At 15, after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Rhys Morgan blew the whistle on the unscrupulous snake oil salesmen hanging around the forum he had gone to, to find out more about the illness and learn of others experiences.
Instead of plaudits for bringing their dodgy and often dangerous advice to light, he was banned from the site.
A couple of years later he was being threatened with libel action (badly) by a representative of the Burzynski Clinic when he questioned the efficacy of the treatment they offered to vulnerable people with cancer.
Rhys, took the audience at the Jam House through this journey from a schoolboy interested in science and trying to find out about his illness and on to his career as a skeptic blogger seeking legal advice from Simon Singh’s lawer.
We learned a lot about Jim Humble and his Miracle Mineral Solution – a cure all (not) for a range of diverse conditions. Through Rhys’ efforts it was investigated by the Trading Standards Agency and is now banned by the Food Standards Authority.
We also learned that originally 7UP had Lithium as one of its key ingredients – mood enhancer anyone?
It was his tale of the heavy handed but poorly executed scare tactics from the Burzynski Clinic that was most worrying as this is an organisation whose claims of miraculous cures attract clients who are at their most vulnerable and desperate, and to whom they offer a treatment that has never been subjected to thorough clinical trials.
A series of threats of legal action made through a number of emails (one which included a photo of his house from Google maps – we know where you live!) followed his blog on the subject but were revealed for the hot air they were and no action was actually taken. The publicity generated brought Burzynski wider scrutiny and the clinic and their methods was recently the subject of the BBC’s Panorama.
Rhys has came through all this with a good sense of humour about the experience although it must have been quite worrying at the time. It was a very engaging talk and he had a good audience response during the Q & A. If this is what he can achieve over a couple of years whilst still at school and studying for his exams I am sure we will hear a lot more from him in the years ahead.
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