"THE LAST DAYS OF THE QUACKBUSTERS" - Revisited..
Opinion by "Consumer Advocate" Tim Bolen
November 3, 2001
There was a day when the "quackbusters" were a force to reckon with. But now, they've been beaten so soundly, in so many places, over so many issues, that they have no credibility left. They are, simply, nothing to fear. Their teeth have been pulled.
The court case they recently lost in California, "Homeopath Smashes 'Quackpot Menace' in California," was more than just one more victory for the forces of good. It was a MILESTONE in the war against quackbuster evil.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE "HOMEOPATHIC" COURT CASE...
In this current assault against health freedom by delicensed MD Stephen Barrett and his minions, the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), had posed as an injured Plaintiff using what's called California's "Private Attorney General" law. Basically, Barrett, et al, were claiming that about fifteen manufacturers of Homeopathic products in the USA were "fraudulently advertising" homeopathic products, asserting that "homeopathy has never been scientifically proven - therefore, it is fraud."
This first case, the one decided on Hill Street in Los Angeles, was filed against Frank King, and King Bio Pharmaceuticals (www.kingbio.com) of Asheville, North Carolina. Barrett rushed this one to trial, I believe, thinking he could get an early victory against a small manufacturer of homeopathic products - and use that victory to bludgeon larger producers into cash settlements.
It didn't work. Barrett's strategy backfired. He, in his mega-arrogance, didn't count on members of the Health Freedom Movement setting up an ambush, right there on Hill Street. Barrett, and his cronies, walked right into it.
Scott Pinsky, Frank Hill's attorney in California, assembled a strong defensive case, based on the simple premise that "The NCAHF presented no evidence that the health discipline called Homeopathy was fraudulent." It worked. Pinsky, during the actual trial, also had the backing of famed California civil litigator Carlos Negrete - a serious veteran of courtroom wars. The combination crushed the NCAHF - easily. The NCAHF really didn't have a case...
Barrett had based the whole NCAHF case on HIS OWN opinions, and had used his own writings as his so-called evidence.
SO, IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE A CASE, WHY DID THE NCAHF PROCEED AGAINST THE HOMEOPATHS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
The answer is complex, I believe, and centers around two important factors: (1) a desire to counter the growing number of humiliating losses the "quackbusters" have been suffering, around North America, at the hands of Health Freedom activists. (2) Bad leadership.
When John Renner was still alive, he held the annual meeting for the NCAHF in his home town in Missouri. All of twenty-five stalwarts showed up for the annual event. The turn-out was so pathetic, Renner had to down-size his meeting plans several times. In contrast, Health Freedom activists can put 100 activists into a coffee-shop meeting on two days notice - and can deliver, literally, thousands of people to just come and "stare" at Medical Board members during quarterly meetings - anywhere in North America.
Stephen Barrett took over management of the NCAHF after Renner died - and decided to use it, I think, to bolster his own "testifying business," the one he uses www.quackwatch.com to promote. Barrett runs his business out of his basement in Allentown, PA. In order for Barrett to continue to generate business, he must make it appear to attorneys out there, that he has a good product to offer. His product, he claims, is "anti-quackery testimony" for which he demands a significant fee.
But Barrett's problem, and the problem of all of the so called "quackbusters," is that in order to command those "significant fees," he (and the others) have to have a track record of "victories," an attorney can rely on. Of late, Barrett, et al, have been battered in the courtroom - with opposing attorneys simply questioning their credentials. Everybody remembers "quackbuster wanna-be" Robert S. Baratz's submission of false employment claims in the Phillips case in Florida - so he could be paid as an "expert witness."
Attorneys all over North America learned a few simple lessons from the Baratz incident - if a "quackbuster" comes to testify, FIRST carefully examine their resume claims, then lead the "testifier" through cross-examination right through those "false resume claims" right into a PERJURY situation. If they want to lie in a courtroom - let them do it - then exact the penalty.
But it isn't just about lying, or misrepresenting, in a courtroom. In Barrett's case, and others, attorneys are now carefully examining Barrett's personal qualifications to testify AT ALL. After all, it must be remembered that Barrett, not only couldn't become Board Certified as a Psychiatrist, but he had to give up his medical license for reasons he doesn't satisfactorily explain, in 1993. The obvious premise here is - if he couldn't make it in the SIMPLE world of "drug prescribing" how can he claim to be an expert on COMPLEX "leading edge" health disciplines?
Attorneys, all over North America, have been asking just those types of questions of Barrett, et al. And Barrett doesn't have satisfactory answers - ones that would satisfy Judges and juries. Attorneys who previously counted on Barrett, et all, to make their case, have been finding out, the hard way, that Barrett can't stand and deliver. The message now is "If Barrett is your 'expert witness' you are going to lose your case."
The bottom line here, is that Barrett needed, what he thought would be, a "slam dunk" to restore his previous reputation as an "expert witness who can win cases." He didn't get it. In fact, on Hill Street, he got the opposite.
NOW, BARRETT'S GOT REAL PROBLEMS WITH HIS OWN PEOPLE...
Barrett, and others, had touted this attack against the Homeopaths, and others in California, as the quackbuster's return to prominence in the field of Health Policy. His plan fizzled miserably. Now, I think, Barrett has credibility issues with the whole "quackbuster" membership.
He simply can't deliver...