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Stephen Barrett and Medical McCarthyism
By S.L & R.A
(Concerned that those who engage in uncontested attacks against supporters of alternative health
would misconstrue me and my co-author as such, we mean to clarify the following: we are not
advocates of the alternative health movement, rather, we are advocates and supporters of truth. – S.L
Dr. Stephen Barrett is a ubiquitous figure in the world of health and medicine with a unique talent.
A talent, described by Health and Human Services official, Dr. Thomas R. Eng, as a gift for widely
“[influencing] behavior change” via interactive media. Elaborating, Eng states that “[Barrett] tailors
information and interactions to the individual,” adding, “In print media, there is some kind of
vetting. In interactive, anyone or their brother can slap a Web page together.”
One assumes that Barrett, in his efforts and opinions, is authoritative and correct, speaking as a
retired physician / psychiatrist who’s been interviewed on innumerable occasions by CNN, The
New York Times, has testified as an expert before congress, and, in a larger sense, has been
adopted by mainstream media as the “consumer watchdog” du jour within the field of medicine.
Well, alternative medicine, more specifically.
He has authored reports on many of the most accomplished practitioners and experts in the
alternative health movement and in doing so, has generated a fair amount of controversy and mixed
media attention. So much, in fact, that the reports on his site have come to dominate web search
engine results, and in effect, preemptively tainting the reputations of hundreds of legitimate, well
credentialed alternative health practitioners. Upon discovering this, my curiosity was piqued and I
felt compelled to conduct some independent research on the matter, and hopefully, reach a
conclusion as to whether Barrett was, indeed, an expert, or guilty of what Dr. Eng describes as
My focus would be the history and relationship between Barrett and Dr. Gary Null. Null is
arguably the most respected, prolific advocate and high-profile voice in the alternative heath
movement, influencing a massively wide spectrum of people throughout a varied host of
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philanthropic efforts and causes. The purpose of this paper is to not to bring direct challenge to
Barrett’s work or ideology, but rather to present facts and convey reasoned, journalistic
interrogation into the heart of this debate. To that end, we can look to Null’s extensive work and
research on the negative effects of fluoride, mercury, vaccines, sugar and caffeine, all of which,
Barrett has called in to question. Research will demonstrate that science firmly supports all of
Null’s conclusions and solutions on these topics. Fact checking and research is the cornerstone of
the journalistic process, yet, Barrett and those media outlets who would employ his subjective
opinion as scientific fact, quite simply, have not done their homework here.
In order to determine who is accurate Barrett or Null, I used only independent scientific, peer
reviewed literature. Literally thousands of studies were examined.
My review finds that Dr. Barrett’s claims against Null are unfounded, biased, personal attacks
based on his own personal opinion. Every article of Null’s that I have examined has had a
preponderance of credible scientific research to support the conclusions.
Therefore, it is this journalist’s opinion that Dr. Gary Null is not only accurate in the substance of
his articles and documentaries on topics such as the negative health effects of fluoride, sugar, and
mercury in dental fillings, but also that Barrett has engaged in unprofessional and ad hominem
attacks on Dr. Null without scientific support. At the end of this discussion you will find samples
from the peer reviewed literature from each of the topics that serve as the basis for Barrett’s attacks,
demonstrating that Barrett simply does not have scientific proof for his arguments; Gary Null does.
Who Is Stephen Barrett?
Stephen Barrett is a retired Psychiatrist who administers and operates Quackwatch.com, a website
described by Donna Ladd of the Village Voice as “a skeptical psychiatrist’s attempt to torpedo
alternative and natural-health movements.”
Barrett believes most alternative therapies simply should be disregarded without further research.
“A lot of things don’t need to be tested [because] they simply don’t make any sense,” he says,
pointing specifically to homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. He believes that consumers
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should rely solely on established medical groups and studies, and that anyone who wants to
consider info on both sides is “waiting to be quacked in a major way.”
Is Barrett Credible?
The California State Superior Court would answer this question with an emphatic “no”. Stephen
Barrett has presented his opinion and has staked personal credibility before the courts, on several
occasions. In each instance, he has been made to suffer an embarrassingly unfavorable ruling.
In 2003, The Quackwatch flagship, known as the National Council Against Health Fraud
(NCAHF) brought suit against 43 “Alternative Medicine proponents” in California, claiming that
they were engaging in health fraud “because what they were doing wasn’t scientifically proven.”
The ruling, which arrived on April 22, 2003, bludgeoned the NCAHF, and ripped apart their
argument concerning what constitutes legitimate and effective health care.
The Court also declared that Stephen Barrett “was found to be biased and unworthy of credibility.”
In, 2005, Stephen Barrett’s defamation lawsuit against Pennsylvania-based chiropractor, lecturer,
researcher and publisher Ted Koren was tossed out by a judge just minutes before it was going to
be considered by a local jury. The lawsuit, filed in August 2002, sought unspecified damages
against Koren and his company, Koren Publications, Inc. for statements that he wrote in his
newsletter in 2001 about Barrett.
In a landmark 2006 case, originally known as Barrett v. Clark, then for the appeals process
renamed Barrett v. Rosenthal, the California Supreme Court voted unanimously to reject a libel
claim filed by Barrett. His personal bias against alternative medicine was made unquestionably
clear, as stated in the judge’s ruling: “Plaintiffs Stephen Barrett and Terry Polevoy are physicians
primarily engaged in combating the promotion and use of ‘alternative’ or ‘nonstandard’ healthcare
practices and products.”
Barrett’s attacks on Gary Null, Ph.D
CNN, The New York Times, and other traditional, highly esteemed news outlets frequently cite
Stephen Barrett as an expert in the discussion of the effectiveness and validity of Alternative
Health, be it acupuncture, homeopathy, nutritional support, or chiropractic. Barrett’s primary
strategy in his campaign is to attack, and in certain cases, bring suit against, key members and
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pillars of the alternative health movement. One such target is Dr. Gary Null. Barrett’s claims that
Null “promotes hundreds of ideas that are inaccurate, unscientific, and/or unproven….” are plainly
false. Amongst those ideas are that the intake of Fluoride is harmful and potentially deadly, and
that mercury in dental fillings can have serious neurotoxic effects. Dr. Null has also consistently
warned of the harmful impact of sugar and the negative effects of caffeine. All of his observations
and conclusions are supported by extensive, peer reviewed research and hard-won scientific
scholarship. This approach stands in stark contrast to Barrett’s own fast and loose, “things don’t
need to be tested [because] they simply don’t make any sense” methodology.
Barrett has stated outright that Null should not be trusted or believed in his statements because he
lacks a qualified degree. On his site, Barrett attacks Null’s academic history. Sufficient
documentation exists demonstrating that The Union Institute is not only accredited (http://
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Higher_Learning_Commission) and highly respected, but the
university thought so highly of Null, that he was given the first Outstanding Alumni award ever
offered by the college. At The Institute of Biology, he completed a landmark study on choleric
restriction in rats, demonstrating a 22% extenuation of life span. Null has originated and completed
dozens of studies in his nearly 30 year association with the institute. Additionally, Null has
conducted more than 27 clinical trials on lifestyle and behavior modification and it’s impact on
health . Results of these studies, all of which were medically monitored, conclusively prove benefit
to the top study group members, the results of which have all been published. Null is also a
registered dietitian and nutritionist. To this journalist’s amazement, after counseling tens of
thousands, has never charged a penny to any person.
There is presently a concerted effort within the alternative health movement to take Barrett to task
for his tendency to pass subjective opinion off as scientific fact. In a written correspondence
between Barrett’s attorney Michael K. Botts, and Null’s attorney David Slater, Botts concedes that
Barrett’s statements against Null were simply “a matter of opinion.”
“He seems to be putting down trying to be objective,” says Peter Barry Chowka, a former adviser
to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine. “Quackwatch.com is
consistently provocative and entertaining” Chowka added. “But I personally think he’s running
against the tide of history. But that’s his problem, not ours.”
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I can conclude that with absolute proof of an outstanding educational background, and his
extensive clinical experience, that Gary Null is being attacked for what he represents: a viable
challenge to the existing medical paradigm.
Supporting Research Documentation and Sources
REGARDING MERCURY, AMALGAM FILLINGS AND THYMEROSAL
- MERCURY IN FILLINGS AND IMMUNIZATIONS
J Occup Med Toxicol. 2011 Jan 13;6(1):2.
Is dental amalgam safe for humans? The opinion of the scientific committee of
the European Commission.
Department of Environmental and integrative medicine Lohnerhofstraße 2, 78467
It was claimed by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks
(SCENIHR)) in a report to the EU-Commission that “….no risks of adverse systemic effects exist and
the current use of dental amalgam does not pose a risk of systemic disease…” [1, available from:
disregarded the toxicology of mercury and did not include most important scientific studies in their
review. But the real scientific data show that:(a) Dental amalgam is by far the main source of human
total mercury body burden. This is proven by autopsy studies which found 2-12 times more mercury in
body tissues of individuals with dental amalgam. Autopsy studies are the most valuable and most
important studies for examining the amalgam-caused mercury body burden.(b) These autopsy studies
have shown consistently that many individuals with amalgam have toxic levels of mercury in their
brains or kidneys.(c) There is no correlation between mercury levels in blood or urine, and the levels
in body tissues or the severity of clinical symptoms. SCENIHR only relied on levels in urine or blood.
(d) The half-life of mercury in the brain can last from several years to decades, thus mercury
accumulates over time of amalgam exposure in body tissues to toxic levels. However, SCENIHR state
that the half-life of mercury in the body is only “20-90 days”.(e) Mercury vapor is about ten times more
toxic than lead on human neurons and with synergistic toxicity to other metals.(f) Most studies cited
by SCENIHR which conclude that amalgam fillings are safe have severe methodical flaws.
- J Occup Med Toxicol. 2011 Jan 13;6(1):2.
Is dental amalgam safe for humans? The opinion of the scientific
committee of the European Commission.
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