I think I know who you're talking about! - He's actually doing quite well with it. They take a lot of time and dedication, and he's breaking the back of it. Get the cotton and rosin right and then you're in a position to adjust all the tangents to the correct position. theres only 46 of them so it shouldn't take more than a couple of days, although it could take a lot longer if the nuts aren't in the right place (as with so much in life, really).
Donovan had probably never seen a hurdy gurdy, but you CAN play that song on one. a quick search on the web for DROHNE will probably throw up a chap in margate called Phil who is once of the greatest musicians I've ever met. He does HG man segueing into La Moresque...very strange stuff but utterly brilliant.
Destroying a hurdy gurdy is quite difficult as they're built to last. A bowl back is a very strong shape, even on something as lightly built as my antique Pajot Jeune. The best way to stop them playing would probably be to steal the handle. Grip the sides (not the edge) of the wheel and crank the handle the other way. Of course, if you're not sure which way IS the other way, you're not really in a position to criticise.
The usual thing people do to stop you playing is touch the wheel - fingertip out and pointing "is that what makes the sound?". This leaves a deposit of grease on the bowing surface and ruins the nice even coat of rosin that the player has spent weeks acheiving. This results in gaps in the sound (as the wheel slips each time it reaches that spot) and a broken nose.
If you want to hear good hurdy gurdy playing, listen to Patrick Bouffard. I shouldn't bother with Nigel Eaton to be honest. Very showy with excellent technique, but he's a robot. Bouffard has passion, energy and style.
If you want to burn a HG, soak it in parafin overnight first.
Be prepared for the bill when (if) you get out of hospital, though.