynski movie as evil meanies who cackle evilly as they terrorize cancer patients online and delight in crushing their hope. No, I'm not exaggerating either. Bob Blaskiewicz and I had been collaborating in writing about the pseudoscience promoted by Burzynski, how bogus his clinical trials were, and how he has not published the complete results of any of his phase II trials in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. All he has are anecdotes that fall apart when examined closely. Much of our work is summarized in these talks given by Bob and a certain "friend" of this blog at The Amazing Meeting in July:
In any case, thanks to the efforts of people like Bob, a whole bevy of other skeptical bloggers (and Twitterers), and (at the risk of being insufficiently modest) myself, Burzynski finally found himself getting mainstream notice—and not in a good way. I like to think that I had a small part in this change in reporting, as one of the several skeptical bloggers who kept writing about Burzynski throughout 2012 and 2013. In any case, where before he could routinely count on credulous or careless journalists reporting his party line and not mentioning all the unethical and questionable things he did when patients and families, convinced that Burzynski was the only person who could save them or their loved ones raised prodigious sums of cash to go to Houston, in 2013 there was more skeptical coverage. There were even two large stories, one in the UK by the venerable BBC newsmagazine Panorama, and one here in the States in USA TODAY, documenting the Burzynski story. Through it all, the FDA had investigated Burzynski beginning in January and closed the year by issuing its reports finding horrible lapses in clinical trial conduct, such as not reporting severe adverse reactions to his antineoplaston therapy and inappropriately using the expedited approval process to allow his IRB to rubberstamp single patient protocol exemptions so that individual patients could receive antineoplastons. He even gave the FDA medical records of a patient who died that did not match the contents of the medical records the FDA examined at his office. (Oops!) Yes, different sets of records were apparently maintained on a child with a terminal brain tumor whose life was cut even shorter because Burzynski’s treatment killed him.
Even so, there is more work to do. Even after the USA TODAY report was published in November, Burzynski managed nonetheless to present some very unimpressive results of his phase II trials at the Society of Neuro-Oncology Meeting in San Francisco. Meanwhile, his supporters, undeterred by facts and science, have developed a new tactic, which is to have the families of people with deadly brain cancers petition the FDA to allow them to receive antineoplastons under a compassionate use exemption. Such patients have included McKenzie Lowe, Liza Cozad, the wife of Sammy Hagar's drummer, and a young Jewish boy from the Houston area, Elisha Cohen, whose appeals have made it as far as Israel. Bob Blaskiewicz characterized this effort as exploiting the misery of a family, and, sadly, that's an appropriate characterization.
For our efforts, in 2013 Bob and I withstood a whole lot of ad hominem attacks and outright attempts at character assassination. Other skeptical bloggers also endured such attacks, but Eric Merola has referred to this blog as an "anti-Burzynski" blog, which it is not, given that Burzynski is only one of many topics this blog covers, and yours truly as a white supremacist who likes to eat puppies.
Still, however much hate is directed in my direction, Bob Blaskiewicz seems to be the most prominent target. I think I know why. While I write about how the science doesn't support Burzynski's treatments and how his knowledge of genomics that, according to him, guides his "personalized gene-targeted cancer therapy" is woefully deficient, Bob goes to the heart of the Burzynski empire. In The Other Burzynski Patient Group (TOBPG), devised as a counterweight to the Burzynski-approved Burzynski Patient Group (BPG), whose purpose is to publish anecdotes of Burzynski patients whom he's "cured," Bob publishes patient stories that illustrate just how ineffective antineoplastons are and how abused Burzynski patients are. Patients from the BPG are prominently featured in both of Eric Merola's "documentaries" cum propaganda films. As a cancer doctor, I sometimes find it difficult to read the accounts documented in TOBPG because they make me so angry. (They should make you angry too.) Add these accounts to my analyses of why the various anecdotes of surviving Burzynski patients are not powerful evidence that Burzynski cured them and are instead almost entirely consistent with patients either having indolent disease or having been cured by prior therapies, and the very foundation of the advertising drive that supports Burzynski is undermined.
