The English Aromatherapist

Oct
19

Defamation

Defamation or Freedom of Speech?

Let me start off with a quick question…

 

Do you think it’s ethical to tell people they can “Beat Cancer God’s Way” using essential oils?

 

Personally, I don’t. That’s my opinion, and I am legally entitled to it.

 

The short story

 

If you’re looking for a summary of what happened, it’s this: I published a blog post that called out Dr Z for promoting advice about essential oils and cancer. When he found out, he called me an internet bully, claimed my post is defamatory and threatened to take legal action.

 

I’ve decided to make the story public to demonstrate what happens when you try to call someone out on their own BS. All correspondence is published in full, so you can read it and make up your own minds.

 

Social Media - The English Aromatherapist

 

What happened?

 

Last week, I published a blog post called Essential Oils and Cancer. In this post, I discussed some of the outrageous misinformation that’s out there when it comes to “curing” cancer with essential oils.

 

Now, anyone who is familiar with my blog will know that I am all for championing holistic options where appropriate. As I explained in the article, it’s certainly feasible that there are natural cancer cures out there, and it’s exciting to consider how much more we’ll know in future. But, for now, there simply isn’t enough research to say that essential oils cure cancer (or prevent cancer).

 

Making outlandish claims about essential oils only threatens the credibility of the aromatherapy industry.

 

I needed specific examples for my blog post, so I included a link to “Dr Z” a.k.a. Eric Zielinski (or perhaps we should call him “Chiropractor Z”?)

 

I took a direct quote from his current website, which reads:

 

It is becoming more than obvious that people do not need to use conventional practices like chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate cancer” (Dr Z)

 

I believe his advice is encouraging people to believe they can self-cure cancer using essential oils without any medical intervention. In my opinion, this is misleading, irresponsible and unethical.

 

To be honest, I don’t even know how he gets away with selling a program (for $97) called “Beat Cancer God’s Way”.

 

However…

 

The focus of my Essential Oils and Cancer post was NOT Dr Z. His inclusion was merely an example of the kind of cancer-curing advice that’s online.

 

But the following day, I received a message from Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, owner of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. I was already aware that Dr Z had been studying with Sylla for some time, which only made it more perplexing that he was still promoting this kind of unethical advice.

 

(For the record, I did not want to drag Sylla into this post, but I can’t really tell this story without including her. It was only because of her message that I emailed Dr Z)

 

The party line was that Dr Z had recently qualified as an aromatherapist and was now a changed man. Apparently he’d realised the error of his ways and no longer promotes the MLM-style advice of his past.

 

Sylla jumped to Dr Z’s defence, saying “you will have a hard time finding anything other than old videos as all his material has been revised! I would appreciate if you could clear that up”

Sylla Sheppard Hanger Dr Eric Zielinski

 

That seemed odd, seeing as the quotes and information I’d taken were from his current website. And that same week I received an email newsletter from Dr Z which described Lime essential oil as “cancer-fighting”. To me, it didn’t seem like I was dragging up old information.

 

Okay…

 

After Sylla’s message, I thought it was only fair to contact Dr Z directly to ask for his perspective. So, does he still stand by this advice or not? Am I dragging up old information? Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Only fair to give the guy a chance to defend himself, right?

 

I asked Dr Z…

 

Let me be clear – I was NOT interested in starting a war with anyone. The only reason I contacted Dr Z was because Sylla suggested that he no longer promoted cancer-curing advice.

 

So, I sent a polite email, which you can read below (Incidentally, it’s not easy to contact Dr Z directly – my initial email was answered by a member of his “Customer Happiness Team”, where I was told I could find out more by paying to sign up to Dr Z’s online community)

 

The response…

 

I received a detailed reply from Dr Z, which basically confirmed everything I had written in my original blog post.

 

For complete transparency, I’m including all the correspondence in full. You can read it all for yourself and make up your own minds.

 

To summarise, Dr Z asked me to “back off and not be an Internet bully”. Apparently he found my post “not only inaccurate, but extremely offensive and defamatory”

 

something is only defamatory if not true

 

In his email, he said “I take ethics very seriously”. In that case, I would say he is treading a fine line.

 

Interestingly, he later said “There’s nothing unethical of me stating my opinion”. Well that’s funny, because I am equally entitled to state MY opinions, too. Nothing defamatory about that.

 

What happens when you question someone like this? They get defensive. He said “I would request that you keep me out of your blog posts and from using defamatory comments and posting smear campaigns on your website”

 

I felt Dr Z’s response was pretty defensive and aggressive. He’s passionate – I get that. But to claim my blog post is defamatory? Not wise.

 

So I told Dr Z…

 

I explained that “my only intention for contacting you was to ask if you still stand by the cancer advice that’s promoted on your website. Sylla claimed I was just dragging up old information. What’s clear is that everything I wrote in my blog article is factually true, and I am not misquoting you at all.”

