This piece from the website, Forensic Transcription http://forensictranscription.com.au/what-is-oscar-pistorius-saying/ examines what exactly Oscar Pistorius said in his evidence, in relation to the moments after he managed to get into the toilet where Reeva was lying fatally wounded.
The website authors postulate that OP may have actually said something quite different to that which most media outlets published.
It is interesting because it raises the issue of what exactly happened in the moments before and after he shot through the door. Many on social media have discussed OP’s timeline and his description of what he did with Reeva immediately after he found her. The Forensic Pathologist, Gert Saayman, gave evidence that Reeva could not have lived for very long after she received the head shot. He explained to the Court that Model Reeva Steenkamp would most likely have drawn only a few breaths after she was shot in the head.
OP’s version offered at his bail affidavit quoted below, shows that he believes that Reeva died while carrying her downstairs.
“I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital. I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down Stander arrived. A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived. Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.”
This could not have been the case because of the devastating head wound she suffered. Gert Saayman’s version of how quickly she died was not contested by the Defence.
So, back to Forensic Transcription. They say that acoustic analysis of the words spoken, albeit in a very distressed state, shows that he in fact, he said, “she was everything”. Most media reported him to have said, “She wasn’t breathing” (when he sat with her in the toilet) Listen to the sound clips to see if you can determine what he actually said. I think you can call it either way. If you listen to both versions, they both can fit either version.
If OP did say, “She wasn’t breathing”, it again throws into doubt his version of events and potentially obscures the Defences timeline. Reeva could not have been alive when he carried her down the stairs. This also raises the question of how the ‘arterial spurts’ got onto the walls. Did he take her downstairs immediately after he shot her? If OP said, “she was everything”, this would seem out of context given his narrative at that specific point in his evidence. The website invites readers to check the context with a link to the BBC to appreciate the context of the comment. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26939443
Admittedly the issue raises further questions about the case. What is your view?
In the Oscar Pistorius trial many people wonder why Oscar didn’t simply wake Reeva Steenkamp up when he became concerned about ‘intruders’ (The Defence version) It seems from most of the witnesses who have been on the stand, made the same point. The first thing they did when they heard noises in the night, was to wake their respective partners and ask if they heard the noises too. Oscar Pistorius chose not to do to his and approached the danger having armed himself with his gun.
Many Oscar Pistorius fans who argue his innocence on Social Media say he couldn’t have taken the option to get out of the danger area because he had limited mobility on his stumps. I argued with many contributors on Twitter that. as a lifelong double amputee, he would have been well used to moving around without his prosthetic legs as most ‘double amps’ do, especially those who have had their disability since they were young (in Pistorius case, since he was 11 months old) However, the group of devoted followers of Oscar chose not to believe this possible and still argued he couldn’t have simply avoided the danger and got him and Reeva out of the bedroom.
The Pistorius affidavit, gives us an insight, in Pistorius own words as to how he manages movement without his prosthetic legs.
“During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom.
I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps.”
So we hear from Pistorius himself that it was clearly not difficult for him to go onto the balcony and collect two fans, bring them in and on hearing a noise in the bathroom, retrieves his 9mm pistol then advances toward the danger. Note Oscars statement did not start with, I have difficulty moving around without my prosthetic legs on so I crawled out onto the balcony then crawled back in……….. . If it was, as Oscar says, a seemingly simple task to retrieve fans from the balcony, why couldn’t he have woken Reeva like all of the other witnesses were able to do and lead her out of the house?
Kids with lifelong amputations have no difficulty literally running around playing football with their stumps, you simply can’t stop them from being normal kids. You would be amazed what they can get up to especially those who had their amputations in their early years.
I wonder why the Prosecution didn’t put Oscar to the test by asking him to demonstrate his non prosthetic mobility as they did with others wielding the cricket bat for example. He was asked to remove his prosthetics but that was no test of his true mobility.
Further interest on topic;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onX7NJguuHc This is a recent amputee developing his walking ability on his stumps
Oscar Pistorius Bail application statement
19 February 2013.
I am the Applicant in this application in which I seek relief from this Honourable Court to be released on bail. I respectfully submit, as I will demonstrate herein, that the interests of justice permit my release on bail. In any event, the dictates of fairness and justice in view of the peculiar facts herein warrant that I should not be deprived of my liberty and that I should be released on bail.
I make this affidavit of my own free will and have not in any way been unduly influenced to depose thereto.