I can't resist finishing out the year with two observations. First, the attacks on skeptics by Burzynski fans and shills continues apace. Just last night, Eric Merola was Tweeting stuff like this:
— Burzynski Movie (@BurzynskiMovie) December 31, 2013
If you go to the link, you'll see it's a blog post entitled BURZYNSKI SKEPTIC – INTRO TO THE SOCIOPATHIC RANTING OF BIGOTRY AND HATE BY THE ANTI-BURZYNSKI ASTROTURF / “SKEPTICS” (AKA “STATUS QUO CHAUVINISTS”). It's dated over six months old but mentions things that happened in the last week. I don't think that Eric Merola wrote it, but he did Tweet it (multiple times), making it fair game. It's also instructive to look at. Talk about a sociopathic rant! Basically, in this little rant, all opposition to Burzynski is due to pharma paying his opponents off; that is, when his opponents aren't like Hitler:
Notice PHIL HARRIS’ tweet. Racism is also common with the personalities the industry hires to carry out this dirty work. Sort of like hiring a professional hit man, these are not nice people. Imagine how deranged a human being must be to sit around all day getting paid to insult cancer patients on twitter and anyone practicing the concept of “thinking for yourself”. It’s right out of the policies of Mein Kampt.
Yes, I know I made a tongue-in-cheek reference comparing Eric Merola to Leni Riefenstahl "without the talent," but I couldn't think of a more famous and blatant propagandist to compare him to. Mea culpa. If someone can think of a better example, I'll use it.
In the meantime, apparently Bob Blaskiewicz is a Nazi, too:
Bob Blaskiewicz bragging just before he and his paid wanna-be Nazi cronies apparently hacked the Burzynski Clinic webpage.
No evidence is presented to back up this charge, of course. That doesn't stop the person who created the blog from continuing:
Robert “Bob” Blaskiewicz is an unbridled sociopath who sadly teaches English to children (if their parents only knew) - which is hilarious that he claims to teach “science” (lying pathologically is a part of the package of a sociopath like Bob)- he spends all day, every day, 7 days a week, nearly 24 hours a day following internet alerts to fight anyone online who finds out about Dr. Burzynski, a Burzynski patient, or anyone that dares talk about stepping outside of the status quo in regards to trying to save their own life (think Holocaust prisoner seeing an open door to the bunker, and Robert “Bob” Blaskiewicz is the guy that is secretly working for Hitler that says “oh no, you need to stay here, you will be fine if you stay here.” If you encounter this lunatic online, steer clear, unless you are ready to enter a realm of nonsensical, illogical, crazy neo-nazi style fireworks of fear, hate and unbridled bigotry.
Robert “Bob” Blaskiewicz is also the lunatic behind the cancer death list called “the other burzynski patient group” – He’s a very unstable and sick person.
Sadly, in comparison, I only get a mention as being the "highest paid" anti-Burzynski blogger of all, who "unleashes a fury of paid bigotry and hate unmatched by the late Adolf Hitler." Would that it were true that I actually got paid to blog about Burzynski, other than the small amount I make for blogging in general, which I would make whether I blogged about Burzynski or not! It's at least enough to keep me in high speed Internet service and cable, anyway, and that's only because of my aforementioned traffic last year.
In any case, all of us, apparently, including Bob Blaskiewicz, Peter Bowditch, Adam Jacobs, Paul Morgan (who is not even the same Paul Morgan described in the rant), Guy Chapman, Phil Harris, Rhys Morgan, and me, are on the verge of, well, let me just quote:
Just a small collection of the ranting tweets of hate from the Astroturf campaign known as “The Skeptics” towards scientific innovation that competes with the status quo, with a heavy focus on Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and any of his patients. The Cancer Industry relies on such campaigns coupled with their Guerrilla-style internet vandalism tactics to highjack the search engines with slanted, biased, straw man, and often falsified information. You will notice they will never address a root argument. They rely only on bigoted and Chauvinist remarks, feeding on the fear in people – instead of rational and reasonable discussion. It is only a matter of time before they begin picketing the funerals of cancer patients.