 

He replied back, saying

 

“Everything you wrote below and everything on your website that I’m referring to is the perfect example of defamation and Internet bullying…If you continue to misquote me and put words in my mouth on your blog, I will be forced to take legal action. Please consider this a fair and professional warning.”

 

…are you sure it’s ME who is the bully here?!

 

Defamation in blogging

 

Smear Campaign?

 

Later that same day, Dr Z filmed a heartfelt Facebook Live video about how he was being “attacked” by fellow bloggers and aromatherapists. He said people are trying to “silence” him with “hate mail” and “smear campaigns”.

 

Well, it’s hardly a “smear campaign”, is it? All I did was take a quote from your website.

 

Ever heard of the Streisand effect? It’s where an attempt to censor information actually ends up publicising it even more widely. This is a classic example. I would have been happy to drop it, but by launching into a tirade about defamation and threatening legal action, I’ve decided to go public with the whole thing. Now everyone can read it and make up their own minds.

 

As for trying to “silence him”, if anyone was being silenced, it was ME! It’s my blog, and I’m entitled to write my own opinions. In 14 years of working in the beauty and holistic therapy industry, I have never experienced behaviour like it.

 

Just to clarify – someone who is selling a program called “Beat Cancer God’s Way” is calling ME unethical?

 

And someone who is threatening me with legal action is calling ME a bully?

 

In summary

 

Fans of Dr Z claim he has reformed his ways and is now a reliable source of information. Apparently he is working through his website to update the information in accordance with Sylla’s advice.

 

I would question why – if this is true – is it taking him so long to do this? There are still LOADS of posts on his website about cancer and essential oils. The “Beat Cancer God’s Way” program is still available. The messages he is giving out are extremely mixed. One minute he’s telling us that safety is his no.1 priority. The next minute he’s telling us to ingest Frankincense to prevent cancer.

 

Look, I have nothing against Sylla. She’s been in the business a long time and I totally respect that. If she wants to continue defending Dr Z, that is entirely up to her.

 

But if Dr Z wants to be taken seriously, he needs to get his story straight.

 

A positive note…

 

Let’s end on a positive note by finding some good things out of this situation.

 

  • I don’t disagree with EVERYTHING Dr Z says about natural health in general. He is trying to shine a light on alternative options for people, and I (partly) understand where he is coming from.
  • I’m not saying he’s a bad person. My original post was NOT a personal attack on Dr Z. I was only criticising the information he dishes out.
  • I’m NOT sharing this story to “make a name for myself”, “get my 15 minutes of fame”, “start a war” or “bash others” (all of which I have been accused of in the past) I’m grateful to have the chance to explain the story in full, so that we can all learn from it and move on.

 

Read the full email transcripts here

 

Follow me on...Facebooktwitteryoutubeinstagram
Share this on...Facebooktwitterredditpinterest

14 Responses to Defamation

  1. THank you for going public! May I share this on the Nature’s Gift page and in various groups?

  2. Thank you for sharing this information. I am constantly amazed at the misinformation that exists out there, and everyone swallows it hook, line and sinker. I hope you shared this information with Sylla because she needs to know what is going on with her “prize” pupil. I’m a certified aromatherapist, use essential oils carefully, and deplore the wacko information out there. As I teach about aromatherapy, I’d like to know if I may share this information with my students and in my blog? Thank you.

  3. I believe it is against the law in both the US and the UK (Cancer Act 1939) to claim to be able to cure cancer, so Dr Z is walking on thin ice anyway.

  4. He is clearly a purveyor of dangerous information and I am very glad you took this on.
    Sylla is an old, dear and trusted friend. Most of my education has been through her and I have never seen her step back from any issue. I am confident she will review all information.
    Again, thank you.

    Sherry Harvey Podobnik

  5. In the response, Eric Zelinski, he stated he was a LICENSED primary care physician. On his website, it indicates he is a Chiropractor. Looking at the licensing division website, State of Georgia, Eric Zelinski is not listed as a licensed Physician. What state is he currently licensed? Since he lives in the state of Georgia, but not licensed there he cannot practice as such.

    I find his defensiveness abhorrent.

  6. Pingback: About Plagiarism – The English Aromatherapist

  7. I am afraid that all too often money can change ones once ethical stance.
    I can only think that associating with someone who makes dangerous claims, and they must do so because they have a share in the profits somewhere along the line or are more worried about themselves.
    I am a qualified holistic therapist including an aromatherapist and wouldn’t dream of saying anything that very desperate and vulnerable people may use solely instead of traditional treatment for life threatening conditions. These are complementary medicines and practices which go along side and in very informed fashion with traditional practices, particularly with serious medical situations.

    I agree, if he doesn’t like the quotes you used then don’t say them publicly.

Leave a Reply to englisharoma Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *