Blog | Thursday, June 23, 2016

Medical blogger attacks respected cancer doctor

When it comes to explaining medical science and exposing dangerous medical scams and practices, the Science-Based Medicine blog is tops (full disclosure: I was one of the early bloggers at the site and I'm personally a fan). The team of bloggers are well-recognized doctors, researchers and communicators, many from top institutions. Dr. David Gorski, the managing editor, is a highly respected breast cancer surgeon and researcher at Karmanos Cancer Center, a nationally recognized NIH Comprehensive Cancer Center. Steve Novella, the founder of the blog, is a Yale neurologist, well-known for helping educate the public and other doctors about science and medicine.

Naturally, this puts these folks in the crosshairs from time to time. I'm not nearly as prolific as either of them, and I receive a respectable volume of hate mail. I've had critics try to pad online doctor rating sites with negative reviews. But I'm busy, I'm well-respected, and I'm good at what I do. And, importantly, I'm in private practice, which gives me a great deal of freedom to say what I want.

While I've had some pretty unpleasant run-ins with some pretty crazy people, nothing compares to what Dr. David Gorski appears to be going through. One of Gorski's frequent targets of criticism is a guy named Mike Adams who fancies himself some sort of “Health Ranger.” I don't know what that means, exactly, but his website Natural News, which calls itself “the world's top news source on natural health,” is a cesspit of conspiracy theories and very bad health advice. Beyond the fact that it promotes unproven and often dangerous medical practices, Adams's tone is so paranoid and abrasive, he makes Ted Cruz seem like a teddy bear.

I hate the site. I don't know the guy behind the site, but I'm beginning to take on a strong dislike of him as well, not just because he promotes dangerous and frankly idiotic medical ideas, but because he takes on his critics with vicious personal attacks, threatening their livelihoods, their feeling of safety and their careers.

Just this week, Adams published a piece titled, ”Karmanos cancer surgeon Dr. David Gorski linked to “skeptics” kingpin James Randi caught on tape soliciting bl*w job from young man—source.” The really scary thing here is that the headline is the least inflammatory part of the article.

Let's put aside the fact that the headline seems to imply that Gorski was the one doing the soliciting. Further reading shows that he simply knows the man who Adams is accusing of sexual improprieties. That sort of cowardly, defamatory garbage is just the lede. The real attacks come in the body of the blog. Here's the point-by-point breakdown of Adams's lies, dishonest allegations and defamatory (at least in my lay opinion) accusations.

First, there is a non-existent FBI investigation: Dr. David Gorski—already the subject of a Natural News investigation that has submitted numerous allegations to the Federal Bureau of Investigation …

If you read carefully and follow the links, you see that Dr. Gorski is not the subject of any investigation but the 1 in Mike Adams's own head. Adams's writes that he himself has pestered the FBI to look into Dr. Gorski for … “reasons”? Making it seem as if a well-respected surgeon is the subject of a federal investigation is a dangerous road to go down.

Next, is alleged “racketeering”: Dr. David Gorski … is the mentally deranged leader of an online hate group calling themselves “skeptics.” An ongoing Natural News investigation has revealed that Gorski is just one of several co-conspirators who engage in online racketeering, identity deceptions and alleged cyber crimes to commit scientific fraud while destroying their targeted enemies in the holistic health realm.

Much of this is simply deranged opinion, but to state as fact that someone is “mentally deranged” and “leader of an online hate group” is dangerously close to making harmful, knowingly false statements about someone. And to state as fact that someone is engaged in a racketeering scheme seems to go well beyond “opinion.”

Third, is guilt by association: David Gorski's colleague was just convicted of massive medical fraud and sentenced to 45 years in federal prison

This is as far as I can read without actually vomiting. Here in the Detroit area, a cancer doctor named Farid Fata was sentenced to prison for crimes that, for doctors like David Gorski and me, are so horrific as to be nearly indescribable. Dr. Fata told people they had cancer and gave them chemotherapy even when they were perfectly healthy. He did this at great profit. He violated the most important trust, that your doctor is in this for you, the patient, and that he would rather give up his career than harm a single person.

Dr. Fata and Dr. Gorski were “colleagues” in about the same way as me and Josef Mengele: Yeah, we're both doctors, so “colleagues,” I guess, except 1 of us was a pathological torturer and murderer (hint: not me). Dr. Fata was affiliated with an institution which was affiliated with an institution that Dr. Gorski is part of. So, yeah, they were colleagues maybe in some sort of twisted definition. The only conceivable reason to write this is to imply that Dr. Gorski is guilty of the same horrific crimes by association.

Nothing could be further from the truth. David, who I am proud to call a friend and colleague, has spoken out against Fata and other dangerous doctors for years. He has made it a mission to help reveal to the world how quacks do what they do, and how to watch out for them. In addition to fighting cancer in the lab and in the operating room, he fights with the written word against dangerous and deceptive medical practices.

Dr. David Gorski is a quiet medical hero. OK, he's not quiet online, but he's a soft-spoken, gentle, brilliant guy. I can live with the accusations that imply that he is involved in online “racketeering” or is friends with someone who may have asked someone for a BJ (and really, is that all that rare?) but to associate him with a criminal of the worst sort, a doctor who intentionally harms patients for profit, is the worst sort of attack.

I'm a good doctor, but I'm no lawyer. I have no idea whether Mike Adams has crossed the defamation line, and even if he has, whether Dr. Gorski would dignify Adams's idiocy with any sort of legal response. But let's hope that those of us who benefit from Dr. Gorski's work (which is just about everyone who wants to improve the quality of medical care) will not let some nut job tossing around hateful allegations silence people like Dave.

Mike Adams has opinions that are distasteful and dangerous. That is my opinion. He also has every right to state them, as long as he doesn't harm others in a way our legal system recognizes. Dr. Gorski's employers, funding sources and colleagues, if they bother to notice Adams at all, should thank David for being willing to stand on the front line, defending what we all care about most–helping others.

Peter A. Lipson, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. After graduating from Rush Medical College in Chicago, he completed his internal medicine residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This post first appeared at his blog at Forbes. His blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers "musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture." His writing focuses on the difference between science-based medicine and "everything else," but also speaks to the day-to-day practice of medicine, fatherhood, and whatever else migrates from his head to his keyboard.