Project much? What Burzynski and his minions (no, not those Minions, who are cute and cuddly, in marked contrast to the nastiness of Burzynski and many of his minions) fear is that perhaps finally the jig is up and Burzynski's gravy train ride is coming to an end. Thanks to skeptics influencing popular press, Burzynski can no longer count on credulous reporting or anecdotes that go uncorrected, and, until now, that has been his primary method of selling antineoplastons to the public.
If there was a "win" in the skeptical world in 2013, it has to be the unmasking of Stanislaw Burzynski to expose the utter lack of convincing science behind his antineoplaston therapy. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Burzynski is still practicing, and, although the FDA has issued warnings that make it incredibly unlikely that Burzynski will ever realize his apparent dream of seeing antineoplastons achieve FDA approval, he has pivoted to promoting his incompetently administered M.D. Anderson-wannabe "personalized gene-targeted cancer therapy." However, that does not appear to be as enticing to patients as antineoplastons for the simple reason that, if I were a cancer patient and wanted to have my tumor tested and treated according to new genomic analyses, I would go to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, or any of the several NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers that are doing this work. I would not go to the clinic of a "brave maverick doctor" who obviously has no clue what he is talking about with respect to what is now referred to as "precision medicine," much less how to do this sort of research and treatment right. In the meantime, we can't let ourselves get complacent. As Burzynski's latest attempt to influence Senators to pressure the FDA demonstrates, the patient anecdotes remain powerful tools to influence, and Burzynski is not afraid to use them cynically.
As 2013 draws to a close, for now Burzynski still stands, and he still practices. That is the unfinished work that lies ahead in 2014. In 2012, the Texas Medical Board failed to do what should have been done decades ago and strip Burzynski of his medical license. Maybe in 2014 it will finally succeed.
Oh, Pepsi-gate, I forgot about that, during my quiet days. Memories...
And, a heartfelt congratulations on the one and only truly appropriate and eloquent way to go...there, in a blog. I snorted. The only other one I can think of that would even come close is Orwell's Ministry of Truth.
Thanks for the Science, amd for wading into cesspools not many of us are willing to. Happy New Year eveyone! May you all start 2014 only a little hung over.
You've done an admirable job this entire year of exquisitely dissecting all those sCAMs in your posts, Orac.
Happy New Year to you and to all your minions.
I do not expect that either the quality or the relative frequency and absolute depth of woo-infested internet cesspools will see improvement in 2014- because..
Mikey will unveil his freshest tripe, Jake will continue his solipsistic "journalism", the sceptics will be "exposed" for all their worth courtesy of the "scholars in residence" @ PRN, TMs/ AoAers will dream up new ways to market both themselves and their incessant, mindless palaver, AJW hasn't yet been contained and altmedia mavens will continue to scoff at anything reasonable which SBM and reality itself has to offer.
In other words, 'business as usual'.
I extend my hopeful wishes for a happy and productive new year to our esteemed and gracious host ( with the most) and his many minions- as deeply entangled and financially compromised in the sordid web of pharma malfeasance as they are.
As for me- I have to prepare myself for the thankfully last outing of the holiday season which means that altho' I have assembled a totally b!tching outfit, I must work on my hair with a scaldingly hot steel implement for - alas! - I have hair that only a 20 year old, aspiring male hipster with a band would love and I am not a 20 year old, aspiring male hipster etc.
Have a happy new year, Orac!
As a year end gift (?) I present to you some blog fodder from your neighborhood:
Someone on the JREF forum had the place recommended to her mother by a relative. It looks horrifying, especially since there are no real medically trained staff. The "doctor" has a "doctoral degree in Autism and Medical Research from Wayne State University."
Oooh, and the "Dr. Sheffield" also does not have a medical degree:
Chris, I clicked the link, and I love this opening sentence, The Powell’s were introduced to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) when researching for treatment options for their young daughter who developed viral encephalitis after a bout with chicken pox. Such a harmless diseases.
DW, do you really want to be a 20-year-old aspiring hipster?
NO, NO, NO! (non-existent) g-d forbid !
I have HAIR that THEY would adore and display in pr photos.
@ DW Oh thank goodness.
If only Burzysnki could be stopped in 2014. Would be a celebration that would make any frustrations the year brought more than tolerable. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing desperate people are being taken advantage of, again and again.
Wishing a happy and prosperous New Year to Orac and all of his minions, as well as our evil galactic overlords.
Sadly, in comparison, I only get a mention as being the “highest paid” anti-Burzynski blogger of all, who “unleashes a fury of paid bigotry and hate unmatched by the late Adolf Hitler.”
Okay, but at least they got in the Hitler comparison. Xmas came after all!
Happy New Year to Orac and the Commentry.
I’ve read about this, but not in nearly enough detail to make an educated comment that’s on-target
Oh, look, ARCpoint comment spammer "Lindsey Leonard"/"Byron Berry"/"Drew Regan" is back. This time, abuse-at-cyberlynk.com has been notified.
I'm with you on pretty much everything except the gravy-train ride. I think the Burzynski shills are not paid shills, they are not profiting directly from it (which is what this implies, though I am certain you didn't mean it).
They are a much more dangerous class of shill: the True Believer. And the more the cognitive dissonance piles up, the more vicious they are likely to get.
I recently had to go, reluctantly, to the police to stop someone who is in a lot of trouble with the "officers of the leur" as Clouseau would put it. I suspect that it may become necessary to exercise some form of restraint over a very small number of individuals in the Burzynski camp. Most of them are simply howling with the pain, but a couple of these characters come across as genuinely deranged.
We may have found the Dennis Markuze of sectarian medicine.
Keep up the good fight, O Blinking One.
Considering that Slate.com can usually be counted on as one of the voices of science reason, I was more than perturbed to open their site today and see a link to an article stating that "Exercise prevents, treats. or cures basically everything."
Phil Plait must be really cranky about that right now.
As a parting gift, AoA/ Dachel offer up a hint about new concerns ( * a la* the Canary Party):
"Tragically Hip, Chronically Sick..."
On that note, fearless leader and beloved fellow/ sister minions,
over and out.
I’m with you on pretty much everything except the gravy-train ride. I think the Burzynski shills are not paid shills, they are not profiting directly from it (which is what this implies, though I am certain you didn’t mean it).
I never said they were. I meant Burzynski and his cronies at the Burzynski Clinic are aware that the gravy train could well be coming to the end.
I saw this story on the CBS morning program, and was surprised to see only the science side of the story -- no "balance..." Good for Lancaster General Hospital, BTW.
Nurse Fired For Refusing To Get Flu Shot
I can't understand the mentality of people, in a hospital setting, that refuse to take the necessary precautions to protect the charges in their care - especially in light of the overwhelming evidence that the flu shot is safe (if not entirely, incredibly effective - depending on the strain and year).
Thanks Orac for all the time, expertise and Insolence you put into RI. This blog has been something of a refuge over the past few years. Thanks to the regulars too for the different strengths that you bring to the discussions. Some of you put in a lot of time here and this lurker wants you to know that your efforts are very much appreciated. Here's to another great year at RI!
@ Carolyn: I already "on it". A number of the "RI Regulars" have already posted comments. :-)
Thanks and a very Happy New Year to Orac and all of his minions!! I read this blog everyday, I have learned so very much from you all and truly enjoy seeing the quacks and their followers/nutjobs taken down with facts that are backed up by science/proof and sources to find additional information, the added snark makes it very entertaining.
Please believe me when I tell you that what you all do does have an impact, alot of people are reading and learning but like me either do not comment or do so infrequently.
Please keep up the good work and always remember that what you do matters, it matters alot.
Great post. Your accuracy and persistence are appreciated.
One thing -- there appears to be an important word missing from the second sentence in the second paragraph. "no"
Happy and productive 2014 to you, Doc Orac.
