Rhys Morgan in 2011, as pictured on Twitter.
|Known for||Science activism|
Rhys Morgan (born 1994) is a consumer watchdog, science activist, and health blogger from Wales who first received acclaim in 2010 when, at the age of 15, he played a key role in raising awareness of the health risks of Miracle Mineral Supplement. Morgan brought attention to the fact that the product contained bleach and was being illegally marketed as a "miracle" cure, which prompted a consumer warning across the European Union and earned Morgan a James Randi Award for Grassroots Activism.
In 2011, Morgan again received media attention and acclaim, this time for his commentary on treatments offered by Stanislaw Burzynski, a controversial Texas-based physician who uses substances he calls "antineoplastons" as part of a non-approved alternative cancer therapy regimen. Morgan's critique provoked legal and personal threats from a public relations representative of the Burzynski Clinic, which in turn precipitated a hailstorm of criticism from the media, who defended Morgan, and prompted a public apology from the Clinic. In January 2012 Morgan was censored by his school for posting a Jesus and Mo cartoon as his Facebook profile for a week, in solidarity with University College London's Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society. The school told him to remove the cartoon from his Facebook archive, and when he said no, threatened him with expulsion. Morgan spoke at the Rally for Free Expression in London on 11 February.
Rhys Morgan was born in 1994 and lives in Cardiff, Wales. He attended Cardiff High School, where he studied mathematics, chemistry, biology and psychology at AS level, before going on to study for a BSc (Hons) in Health Sciences with the Open University.
Miracle Mineral Supplement
Morgan first learned of Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS) in 2010 after he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and, while researching his condition, came across the Crohn's Disease Forum, a website run by a patient support group. He noticed "a disturbing undercurrent of people trying to push alternative medicines to members". One of these was a product called Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), which was being advertised with claims that it cured cancer, AIDS, malaria, and a variety of other medical conditions. Upon further research, Morgan came across warnings from the United States Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada indicating that MMS consisted of 28% bleach and advising consumers not to use it.
Morgan and others began documenting sellers of MMS and reporting them to the relevant authorities in Britain, and he eventually addressed a public meeting of the Cardiff Council to win the backing of trading standards officers to highlight the dangers of MMS. These efforts eventually led the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue a warning across the European Union and put United Kingdom councils on alert over retail sales of MMS. FSA representative Hefin Davies said that Morgan's actions had been "very positive" in bringing the issue to the attention of authorities. He recounted his saga with MMS on the BBC's The One Show, and on podcasts such as The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe Righteous Indignation, and Token Skeptic.
For his efforts in raising awareness about MMS, Morgan was presented with the James Randi Award for Grassroots Activism at The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) in London in October 2010, and received a standing ovation from the meeting's attendees.
Burzynski Clinic and antineoplastons
In November 2011, a music writer and editor for the British newspaper The Observer sought help raising £200,000 to have his 4-year-old niece, who was diagnosed with a glioma (a type of brain cancer), treated at the Burzynski Clinic, a controversial cancer treatment facility in Texas operated by physician Stanislaw Burzynski. Several bloggers, including Morgan, reported other cases of patients who had spent similar amounts of money on the Clinic's treatments, and had died, and challenged the validity of Burzynski's antineoplaston therapy. Marc Stephens, identifying himself as a representative of the Burzynski Clinic, sent emails to Morgan accusing him of libel and demanding that coverage of Burzynski be removed from his site. Stephens accompanied the legal threats with a Google Maps satellite image of the teenager's house. In response, Morgan posted Stephens' emails on his blog and defended his original assessment as well as the importance of open dialogue in the evaluation of scientific research.
The threats against Morgan prompted a media backlash against Stephens and the Burzynski Clinic, as reporters from Discover Magazine, Houston Press, and The Guardian covered the story and defended Morgan's critique. The Guardian's Comment is Free section also featured an opinion piece written by Morgan in which he reiterated his position on Burzynski's therapy and argued that the Burzynski Clinic was using libel laws to silence critics of its cancer treatment and stifle debate about the validity of the Clinic's scientific methodology, the so-called chilling effect.
