Skeptic Bruce Flamm, M.D. is vindicated in his drawn-out court case
On Friday, October 24, 2009, a California Court of Appeals vindicated Dr. Bruce Flamm, an OBGYN physician and professor at the University of California, Riverside, and member of the Skeptics Society, by throwing out a defamation lawsuit filed against him by a man who claimed to have proven that prayer can increase pregnancy rates in women trying to conceive.
Back in 2001, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine published a study by three Columbia University researchers claiming that prayer for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization resulted in a pregnancy rate of 50 percent, double that of women who did not receive prayer (i.e., a 100% increase in pregnancy rates!). Media coverage was extensive. ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson, for example, reported, “A new study on the power of prayer over pregnancy reports surprising results; but many physicians remain skeptical.” One of those skeptics was a University of California Clinical Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics named Bruce Flamm, who not only found numerous methodological errors in the experiment, but also discovered that one of the study’s authors, Daniel Wirth (AKA “John Wayne Truelove”), is not an M.D., but an M.S. in parapsychology who has since been indicted on felony charges for mail fraud and theft, for which he pled guilty. The other two authors have refused comment, and after three years of inquires from Flamm the journal removed the study from its website and Columbia University launched an investigation.
What they discovered, thanks to the vigilance of Dr. Flamm, was that Cha’s other co-author, Columbia University’s Rogerio Lobo, later revealed that he had not participated in the research and withdrew his name from the published findings. Even with one of his co-authors in federal prison and the other disgraced, Korean fertility specialist Kwang Yul Cha stood by the results of was is essentially a supernatural claim in that the presumption is that the deity intervened on behalf of infertile women to help them conceive. One wonders why the prayers do not seem to work in the other direction; that is, all those women who, due to alcohol or other external influences, engaged in sexual activity with no intention of conceiving and thus, over the course of the next several days, prayed like mad for pregnancy prevention, to no avail. But I digress…
Angered by Dr. Flamm’s skeptical persistence, Cha eventually filed a defamation lawsuit against Flamm, especially after he published several articles questioning the validity of the original pregnancy study. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2007, was thrown out of court in April, 2008. However, in June, 2008 Cha took the case to the California Appellate Court. Finally, on October 24, 2009, the Court of Appeals, “affirmed in full” the Superior Court decision and thus ruled that Superior Court Judge James Dunn had acted appropriately in tossing out the lawsuit.
In response to the ruling, Dr. Flamm issued the following statement:
Today’s ruling is a victory for science and evidence-based medicine. Scientists must be allowed to question bizarre claims. Cha’s mysterious study was designed and allegedly conducted by a man who turned out to be a criminal with a 20-year history of fraud. A criminal who steals the identities of dead children to obtain bank loans and passports is not a trustworthy source of research data. Cha could have simply admitted this obvious fact but instead he hired a team of lawyers to punish me for voicing my opinions. Physicians should debate their opinions in medical journals, not in courts of law. Judges have better things to do with their time and taxpayers have better things to do with their money.
Amen, brother! And congratulations Dr. Flamm, on a cause well chosen and a battle well fought. Your stamina, persistence, and skeptical vigilance are to be commended. We honor you.
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