The facts herein contained, save where expressly indicated to the contrary, are within my personal knowledge and belief, and are both true and correct.
The purpose of this affidavit is to provide the above Honourable Court with my personal circumstances and to address the allegations leveled against me (in so far as they are known to me), as well as to address the factors to be considered by the above Honorable Court as contained in Sections 60(4) to 60(9) of the Act.
I have been advised and I understand that I bear the burden to show that the interests of justice permit my release and that I am obliged to initiate this application. I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp (“Reeva”). However, I will put factors before the Honourable Court to show that it is in the interests of justice to permit my release on bail.
I state that the State will not be able to present any objective facts that I committed a planned or premeditated murder. For this reason I will hereunder deal with the events which occurred that evening. The objective facts will not refute my version as it is the truth. I am a professional athlete and reside at [address redacted].
I was born on 22 November 1986, at Johannesburg. I have resided in the Republic of South Africa (“the RSA”) all my life, and although I frequently travel abroad to participate in international sporting events, I regard South Africa as my permanent place of abode. I have no intention to relocate to any other country, as I love my country.
I own immovable assets in South Africa, which consist of the following:
The immovable property in which I currently reside, at [address redacted] (“the residential premises”). This property is valued at approximately R5 million and is encumbered by a mortgage bond in the amount of approximately R2 million.
Two further immovable properties located within Weeping Willow Estates, Pretoria East, which properties have a combined value of approximately R1,6 million. Both properties are bonded to an aggregate value of approximately R1 million.
A vacant stand in Langebaan, Western Cape, which has a value of approximately R1,7 million. This property is not bonded. I own movable assets comprised of household furniture and effects, motor vehicles and jewellery, which are valued in excess of R500,000,00.
My friends and family reside in the RSA, although I also have friends abroad.
My professional occupation currently provides me with an income of approximately R5,6 million per annum.
I have cash investments in excess of R1 million at various banks within the RSA.
I have never been convicted of any criminal offences either in the RSA or elsewhere. There are no outstanding cases, other than the present, being investigated against me by the South African Police Services (“SAPS”).
My legal representatives have explained the provisions of Section 60(11) of the Act to me. I respectfully make the following submissions in this regard:
I have been informed that I am accused of having committed the offence of murder. I deny the aforesaid allegation in the strongest terms.
I am advised that I do not have to deal with the merits of the case for purposes of the bail application. However, I believe that it is appropriate to deal with the merits in this application, particularly in view of the State’s contention that I planned to murder Reeva. Nothing can be further from the truth and I have no doubt that it is not possible for the State to present objective facts to substantiate such an allegation, as there is no substance in the allegation. I do not know on what different facts the allegation of a premeditated murder could be premised and I respectfully request the State to furnish me with such alleged facts in order to allow me to refute such allegations.
On the 13th of February 2013 Reeva would have gone out with her friends and I with my friends. Reeva then called me and asked that we rather spend the evening at home. I agreed and we were content to have a quiet dinner together at home. By about 22h00 on 13 February 2013 we were in our bedroom. She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television. My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine’s Day but asked me only to open it the next day
After Reeva finished her yoga exercises she got into bed and we both fell asleep.
I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime. I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night.
During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom.
I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps.
I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.
I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.
I noticed that the bathroom window was open. I realised that the intruder/s was/were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed and I did not see anyone in the bathroom. I heard movement inside the toilet. The toilet is inside the bathroom and has a separate door.
It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.
I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding.
When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help.
I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must then have turned on the lights. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door. Reeva was slumped over but alive.
I battled to get her out of the toilet and pulled her into the bathroom. I phoned Johan Stander (“Stander”) who was involved in the administration of the estate and asked him to phone the ambulance. I phoned Netcare and asked for help. I went downstairs to open the front door.
I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital. I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down Stander arrived. A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived. Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.
I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva. With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in. I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved. I also know that the events of that tragic night were as I have described them and that in due course I have no doubt the police and expert investigators will bear this out.
I will stand my trial should it proceed against me. I am a well-known international athlete and there is no possibility that I will even think of not standing my trial should there be one. I trust the South African legal system and that the facts will show that I did not murder Reeva.
In order to persuade the above Honourable Court that I should be released on bail, I provide the following additional facts and information in terms of Section 60 of the Act.
I do not know the identity of any witness upon whom the State will rely in order to attempt to prove a case against me. In any event, I have no intention to interfere with any witnesses as I have no cause to do so and I undertake not to do so.
I maintain good relationships with people and I bear no grudges against anyone.
As previously stated, I have no previous convictions and I have not been released on bail pending any charges.
I am not disposed to violence.
I respectfully submit that the facts set out above support my contention that I do not constitute a flight risk.
I have two South African passports, the one is full. I need my passport to compete overseas but I am willing to surrender the passports to the investigating officer should it be a condition of bail. I am not in possession of any other travel documents and undertake not to apply for such documentation pending the finalisation of these proceedings.
After the shooting I did not attempt to flee. Rather, I accepted Stander would contact the police, and I remained at the scene. I will be able to raise an appropriate amount to post as bail.
I have no knowledge of any evidentiary material which may exist with regard to the allegations levelled against me. In any event, I believe that whatever such evidence may be, it is in the possession of the police; it is safely secured and I do not have access thereto. I undertake not to interfere with any further investigations.
I am not sure which witnesses the State will rely upon in order to attempt to prove its case against me. Nonetheless, I undertake not to communicate with any witness, whoever he or she may be, and any other persons whose names may appear on a list of “State witnesses”, to be provided by the State.
My continued incarceration can only prejudice me and creates no benefit to the State.
I respectfully submit that should I be released on bail, my release shall not disturb the public order or undermine the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.
I will comply with such conditions as the above Honourable Court may wish to impose.
I accordingly submit that the interests of justice, considerations of prejudice and the balancing of respective interests favour my release on bail.
This thought-provoking piece by Ros Godlovitch Chappell is a fascinating view on a major point in The Oscar Pistorius Trial. I have observed much of the proceedings and I myself, have wondered about this issue. Ros Godlovitch, an Oxford Academic, paints a stark picture of what, in her view may be the ‘smoking gun’ in this case. Ros has been in contact with the State Prosecution team to offer her view.
What do you think after reading this account. Please share your view
@Roschappell who wrote this piece is getting ‘out of shape’ because I re blogged her article. She contacted me to ask me to make amendments to it which I did. She asked me to use her link and to make comments which I did. Now she is telling the Twitterati that she has been wronged. For the record, here is the conversation, lest it be perceived that she was being ignored by me.
If you get into a discussion with Ros, be careful you dont write anything that sounds like hers.
Thanks for an adult conversation Ros.
by Sani Dowa
Not since OJ Simpson has a trial captured the world’s interest in the way the Oscar Pistorius trial has. As different camps fight it out on Twitter and the media runs with the most sensational headlines of the day, the public awaits the court’s verdict with fascination and impatience.
On one side is a defence team with a dual objective, to get Oscar acquitted and to salvage his public image. And so we’re treated to a carefully choreographed script that’s heavily reliant on his public displays of grief. Pay no attention to the semantics over whether or not he “took acting lessons”, this is a meticulously managed performance where nothing has been left to chance.
On the other side is a prosecution that’s quietly confident in its case and keeping its eye firmly on the points of law that it believes will help it win this battle.
While it’s too early to call the verdict, I’ll bravely put out there that the State has a strong case that’s been overshadowed by the theatrics in the courtroom. I’ll be very surprised if Oscar walks away from this without doing some jail time.
In the public’s search for a smoking gun a few facts have been overlooked and the strength of the State’s case underplayed. Thankfully this is not a jury trial, in the end the verdict will be decided more on points of law than the public dramatics.
There’s been a lot of talk about Oscar being charged with ‘pre-meditated murder’, however, looking at the indictment he’s charged simply with murder, which under South African law is the unlawful and intentionalkilling of a person. The fact we now know there was never a burglar in that house makes the killing unlawful, even by his version. His defence accepts Reeva’s killing was unlawful, the dispute is whether or not it was intentional.
In looking at intention, the concepts of murder directus (dolus directus) and murder eventualis (dolus eventualis) come into play. Under directus he fired those shots knowing it was Reeva and intending to kill her. Under eventualis he shot believing it was a burglar but could foresee the possibility that he would kill the burglar and went ahead and shot anyway. Hence the charge is a double barrelled one so to speak. The State will argue (a) “you shot Reeva after an argument fully intending to kill her and (b) “even if we accept your version that you thought it was a burglar, you still shot knowing you would kill that burglar”. The fact he overrode a gun with a double safety mechanism, not once but four times, to fire black talon ammunition into a tiny cubicle makes it unbelievable that he did not intend to kill the person behind the door even by his version.
If Judge Masipa finds it was murder directus Pistorius will probably get a life sentence and if she finds it was eventualis, he’ll get a lighter sentence.
2. Motive is irrelevant
In the public arena there’s been much talk that Oscar couldn’t possibly be guilty of murder because the State hasn’t proved motive. However, an important fact has been overlooked; the State doesn’t have to prove motive to get a conviction! While motive is nice to know the State can still show that, for example, as a competent gun owner he shot fully understanding the consequences of his actions and with full intent to kill. Proving why he formed this intention is his motive and not essential for conviction.
It’s also relevant to note here that intent can be a decision made a few minutes before he shot, it need not mean he sat up plotting it weeks in advance.
3. Circumstantial evidence is evidence
Oscar’s supporters often state “we’ll never know what happened that night”, “It’s between him and his God” and “who are we to judge?” as if somehow this gives him immunity from being held accountable! The fact that the only other person in the house that night is dead necessarily makes the State’s case a circumstantial one. However, circumstantial evidence should not be assumed to be weak or invalid.
Remember, criminals are convicted on circumstantial evidence every day and it can often be more reliable than direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence requires some inference or reasoning in order to prove a fact as opposed to direct evidence from an eye witness or participant for example but can be strong evidence nonetheless.
4. And then there’s Culpable Homicide
Even if Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty of murder, Judge Masipa can still find him guilty of culpable homicide. The difference of culpable homicide from murder is that the unlawful killing is negligent rather than intentional. Here the Judge will use the reasonableness test – would a reasonable person have shot four times into that toilet without determining who was in it or indeed where his girlfriend was who hadn’t answered any of his shouts?
This offering clearly emanates from someone who believes that Oscar Pistorius did mean to kill Reeva Steenkamp. He lays out the timeline as he sees it.
Offered by donmack
Anyone who still believes OP is innocent has to believe that the following scenario is credible:
Reeva happily goes to bed having packed all her clothes neatly away in her bag, including her underwear and the top she was wearing, while leaving her jeans inside out at the bottom of the bed
OP wakes in the night and immediately puts his hands over his face. He takes them off long enough to glance over and notice Reeva’s legs under the duvet. He then puts his hands back over his face to get out of bed – pushing aside a duvet that is not actually on him
He walks around to Reeva’s side of the bed without either looking at her or telling her what he’s doing. She doesn’t ask, either
Once his back is completely turned, Reeva silently scrambles across to his side of the bed and walks totally noiselessly and in the pitch black to the toilet
Never once facing the bed, OP brings both fans in and positions them at the end of the bed. How he did that with his back to the bed the entire time, I am unable to fathom. He either stood with his back to the bed, and put the fans in front of him and then walked around them, or positioned them with his arms behind him
In spite of the pitch black room he notices jeans on the floor. He is bothered by a small LED light enough to want to cover them with said jeans – but not bothered by the lit up LED display, the light on the TV or the lights on the light switches
He hears a terrifying sound from the bathroom and is frozen with fear. At no point does it cross his mind that it may have been the person sharing the bedroom and bathroom with him making the noise – nope, he’s so convinced it can’t be her, he doesn’t even bother to turn his head and glance in her direction
He doesn’t seek to clarify what he’s heard with his awake girlfriend who is feet away from him. He doesn’t wonder if she heard it too and is scared
He feels particularly vulnerable because he’s on his stumps, but doesn’t take a few seconds to put on the legs that are, actually, right next to him
He stops being frozen with fear and heads for his gun, making his way around the fans that he has just positioned in front of the bed. He holds into the bed for balance, and says not a word to the person who is in it regarding the fact that he believes that there are intruders in the next room and he needs to arm himself
He reaches under the bed for the gun careful not to glance across at the person he believes is in it
He stands up, faces the passage and whispers/ speaks quietly to Reeva telling her to get down and call the police without actually telling her why. He is not surprised that she doesn’t ask or that she doesn’t bother to get out of bed and get down as instructed
He makes his way in terror to the bathroom – ignoring the door that he and Reeva could have escaped through and the panic alarm that would have brought immediate help
He’s so desperate to put himself between the intruders and Reeva that he doesn’t actually check where Reeva is
He is too scared to put the light on but not too scared to start screaming as soon as he starts walking down the passage
He is walking slowly and quietly down the passage, screaming
Reeva hears the screaming but is too scared of the intruder to respond and give away her position, so she slams the door
OP screams at Reeva to call the police. She fails to do this even though she has her phone with her
OP gets to the bathroom doorway, and stops screaming so that the intruders won’t know where he is
When he sees that there’s no one in the bathroom, he starts screaming again
Reeva stands facing the door making no effort to speak to her screaming boyfriend who is now standing right outside the toilet door. She doesn’t wonder if he wants to come into the toilet and hide with her, she selfishly hides behind the silently locking door and says nothing
Somehow she steps backwards to knock the magazine rack on the other side of the toilet before immediately stepping forward again to the position she was in when she was shot
OP has many thoughts running though his head – a story about a neighbour being tied up in his house, the crime rate in SA, the builder leaving a ladder outside his house, the folly of shooting a warning shot into the shower in case it ricochets and hits him, but a noise from the toilet has all thoughts disappearing from his mind like a fart in the wind and he shoots once, moves position and shoots three more times without actually meaning to….all the while screaming
He stands screaming for a bit, then walks backwards out of the bathroom screaming
He gets to the bedroom, screaming, and is a trifle surprised to see that Reeva is not sitting in bed after hearing four gunshots from the en suite bathroom
He heads across the bed backwards,keeping his eyes on the passage….she’s not there. He walks along the gap between the bed and the curtains, she’s not there. She’s not behind the curtains either.
Gasp. Was that Reeva in the toilet? He doesn’t even bother checking to see whether she’s run out of the bedroom – that would be a ridiculous thing to do given that the shooting was in the bathroom, so he sees no sense in even checking (yes, he actually said that)
He runs with his gun back to the bathroom and tries to pull open the door – he’s still scared it may be an intruder, and hopeful it’s not Reeva, but he doesn’t bother checking to see if there’s a ladder outside the window
He runs back to the bedroom, parts the curtains and shouts for help from the balcony….holding a cocked gun in his hand because he’s still scared
He puts down his gun, sits on the bed, looks for his socks, puts on his legs then picks up his gun again to run to the bathroom – all in the pitch black because he tells us he never opened the curtains or put on the light
Kicking the door doesn’t work, so he runs back for his bat. He then runs back to the bathroom with a cocked gun in one hand and a cricket bat in the other
Oh, I almost forgot – throughout all of this he is screaming like a woman, except when he goes onto the balcony to shout for help in a man’s voice
All of the above takes him 15 minutes
Back in the bathroom, he puts down the gun and hits the door three times with enough ferocity that six people think they are gunshots. Four of those people had slept through the real gunshots 15 minutes earlier – seemingly not bothered by a sound 1000 times louder than the sound that they are hearing now
Once he breaks down the door and sees Reeva bloody and not breathing, he is as silent as a monk. No more screaming – he is too “sad” to scream anymore
In spite of screaming at Reeva to call the police three times, it doesn’t occur to him to do the same himself now
He sits sobbing over her, then pulls her against him, feeling her blood run on to him – although it only manages to stain his shorts and forearms
He is so distraught by Reeva’s condition, that getting medical help for her is not his first thought….calling a friend is
He psychically knows that Netcare will tell him to get Reeva to hospital himself so he calls Stander to help him lift her so he can do this
He then calls Netcare to be given the worst medical advice of all time – to take a woman who has been shot three times, once in the head, to hospital himself
He calls Security for help, then sobs down the phone to them. When they call him back, he forgets to ask for help and tells them he is fine
He runs downstairs, careful to switch off the alarm first and opens the door, crying
Coming back upstairs he smashes his way through the bedroom double doors before simply unlatching them
He carries Reeva through the bedroom, leaving a dissected line of blood that is half on carpet and half on the duvet on the bed – which the police can handily line up later making it look like the duvet was on the floor all along and that OP is one enormous great big fat liar
I could go on, but my dinner is ready.
I am starting to think that anyone who truly believes this man is innocent is slightly divorced from reality. It’s the biggest load of bullcrap I have ever, ever heard. Seriously.
The real difficulty in discussing the ‘Alt Med’ is encapsulated in this piece by the US movie maker, Eric Merola. He has made it his mission to publicise the controversial Burzynski clinic in Houston Texas and has made two movies which are largely sympathetic with the trials and tribulations of the ‘oppressed’, and self-styled cancer Doctor. When discussing issues of this sort, one cannot escape the fact that there are real patients involved. This makes a rational discourse virtually impossible because so much is at stake. Family members are as emotionally involved as the patient’s themselves. No one can criticise the wider family and friends for caring and being full of hope. However, those interested in medicine and science in general have a legitimate concern over how the evidence stacks up for approaches like that of the Burzynski clinic. This particular Movie maker campaigns on an emotional platform that plays on the vulnerabilities of those afflicted and uses non-scientific methodology to justify claims that Doctor Burzynski cures some of the most difficult cancers.
The screen shot above is from Merola’s latest vignette which highlights one such patient, Laura Hymas (The piece is linked here) Laura was diagnosed with an aggressive Grade IV Glioblastoma brain tumour which she had early treatment for on the UK’s National Health Service (publicly funded health care for all patients) Average survival of this cancer is 4 – 6 months without treatment and 1 – 2 years with treatment. There is no cure for this type of cancer.
According to the movie maker, Merola, The Burzynski clinic has found a care for this disease. The world’s scientific community has not seen any reproducible scientific data that would corroborate Merola’s and the Houston clinics that this treatment works. Recent World and European cancer congresses in Chicago (ASCO) and Amsterdam (ECCO/ESMO) gave no mention of Antineoplastons at all.
This piece shows the painful decisions that have to be made by people like Laura and her now husband, Ben. The movie shows the family in an unauthorised taped interview with a UK oncologist, trying to persuade him to support Laura during her treatment journey whilst in the UK. The whole family can be heard questioning the Doctor in an excruciatingly embarrassing fashion. They could not accept his conviction that there was a) no evidence for this treatment and b) there was no formal mechanism for him to treat Laura whilst on Doctor Burzynski’s trial. In the end the oncologist had to walk out as the family (understandably) would not accept his position. As I have already said, you cannot criticise the motives of the family but to secretly record the oncologist and to go as far as they did, in terms of pressurising him to concede, was questionable. Whose idea was it to record the conversation, why was permission not sought from the Oncologist, what motive did they have for recording it?
In the recording Laura’s Mother reiterated the treatment was ‘FDA Approved’ – this is misleading. The treatment itself is not FDA approved. The trial is but that is an entirely different thing. Many patients are confused by this statement. I wonder if the Burzynski protagonists are quite happy creating this confusion?
These are all questions that probably won’t be answered. What is clear is that the clinic and Merola’s key weapon was the absolute desperation to do something positive. Evidence presented by the movie man comes in the form of the fact that at her wedding, Laura appeared well with Merola claiming that she is now cured of her cancer. This is a very bold statement to make when one considers that the word is waiting for cures for cancer.
The evidence presented by the piece is interesting. It mainly forms Laura and Ben talking about how well she is nowadays (13 months into treatment and 9 months since the tumour disappeared) Laura is now on ‘maintenance treatment’ to mop up any tumour cells left behind. Anyone reading this will be happy for them both and would wish that her wellbeing continues for many years to come. What is interesting about the piece is, despite Eric Merola telling the world that Laura is cured ‘After returning from England to attend Laura Hymas’ wedding last week (who was cured of a Glioblastoma brain tumor while I was documenting her journey for BURZYNSKI: PART II) yet in the video we see Laura telling us that she can now walk up the stairs and go out. Let’s hope this continues.
The scans that Merola presents by way of showing tumour reduction are worrying in that the images are not taken at the same ‘location’ the cuts /views need to be at identical reference points to make an objective evaluation, they are clearly different in this image. You can see varying levels of anatomical reference points. The image to the left is a slice taken higher up in the brain where the one on the left is taken lower down. The effect of this is that you are seeing the bottom of the tumour which naturally looks smaller. Merola (and presumably the clinic) make the point that this proves it has shrunk. The Burzynski clinic has long had a reputation of confusing findings on scans; again, let’s hope they are right on this one. Back to the difficulty of discussing these matters – no one would deprive any patient like Laura of her chance to improve their outcomes in difficult circumstances. However, the evidence that it is this Doctor’s treatment is making the difference is patchy. The data is weak, the scans are questionable, and the ability to reproduce the findings does not exist. The treatment is at vast expense and is ‘managed’ by the clinic by putting patients into so called ‘clinical trials’. The clinic has registered a total of 61 clinical trials in nearly 36 years. In all this time the clinic and yet have only reported on only one. This is strange when the likes of Laura say they are on a ‘trial’ but no data is ever reported (apart from very early stage data which doesn’t have the strength of efficacy to determine if a treatment will go on to work in a general population) It is worth reminding ourselves that clinical trials normally ask patients to enter them for free. Laura and Ben highlight how much the treatment costs and it is huge amounts of money. Are the vast fees to gain access to this trial acceptable? To some, this is simply a business where the clinical trials are a cover for a maverick Doctor wanting to make substantial money out of the sick and desperate.
The film maker and the clinic believe that their treatment has material benefits to the patient’s they treat. It is unfortunate that they use the ‘Big Pharma doesn’t want us to succeed’ card. They position themselves firmly in the alternative medicine arena with all of the vague notions of efficacy that go with that.
Whilst the world waits for a breakthrough for cancer, it cannot be left to film makers and rogue Doctors to determine that they have achieved this lofty aim. The world needs to see some tangible form of real evidence that this treatment has potential. Until this time there will be many patients like Laura Hymas who succumb to the hope that it will be ‘them’ that gets the benefit of a treatment. Generally speaking it is the desperate and broken who succumb to this form of marketing. There will always be the Laura’s in the world and there will always be Burzynski’s but with the greatest of respect to both of them, movie makers and the odd patient story here and there will not convince health authorities around the world to approve a treatment which has not demonstrated to any acceptable measure, that it indeed works effectively.
The Apprentice winner for 2013 Leah Totten with Sir Alan Sugar her ‘partner’ in their ‘new’ Beauty Clinic business.
So the latest in the litany of Apprentice ‘winners’ is a 24 year old newly qualified Doctor from Northern Ireland. Her business plan was to engage Alan Sugar in a chain of Beauty Clinics ‘with a difference’. This poses a challenge for the 66 year as he has never been in this area of business. What has he got himself into and what does his new winner bring to the party?
During the process she demonstrated a drive and a focus which many of the other contestants could not rival although her competitor in the final, Luisa Zissman and her one-stop cake-making business Baker’s Tool Kit, ran her very close and in many viewers eyes and had a better business proposition to develop. However, Dr Leah is the winner and now has to work hard to make sure she is not one of the many ‘winners’ who get chewed up and spat out by the demands of working in and for a very demanding boss in Lord Sugar. History records that none of the previous Apprentice winners are still in the Sugar business empire. The winner from 2012, Stella English, lost a Court case brought against Sugar’s company Viglen, for constructive dismisal claiming she was given a desk and a phone but had no meaningful role and was simply left to her own devices.
Most of the previous winners stayed with Sugars empire for a short period of time before moving on. It is interesting that none have remained. Is it because the staged format of the show has to have the partnership with Sugar as a prize but the fact that most of the contestants are either massive egotists armed with a fledgeling flower shop or a recruitment agency for wonder kids and dreamers from a posh school who simply believe they will be successful because their parents were fortunate enough to have paid for an expensive education for them.
So, will Dr Totten buck this trend? Her plan is to use her ‘experience’ such as it is (she’s a newly qualified Dr) She implies her service will in some way a superior offering to ‘older women’. In addition she claims due to lack of regulation, her being a Dr and the Medical Director of her fledgeling enterprise, she will elevate the standing of these treatments. She certainly has front. During her pitch to so called, ‘Industry Experts’ she was asked to consider if she had thought through her marketing strategy. A belligerent and automatic reply flew back to the questioner suggesting she was a sap for asking such a dumb question. One does have to ask, exactly what is Dr Leah’s USP – no one asked the question of her in any of the Apprentice ‘Boardrooms’ so she hasn’t been pressed for an answer. How will your clinics be any different from the many others offerings the same service? It would be interesting to hear her view as she has motivated the Aesthetic industry luminaries to leap up to question her wisdom. The post final headlines will have been disappointing to Sir Alan. The press have cottoned onto the fact that she now plans to leave the NHS after taxpayers have funded her training. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2369791/Backlash-grows-Sugars-Botox-queen-Leah-Totton-accused-turning-NHS-open-chain-cosmetic-clinics.html
Dr Christian from TV’s Embarrassing Bodies also had harsh words to say about the winner http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/121318/The-Apprentice-2013-Embarrassing-Bodies-Dr-Christian-Questions-Leah-Tottons-Botox-Business