Also, no need to post my previous comment. I mainly wanted to notify you of the missing no.
So what was the end result of Pepsigate? Trying to read with minions running around and screaming, I can't find what finally happened.
Thank you for all that you do Orac, you are a true hero to me, and keep the hope alive that we can one day be a science based society instead of woo/faith based. *raises glass of apple juice* Cheers
I don’t think that Eric Merola wrote it
It seems a bit too sloppy for that, although the same entity does repost, without attribution, the 2013 November 16 Burzynski movie newsletter (as does "Kelly the Kitchen Kop"), where one finds a succession of similar themes:
"Trying to 'debunk' USA TODAY's diatribe on Nov. 15, 2013 would be like someone living in Nazi Germany trying to debunk the writings of Joseph Goebbels, or an African American trying to explain to his slave master that he too is also a human being with rights and emotions, or the parents of an American soldier trying to explain to members of the Westboro Church how disrespectful it is to hold up signs that read 'God Hates Fags' during their child's funeral.
"This type of unbridled hate and bigotry goes far too deep for any rational human discourse.
"When one applies that hate and bigotry to one's freedom to choose his own cancer therapy, along with an innovative scientist's supposed right to develop a new technology to fight a disease like cancer within a so called 'free society'—it is a recipe for disaster.
"In case we haven't noticed, we all live in a totalitarian capitalist society—from the USA to China (Take it from me, I was in Ghangzhou [sic] for 7 days last week myself). The very idea of a 'free market' is not one that exists in our society. If the market were free, then Antineoplastons would freely be on the market, instead of being resisted by the state. If the market were free, the banks would have freely failed back in 2008, instead of being protected by the state....
"What always comes with a good propaganda campaign, is a herded army willing to join its fight to preserve the totalitarian status quo by one's association of the group."
Merola of course has pointed at the W—pedia definition of "astroturf before" and also capitalizes "Cancer Industry."
There are a few graphics that aren't hosted locally, though. I'll take a look at the Gravatar MD5 hash later, but I have to do my Dead Pool picks.
Disagreeing with Burzynski is "Sort of like hiring a professional hit man"? Oh dear.
So what was the end result of Pepsigate? Trying to read with minions running around and screaming, I can’t find what finally happened.
Lots of bloggers left for places like FreeThoughtBlog, Scientopia, and elsewhere. Stuff was in shambles for a bit, and all has quieted down. And then National Geographic kind of took over ScienceBlogs.
As it turns out, there are now many fairly good science blogs now being sponsored by magazines. There is Wired, ScientificAmerican, another by National Geographic (Phenomena), and on and on.
Awesome! Thank you Chris,!
Happy New Year, everyone!
Happy new year!
Orac, thanks for the hard work you put into taking on the quacks of this world. Hopefully we will see Burzynski loose his licence in the upcoming year.
Another long time lurker here that would like to say a huge thanks to Orac! RI is one of a handful of blogs I consistently read daily and is always my first stop every morning followed by SBM.
I also would like to thank all of the regular commenters, I learn so much from you all.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to Orac and his minions. I am yet another lurker chiming in to let you all know how much I appreciate the discussion here.
HOLIDAY GREETING BEGINS----------------------------------------
Shills and Minions,
Your concept of "important" never ceases to confound and baffle. From all the fol de rol that accompanies your seasonal transition you probably think that your planetary mechanics are a cause celebre across the Orion Arm. I can assure you that it is not. We have a lovely homeworld and 36 planets under various stages of subjugation. They all have their orbital eccentricities and vary from a stolid 0º of tilt (Eubrax VI) to a north pole-melting 42º on VX33863b, a dreadful little planet that doesn't even deserve a name (but is full of lovely gold, so we snatched it). Your obsession with "New Year's Rockin' Eve" isn't even really fully agreed upon by your fractious little clan of monkeys. What year is it really? 2014? 4713? 5774? To quote the great philosopher Ren Höek, it's all just stewmeat and handpuppets.
Really, Shills and Minions, pull yourselves together, sober up and get back to work. This planet isn't going to make itself safe for me and my scaly compatriots, you know. And you'd better hope we win out over the species competing for the domination of your little backwater. The Kthrakxx Hive and the Ventraxian Demipentium are numerous and resourceful. And besides, 7 out of 10 subjugated species agree, lizards are cruel and cold, but bugs are just plain creepy.
Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL
Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Party Pooper of P-21 Prime
Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
---------------------------------------------HOLIDAY GREETING ENDS
Someone please take poor "Fred" aside and explain about the whole "well-intentioned yet horribly misguided pedantry" thing. Don't worry Fred, we've all done it at least once, and I hear they're close to an effective treatment for SIWOTI syndrome. As for me, I'm still exhausted from excessive age-inappropriate dancing until 2:30 this morning. Happy New Year Insoleers!
How is it that the FDA (link in OP) doesn't say "failure to meet the standard of care". Surely having proper documentation of treatments and procedures for your patients and following proper ethical guidelines has a lot to do with providing care that meets standards?
On a somewhat related note: my wish for this year is to keep up with all the good science blogging (and comments!) but I know that's a pipe dream. But my thanks go to you Orac and to the regulars here. My dad recently found out he had cancer, and I am extremely grateful for all the SBM posts that geared me towards being rational about this whole horrid situation. You guys have educated me.
Heavens, four lurkers step forth nearly at the same time- or is it space? An auspicious start to the new year!
Slogging through the rancid malarial swamps of the metaphorical biofilm that is woo is a dirty job- but someone has to do it. So I, being called to this vocation, proceed. And hearing from you makes that misery actually tolerable.
Altho' I'm glad to hear you I'm sorry to hear your news.
Honestly, I used to think that alt med was an idiot tax. Not anymore. It's exploitative, predatory, and unforgivable.
How is it that the FDA (link in OP) doesn’t say “failure to meet the standard of care”. Surely having proper documentation of treatments and procedures for your patients and following proper ethical guidelines has a lot to do with providing care that meets standards?
Easy. The FDA doesn't regulate medical practice. That's the job of state medical boards.
I'm realizing my irony meter is woefully inadequate. Any recommendations for an upgrade? The thing keeps overloading and spitting sparks every time I load RI and many other websites as well. A model with SarcasmBoost and a Fur'n'Fangs adapter would be a plus but not necessary (it's amazing the things you can mod with four sets of claws).
Bigotry, you keep using that word, etc. Ai yi yi. (Somewhat o/t, but I just finished Lawrence Wright's Going Clear earlier today. There seems to be this theme of co-opting the language of social justice with these groups selling false hope, whether it's the Church of Scientology or the Burzynski Clinic.)
You'll note that the Bursinski camp does what every charlatan does, and try to sling mud at the people accusing them of being hucksters. Oh, and there are still people who believe the line of bullshit spewed by Kevin Trudeau too. Hard to understand it, but there are. So B's followers will probably continue to sing his praises, even after -- can we dare hope? -- put out of business by the FDA.
Actually, I think Fred's correction is important - I don't find every error worth pointing out, but this one entirely reversed the meaning of most of the sentence.
If I hadn't been a good reader, and the sentence complex enough that the secondary clause made me go "wait, that doesn't fit" then I would have walked away thinking that Burzynski actually has qualifications for patient care that he lacks.
Thanks for the informed comentary Orac, I mostly lurk but I do appreciate that your efforts might save a few reasonable people some anguish. Preying on the desperate and doomed is about as despicable as you can get but it seems to be both commonplace and widely accepted.
The fight will continue forever because greed appears to be an innately human trait, at least in some individuals. What a sad thing, that with all our progress we still carry the baggage of primitive and profoundly immoral capacities and have to stuggle with them, as if there was no choice involved.
Some times is is necessary to peel back the facade and see clearly just how putrid and decayed the substrate of our flawed society really is. As a surgeon, you do an excellent job of that and I have nothing but admiration for you doing so.