Following the publicity fallout in response to Stephens' threats, the Burzynski Clinic issued a press release on 29 November confirming that the Clinic had hired Stephens "to provide web optimization services and to attempt to stop the dissemination of false and inaccurate information concerning Dr. Burzynski and the Clinic". The press release included an apology for Stephens' comments and for the posting of Morgan's personal information, and announced that Stephens "no longer has a professional relationship with the Burzynski Clinic."
The story, including the threats against Morgan, was covered by the British Medical Journal, which referred to him as a health blogger. The chief clinician at Cancer Research UK expressed his concern at the treatment offered, and Andy Lewis of the Quackometer and science writer Simon Singh, who was previously sued by the British Chiropractic Association, said that English libel law harms public discussion of science and medicine, and thus public health.
- Kroll, David (19 September 2010). "Bleachgate: More Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) Madness". PLos Blogs.
- "Government officials praise boy's campaign against Miracle Mineral Solution". South Wales Echo. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- "Praise for Rhys Morgan, 15, over 'miracle' cure alert". BBC News Wales. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Robbins, Martin (15 September 2010). "The man who encourages the sick and dying to drink industrial bleach". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- "Praise for Rhys Morgan, 15, over 'miracle' cure alert". The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. 17 October 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Sample, Ian (29 November 2011). "The schoolboy blogger who took on a US clinic". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Malisow, Craig (29 November 2011). "Burzynski Fanatic Threatens Bloggers 'Round the World". Houston Press. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Plait, Phil (28 November 2011). ""Alternative" cancer clinic threatens to sue high school blogger". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- Morgan, Rhys (20 November 2011). "The Burzynski Clinic is using libel laws to silence critics of its cancer treatment". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- "Press Release". Burzynski Clinic. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Duke, Barry. "Jesus & Mo: Stand up for free speech!". Freethinker.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "11 February 2012 Free Expression Day of Action: Your Chance to take a Stand". One law for all. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Morgan, Rhys. "General Life Updates". Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- Health Risks Associated with Use of Miracle Mineral Solution – Advisory 2010–74, Health Canada, 12 May 2010, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS): Product as consumed produces a potent bleach, Food and Drug Administration, 30 July 2010, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Warning against consumption of Miracle Mineral Solution, Food Standards Agency, 24 September 2010, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Goldacre, Ben (28 May 2011). "Kids who spot bullshit, and the adults who get upset about it". Bad Science. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
- Novella, Steven (11 August 2010), Podcast 265 – August 11, 2010, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Novella, Steven (3 December 2011), Podcast 333 – December 03, 2011, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, retrieved 6 December 2011
- Ep.67 – Rhys Morgan, Righteous Indignation, 4 October 2010, retrieved 3 December 2011[dead link]
- Sturgess, Kylie (1 March 2011), Episode Fifty-Seven – On Miracle Cures And Changes to the ASA in the UK – Interview With Rhys Morgan, Token Skeptic, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Bainbridge, Luke (19 November 2011), The worst year of my life: cancer has my family in its grip, The Observer (Guardian News and Media Limited), retrieved 3 December 2011
- Blaskiewicz, Robert J. (26 November 2011), Stanislaw Burzynski's public record, Skeptical Humanities, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Myers, PZ (28 November 2011), Burzynski clinic the domain of scoundrels and quacks, Pharyngula, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Lewis, Andy (28 November 2011), The Burzynski Clinic Threatens 17 Year Old Blogger, Quackometer, retrieved 3 December 2011
- Morris, Steven (14 December 2011). "Rhys Morgan: 'They are trying to silence me'". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- McCartney, Margaret (2011). "Texan clinic threatens UK bloggers with legal action over criticisms of its treatments". BMJ 343: d7865. doi:10.1136/bmj.d7865. PMID 22138837. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
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