How a few motivated "Geeks" defeated an apathetic profession

April 22, 2010
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SirAlecGuinness_Bridge_Nicholson Having created this mess by not consulting the profession BCA leaders will put their head in the sand hoping the problem will go away. I suspect this is just the beginning rather than the end.

Reading articles like Nick Cohen’s one can only feel embarrassed calling oneself a chiropractor

Now charlatans will know to beware the geeks

Simon Singh’s historic win is also a triumph for his online allies

A year ago, I went to a London pub to speak at a meeting for the apparently doomed cause of libel reform. Simon Singh had written an article which was true and important about the dangers of the quack therapy of chiropractic healing. Then, like so many authors and publishers before him, he learned English law persecuted rather than protected honest argument and that he was in trouble.

The British Chiropractic Association was suing him for saying that there was "not a jot of evidence" that its members could help sick children by manipulating babies’ spines in accordance with the teachings of a more-than-usually nutty American faith healer.

Well-run societies do not defend men who make money from worried parents and, more seriously, fob off their children with bogus "cures". In his wisdom, however, Mr Justice Eady decided that the law would intervene to silence a debate on public health and ruled that it would not be enough for Singh to show that there was no reliable evidence that alleged treatments worked, which Singh would have difficulty in doing because there wasn’t. Because he had written that the chiropractic association "happily promotes bogus treatments", the judge said he had to jump the insuperable barrier of proving that the therapists were lying rather than merely deluded and face costs of £500,000 or more if he failed.

I expected a glum affair and did not expect my contribution to raise morale. I described how the judiciary had allowed Robert Maxwell, Roman Polanski, Khalid bin Mahfouz and many another actual or suspected criminals to use a biased and prohibitively expensive law to silence their critics. Far from being depressed, the audience turned into a heaving mass of furious geeks, who roared their anger and vowed that they would not rest until they had brought down the rotten system The "skeptic movement" (always spelt with "k" by the way, to emphasise their distinctiveness) had come to Singh’s aid. He was now in the protective custody of men and women, who, with straight faces, introduced themselves by the titles of their blogs: "Hi, I’m Gimpy."

"Jack of Kent, pleased to meet you, love your writing. This is Holford Watch, Zeno, Jago, and I thought I saw the Quackometer getting a round in at the bar."

Unnerved by their determination, I said to Ben Goldacre, demolisher of pseudo-science in all its fraudulent forms: "The nerds are on the march. I wouldn’t like to be the one standing in their way." An uncharacteristically mystical look passed over the great debunker’s face. "Yes," he said. "Strike us down, we shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." To read rest of NIck Cohens article click

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Related posts:

  1. The BCA’s decision to sue Simon Singh will be a disaster for the profession
  2. Richard Brown Vice President of British Chiropractic Association argues that the criticism of his profession is wide of the mark
  3. Which health care profession has given the most ludicrous endorsement ever?
  4. The McTimoney Chiropractic Association would seem to believe that chiropractic is “bogus”. Posted June 2009
  5. Journalist explains how the BCA has damaged the chiropractic profession, by going after Simon Singh
  6. Simon Singhs Guardian article and my analysis
  7. BCA and GCC member David Byfield would seem to concur with Simon Singh that the BCA were making bogus claims about the efficacy of chiropractic
  8. If Simon Singh is not allowed to express his opinions in the UK, chiropractic is finished, in fact it would never have started.
  9. How are the General Chiropractic Council and the British Chiropractic Council going to deal with Zeno’s complaints
  10. Last June Jack of Kent summarised the BCA’s decision to sue Simon Singh.

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  • G BIDDELL

     I would also like to add that medicine saves lives every day and we are the luckiest nation on earth to have a free system at our disposal and that public has  nothing but admiration towards hard working scientists who are truly  trying to make a difference to our lives.   My comments are for those “skeptics”  who suggest  that one man can have all the answers by claiming to be a professor of a  subject he has no experience or knowledge of, and  by doing a couple of trials himself or even meta analysis of a few  previous haphazard trials. Peer reviewed studies are the ideal we all strive for, but the reality is there are many constraints on them, ie. bias, time, sample size, cultural and geographical differences, inability to control all the variables,  misapprehensions, press interference, political leanings and pressure to publish,  to name a few.   Also, clinical studies by definition are very precise and detailed and take lots of time and effort and money and sometimes a life time is not enough; it is built upon by the next generations.  We have scientific discoveries all the time with better equipment and understanding which sometimes negates our previous conclusions or takes it in a different direction. It is a slow process as there seems to be no bounds to our learning and advancing our knowledge base which is fascinating. CAM is an area full of epistemological presuppositions and cognitive dissonance for most clinicians.  However some medics and hospitals are increasingly beginning to study and incorporate it in their treatments and some go as far as openly opposing EE’s strongly held negative views and dismissive attitude. We will just have to “watch this space” as to what future holds as EBM and CAM try to further diffuse together…

  • G BIDDELL

    China has a population of 1,324,655,000 and till very recently has been practicing mainly Chinese quackery according to Singh and Ernst.

    India has a population of 1,139,964,932 and practices mainly Ayurvedic medicine,again quackery according to Singh and Ernst.

    Some of the healthiest and longest lived tribes in the world have been found to be living in these regions.

    We in the West are increasingly using test tubes for births, and old people are begging it to be made legal to end their miserable lives. Cancer, heart conditions, arthritis, diabetes, eating disorders, autism, ADHT and a host of other diseases are on the up and in earlier age groups, in spite of our randomised trial controlled medicines.

    And Singh and Ernst are arguing that this is the only way forward.

    Are we missing something here?

  • G BIDDELL

    I seem to be talking to myself here but here is a few more statistics:

    The basic timeline is a 4.5 billion year old Earth, with (very approximate) dates:

    3.8 billion years of simple cells (prokaryotes),
    3 billion years of photosynthesis,
    2 billion years of complex cells (eukaryotes),
    1 billion years of multicellular life,
    600 million years of simple animals,
    570 million years of arthropods (ancestors of insects, arachnids and crustaceans),
    550 million years of complex animals,
    500 million years of fish and proto-amphibians,
    475 million years of land plants,
    400 million years of insects and seeds,
    360 million years of amphibians,
    300 million years of reptiles,
    200 million years of mammals,
    150 million years of birds,
    130 million years of flowers,
    65 million years since the non-avian dinosaurs died out,
    2.5 million years since the appearance of the genus Homo,
    200,000 years since humans started looking like they do today,

    And how long since “evidence based medicine” that Singh and Ernest claim to be the only purveyor of all truths and custodian of our health?

    And how did we manage to evolve and survive 3.8 billion years without it?

    Talking of being delusional….

  • G BIDDELL

    According to an article in the Independent, Edzard Ernst is first and foremost a medical doctor.

    His father was a medical doctor, he himself trained as a medical doctor and worked as a medical doctor in Germany and was the professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Vienna.

    His alternative theraphy qualifications is described as “like may German doctors, DABBLED IN ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE and CLAIMS TO BE trained in acupuncture,….”

    15 years ago, “exactly what happened is not clear”, he accepted a post at the University of Exeter as the worlds first professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter with a grant of £1m from Maurice Laing, and “has been causing trouble ever since”.

    Maurice Laing’s intention was instigated because HIS WIFE WAS HELPED BY ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE DURING A SERIOUS ILLNESS.

    When he started his trials of alternative medicine, and the first trials on spiritual healing showed some miraculous recoveries, he is quoted as recalling, “HOW HE WAS GOING TO BE MOCKED BY HIS SCIENTIFIC COLLEAGUES AS THE MAN WHO WORKED MIRACLE CURES”, only relieving a sigh relief when it was shown that the miracles happened to all types of trials including the placebos.

    He may be titled as a ‘professor of alternative medicine’ but Edzard Ernst is first and foremost a medical doctor and a scientist who has been indoctrinated long before he “dabbled in alternative health” who seems to have got the post to prove that alternative medicine does not work and doing his best ever since.

    Like a Trojan horse, he seems to have got the title of “proffessor of alternative medicine” just to break down the walls of alternative therapies as his actions and reactions since has proved.

    So what have we got here?

    Simon Singh, a myopic physicist and mathemetician and another myopic second generation medical doctor who are out to prove that the alternative health practice should be outlawed.

    I have news for them:

    Most of the degenerative diseased we are plaqued by today are due to lifestyle choices, diet, exercise, pollution of every description, stress of 21st century life, and quite often involve trapped nerves on our spines which causes faulty messaging/hormone transmission to all parts of the body and its organs etc.

    They are not going to be solved by pills of any kind, alternative or medical if we want a full healthy homeostasis and perfect physical conduit for nerves, without side effects.

    They are going to be solved by reversing the damage we have done to ourselves by changing all these factors and GOING TO A CHIROPRACTOR.

    After my years of arthiritis misery was miraculously healed even though my GP told me there was no cure for it by diet, exercise and chiropractic, I thought of suing the NHS for keeping me in pain for years on end, when it could all be solved so beautifully and permanently. WHY COULD NOT MY DOCTOR DO WHAT I DISCOVERED ON MY OWN BY TRIAL AND ERROR?

    The answer is, of course, apparently, the doctors rate of getting degenerative illnesses is same as the rest of us. In another words, they can not cure themselves, how are they going to cure us?

    So, bedragged with their impotency at not being able to help their patients and see them suffer day after day, like Dr Ernst, they want to explore other alternative methods that claim to heal.

    But unfortunately, the call of their brain washing that “only proven in double blind tests must work or we will be laughed at by our scientific colleagues” fear is too strong and they retrieve into their collective shell and try to keep out the real world.

    These people are not to be feared but pitied for they have run out of answers and too afraid to find new ones.

  • G BIDDELL

    The fact that Simon Singh is alive and well and living as a celebrated scientist in England is probably in no small part due to his great, great grandmother giving his great grandfather and so on, a healing herb or technique when he was small and sick that was not double blind tested in a clinical labaratory in the Western world.

    If I hear the words “reliable conclusive evidence”, “double blind trials”, or similar, I am going to be sick and hopefully over a scientist.

    They are indoctrinated to a ridiculous degree that they would be happy to prosecute and burn their grandmothers at the stake if she dares to give them a cure that was handed down through centuries but not tested in a clinical labaratory.

    For the rest of us, I am afraid, the word of mouth is good enough; we will try anything until something works. And it usually does without the need for double blind tests.

    The rest of nature and all the living things in it DO NOT RELY ON CLINICAL EVIDENCE to get on, they know how to be healthy instinctively, the mothers teach their offspring and so on. And unless we interfere with them with our so called “scientific ways”, they do ok, thank you.

    Why are we the only species being prosecuted for teaching our offspring centuries of handed down wisdom because it has not been tested in a labaratory and wrapped up in cellophane?

    If we go too much against our own natural instincts and nature we will all suffer the consequenses and we normally do as the dire state of the NHS shows us.

    Because in the end, the nature will always have the upper hand and prove to us that we are mere pawns, mortal or scientist!

    So hail any method or technique that brings us closer to nature and its ryhtms and our natural instincts…

    Chiropractic will always live on no matter how many quibbles, because it works and has stood the TEST OF TIME AND PASSSED WITH FLYING COLOURS, which is a far more important test than any other.

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    On behalf of all chiropractors can I thank you for that posting. Its people like you make it worth while to go to work in the morning.

    Simon Sing has a PhD in particle physics which go him interested in homeopathy which brought him to Edzard Edzard Ernst not the most credible critic of chiropractic. If you look at Simons recent writings he no longer states the claims of chiropractic are “biologically implausible” so perhaps he has looked at a bit of neuro anatomy and qualifies “not a jot of evidence” as “reliable conclusive evidence” which is fair enough.

    I think you will enjoy this qote from a study done in the 70s. I wonder what the result would be if it was done today?

    “The average doctor knows a wee bit more about nutrition than his secretary, unless his secretary has a weight problem, in which case the average secretary knows a wee bit more about nutrition than the average doctor”
    Medical Doctors and Nutrition
    Mayer J. Harvard University: Psychodietics, Bantham Books 1974

  • G BIDDELL

    Simon Singh has lots of qualifications and doctorates (mostly maths and physics), but I am not sure Biology is one of them.

    If he had studied biology, he would have known that all the nerves from the brain go to all parts of the body including all of our organs through the neck and spinal cord.

    So, how easing the path of these nerves not going to help all of your body and all of your organs and any ailments that go with it?

    It is common sense, and the scientific community are beginning to act like the Spanish Inquisition because they are bombarded with all the NHS and donations money and have become all too mighty and powerful but pathetically, they can not cure anybody with drugs.

    They can keep people in limbo with drugs, but that is all they can.

    That is why people are going in droves to alternatives because in my experience, a good diet and exercise and positive mental attitude and chiropractic are the only ones that help heal the body.

    I had crippling arthiritic pains all over my body for many years and all I got from the overpaid medics was pain killers until I studied alternatives. My friends who stayed with the doctors all had knee and hip operations while I am completely pain free and have not visited a doctor in many years.

    Maybe, that is what the scientific community is afraid of?

    As to whether a physicist and a mathematician should make informed or otherwise comments about any matter concerning biology is highly debatable to say the least.

    I PERSONALLY THINK THAT ALL DOCTORS SHOULD BE TRAINED IN NATURAL NUTRITION AND OTHER NATURAL TECHNIQUES AND MAKE PATIENTS AWARE OF OTHER HEALTH ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS AND SUGGEST HEALTHY LIFESTYLES WHICH WILL GIVE THE NATURE A CHANCE TO HEAL GENERATIONS OF PEOPLE.

    As it is, we are spending more than ever on NHS, usually without any results and people are turning to alternatives in droves until they meet someone who can help them.

    I know, because I am one of them and in sublime health after getting no help from the medics and sorting out myself by alternative methods.

    THERE IS ONLY ONE GUILTY AND DELUDED PARTY HERE AND IT IS THE SCIENTISTS. IT IS NOTHING SHORT OF CRIMINAL HOW THEY KEEP PEOPLE IN PAIN BECAUSE OF THEIR IGNORANCE AND SCIENTIFIC CRAP WHEN MOST AILMENTS COULD ALL BE SORTED QUITE NATURALLY AND WITHOUT THE USE OF DRUGS.

    Like the Spanish Inquisitors, their time is passing…

    You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but not all of the people all the time.

  • http://www.titaniumearrings.org Amelia Gray

    my dad is a chiropractor and he often amazes me how he could treat my sprains.-’-

  • Hussein D

    fellas, there is ‘heaps of evidence’ that Chiropractic helps human physiology in all age groups..

    The problem is, most of the people involved in this recent debacle have not read it… ie Singh, Ernst, sceptics, and wait for it… the majority of the UK Chiropractors who had towed the BCA recommendations for advertising prior to the case. I had info promoting the benefits to kids in adverts past too…
    (i do read quite a lot of research by the way.. not all as it is too much to fit in)

    medical approaches traditionally take a condition based problem and attempt to resolve that and, once solved, they are content to cease with that person’s physiology… ‘empirical evidence’ based approach.

    chiropractic has gone down this route to appease public and other professions, and indeed their own peers who are:

    a)unclear, or insufficiently educated and trained to describe and deliver proper treatment to address such realms in children or adults.

    b) too empirical mentally to address global physiology in the presence of their patients and to public….

    c) too ashamed of their legacy and history to actually look a patient in the eye and say, ‘I do not treat your child’s colic…
    however, I know the areas where digestive system is neuroligically ‘wired in’ – I can address these and correct any dysponesis, or neural tone imbalance.. this viscero-somatic response is typically associated with the vast spectrum of digestive responses commonly referred to as ‘colic’. would you like me to check your son Mrs. Jones, see how he responds, and then recheck after a few days to see if there has been an objective and subjective improvement?
    would you or your husband like to read some case studies or articles on the subject?’

    sorry, a bit pedantic off the top of my head, but a 34 second long paraphrase of what I typically relay to patients.

    the categories above are not exhaustive, but i think they reflect a good picture of how the profession has allowed herself to descend into contraction and the delusion of safety within the emotionally based and competitive realm of ‘back pain realms’, not expansion into proper human physiology…

    enough, FA Cup plus rugby later… HD

  • Jeff Keogh

    Richard,

    I’m enjoying the conversation. I’ll try to keep it short. Can’t… help… but… respond…

    You may well be right. My youngest was a bit colic-y. Not so bad that there was sleeplessness for days on end, but the screaming jags drove us to despair. We were recommended a medicine that acted as a surfactant, they idea being that all of the small bubbles in the gastric fluids would coalesce into fewer larger ones, and then be burped.

    It sounded plausible to to me. We duly administered it. To be honest, if it had an effect, the effect was slight. But by gollygoshdarn, it felt good to be being proactive! Big ol’ serve of placebo right there!

    No-one recommended chiro to us; indeed I’d never heard of using it as a treatment until the BCA thing. So honestly, I do not know if we’d have tried it then.

    Now? Well, again I don’t know, but probably not. I’ve subsequently learned that pretty much *all* treatments for colic are old-wives’ remedies and black magic (including the one I tried).

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    Hi Jeff, No offense taken.

    Knowing what you now know, what would you do if your child had colic and you had not slept for a week because of it. Having given my own kids onion juice and vinegar ( no medicine for whooping cough) I would be realy surprised if curiosity did not get the better of you to see if my “human foibles” were influencing my clinical judgement. First visit £50.

    Like you I am spending to much time blogging, so you dont have to answer.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Hi again Paul,

    This is like moving backward and forward between rooms to have the same conversation, isn’t it?

    We’ve reached an impasse, I think, on a topic that neither of us can know with certainty; that is, the intentions of Simon Singh. All we are able to do is deduce them from his public statements and actions, and I think that we’ve drawn opposite conclusions.

    We’re also going to differ on whether Simon’s ‘fair comment’ was in fact fair. I (obviously) contend that it was. Where is the scientific evidence that supports the BCA’s claims? In matters of public health, I strongly believe that it is everyone’s interest that speech be as free as possible, provided it is not hateful.

    I accept your admonishment about my use of the term ‘moral cowardice’. Instead, I revise my assessment of the BCA’s behaviour to mere cowardice. If it is true, as you say, that the Guardian is hostile to the profession, that doesn’t mean that the BCA should not have taken advantage of the paper’s offer of column space to address Simon’s article. Furthermore, is the Guardian the only newspaper in the country? Are there not a myriad of media outlets which could have been used to combat Singh’s claims with evidence?

    It’s nonetheless a cowardly act to turn directly to the law, hoping to scare a critic into silence, rather than address the argument.

    So, you’re right – moral cowardice was an overstatement. Cowardice, however, I stand by.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Phew. I might be getting out of my depth here with the lengths of my posts. I too have a young family, and we poor (stupid) family men are very time poor, are we not?

    Hi Richard,

    Your statement about treating children I take as read. Until I see evidence to the contrary, as a health professional you are of course concerned with the welfare of your patients, family or otherwise. I emphatically do not question your morals.

    Where we differ, I think, is what we accept as evidence. For both of us that decision about what is acceptable as evidence is born of our own experience. You’ve said often that you’ve seen with your own eyes that your ministrations have had a marked effect. For you, that is sufficient evidence that chiropractic has benefit beyond treatment of back pain.

    For me, well, I’ve been a gullible fool in the past. Not as gullible as some in my acquaintance, but pretty credulous nonetheless. In extracting myself from the mire of uncritical thought, I’ve noticed that the easiest people to fool is ourselves. I understand very well now that my brain is a very advanced organ; one of the most spectacularly complex things in the universe. Yet, for all that, it is very easy to trick. Frightfully easy, in fact. That is why I no longer trust intuition and personal observation. They’re a good start, but in my opinion, that is all they are. A good start.

    So, to put it bluntly (but hopefully not rudely), I think you are subject to normal human foibles, and have drawn an erroneous conclusion. That said, I do not question your morals, your ethics or your intentions. You’ve shown yourself to be an person of high character in your blog, so I sincerely hope that my statement above gives no offence, for none is intended.

    I have no doubt that there will be far reaching impacts on your profession from these events. How much is changed, only time will tell. (How’s that for a motherhood statement?)

  • Paul

    Jeff Keogh on April 21, 2010 at 9:56 pm
    Hi Paul,
    Your conclusions do not match the available evidence. Not as I’ve seen it, anyway.
    What Simon was doing was attempting to draw attention to egregious and unsupported claims being made by an organisation and a large number of its members.
    That is something that I would hope and expect every science journalist to do.
    Trying to shut him up in the court rather than address the meat of his claim indicated to the world the moral cowardice and the intellectual bankruptcy of the BCA.

    Hi Jeff

    I would disagree – my conclusions are the only thing to be drawn from Simon Singh’s initial action.

    What he was trying to do was draw in some PR by claiming that the practice of chiropractic in helping with symptoms associated with infant colic was bogus and without a jot of evidence (which is wrong and he would have very quickly being replacing his underwear under cross examination of such a claim) but then he singled out one organisation for mention deftly avoiding mentioning the UK regulator who was making the same claims as were the other professional representatives in the UK.

    The article wasn’t a scientific discussion nor the initiation of such, it was a PR piece he knew he could get away with under ‘opinion’ or ‘fair comment’ defence.

    Rememeber the defence of ‘fair comment’ is somewhat misleading, because the comment does not need to be fair at all. Provided it is an honestly held opinion, it can be biased, exaggerated, ill informed, inciteful (as long as it is within the law) or all of the afore mentioned but is still protected for public policy reasons, so that commentators may provide their opinion on the arts, religion (inc. science) and restaurants, and the public can consider those opinions and make up its own mind.

    I am no lover of the BCA – they continue to make mistake after mistake and leave the profession to pick up ther pieces and pay. Intellectual bankruptcy – yes but moral cowardice?

    Jeff given the Guardian is anti chiropractic and would want to ‘big’ up their scientific ‘expert’ in any response published, how would you have advised the BCA proceed?

    And remember the Guardian didn’t back Singh on this one they left him to swim alone …

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    Jeff I am dyslexic would not notice such a thing in a million years.

    Again I would disagree with little of your assesment. If I thought for a moment I was hurting children, I have four myself I would not go near them.

    The example I gave was unusual because the change was so obvious to the parents. With adults you have an idea how long its going to take from the history and examination and you get good objective and subjective feedback as you go along. You have little of this with infants and toddlers. ( some reflexs, tone and posture.

    I say to the parents I will see Johnny twice next week and I leave it up to them to decide whether its helping or not. Yes the problem could very well be running its natural course on the other hand spinal care could be helping. I believe it is helping because the changes are predictable to be more than coincidence.

    To get your utopia of evidence for all clinical interventions needs subjects. Very few parents in developed world countries are going to allow their children into trials. So researchers go to the developing world raising many ethical questions. Dont get me on vaccine trails and evidence. Not a shred of evidence to say vaccinated children are healthier , just that it may prevent the deaths of a small group were they to be exposed to the infection. Vaccinated children are more likely to have asthma for example and other autoimmune disorders, its a decision for parents to make themselves I would never advise them either way contrary to what professor Ernst constantly bleats on about.

    Its up to the parents its their call, if i thought they did not have the cognitive ability to give consent I would not adjust the child. I make a case for the relationship between spinal joints and the nervous system and the parents decide whether they want to explore this avenue, often having explored many others. If it helps they are delighted if it does not they are out of pocket by £85 pounds, only a night out.

    Until someone shows me what I am doing is harming children and could not possibly effect the autonomic nervous system I will continue to practice the way I do. Registered chiropractors on the other hand will not be allowed to do so. One day we will know if the sceptics and the GCC have done a service to the children of the nation.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Ugh. Sorry for the typos above. I’m always too quick to submit, and too slow to proof read.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Richard,

    Naturally! One doesn’t crest the hill of life without some stinky old bones rattling around in the wardrobe.

    It’s quite clear that you are convinced by your own experiences in your practice that your interventions have an effect beyond the musculoskeletal. I repeat, that’s quite natural, and very human.

    My question is, though, how do you determine that what you’re doing actually is having an effect? How do you eliminate perfectly natural errors in judgment, such as regression to the mean, confirmation bias, correlation/causation etc.?

    Of course you’re a practicing health professional, and not a researcher, and you can’t be expected to conduct your own RCTs. But what do those that have been done suggest?

    You’re quite correct to point out that not all of our medicine is science based. My understanding is that surgery in particular has less testing done than it should, for various reasons (ethics being a major one). I absolutely believe that all medicine should be science based, and don’t think that alt med should be singled out for criticism. All failures of medicine should be criticed.

    It would be a fallacy to suggest that since orthodox medicine has shortcomings, however, it therefore is OK to let other modalities off the hook. Let’s thoroughly test *all* interventions.

    Most importantly, when an intervention is shown to have little or no effect (or worse, a greater risk than benefit), we should discard it once and for all.

    In my opinion, of course.

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    Hi Jeff, there must be a few skeletons in your cupboard?

    I agree they are anecdotes and case studies, the best clinicians go with their experience. What you have to remember is children make up a very very small percentage of practice and medical research is driven by its potential for profit. Chiropractic grew in the UK on the back of the Meade study in 1990. Back pain is the flag ship of the evidence based chiropractors and that is where all the resources are put because they see a niche in the NHS that the could potentially occupy.
    I get bored with back pain and love it when kids brought in. Four weeks ago a women brought her seven month son in, reflux and screaming she had been everywhere. She was aware of the asymmetry in the child’s neck because it was difficult to wipe under his chin after feeding. I showed her the asymmetry in his pelvis demonstrated by the thigh creases.
    I adjusted the baby and he was very upset by the experience but the change was instant and remarkable. The parents saw he his neck upright for the first time. I saw him twice that week she called me today and asked me to check his spine as he had been so good the last three weeks. I told her about Simon Sings case and what did she thing about being a gullible fool ,she is a writer and she has agreed to write an open letter to sceptics about her experience.
    Yes its just another anecdote, I dont do research I can only tell you what I see with my own eyes. I have said many times I am happy to have anyone come into my clinic and I have told Simon singh Andy Lewis I would love the chance to debate with them, my expertise is applied anatomy and spinal care. All they have is there is a lack of convincing evidence that chiropractic helps childhood conditions. The top ENT man in this country ( he is a paddy) told me the evidence for medicine is not strong in these areas either, however they still try to help these children.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Hi Paul,

    Your conclusions do not match the available evidence. Not as I’ve seen it, anyway.

    What Simon was doing was attempting to draw attention to egregious and unsupported claims being made by an organisation and a large number of its members.

    That is something that I would hope and expect every science journalist to do.

    Trying to shut him up in the court rather than address the meat of his claim indicated to the world the moral cowardice and the intellectual bankruptcy of the BCA.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Hi Richard,

    As do I. My friend is inclined to pronounce it as one syllable: kyoh. Sounds strange to my ears, but according to her she went to school with a couple of boys with the surname, and that was how it was pronounced. Could be a regional thing.

    The BCA have done no-one any favours , it’s clear. Well, no-one bar supporters of science based medicine.

    It’s also clear that there’s some schadenfreude being exhibited amongst the skeptical community as a result, and I must admit to feeling that somewhat too. The stumbling and bumbling of the BCA after their outrageous response to the article has had its amusing aspects.

    But this is the surface of a much more serious issue. That is the prevalence of uncritical thinking in society. This, in a very highly technological world, is very very dangerous. Alt med is just one aspect of it, but it has become a highly visible aspect.

    We’re all human, and all prone to error, but there are tools now available to us to minimise the error. It disturbs me as a concerned member of the human race, with the future of my children to think of, just how few people can be bothered to correct errors in their thinking. Concerns and offends me.

    I know it can be done, because I did it myself. I was a reiki practitioner. I believed in extra-terrestrials visiting the earth. I thought that Loch Ness monsters were real. I believed in ghosts. To quote Yul Brynner in the King and I, “Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!”

    I’ve seen you write of the empirical evidence you have that spinal manipulation aids in the treatment of some childhood ailments. What you have are anecdotes. No doubt you’ve heard it said before: the plural of anecdote is anecdotes – not data. Personal observations are prone to human error. It is not a personal failure to draw erroneous conclusions from personal observations. But the hypotheses drawn must be tested, otherwise what use are they?

  • Paul

    Hi Jeff

    that is precisely what I am suggesting:

    that Simon Singh purposely baited the BCA to get a reaction, i.e. either a debate in the Guardian and at worst a legal writ aimed toward the Guardian, all aimed at personal PR and PR for his book. He certainly didn’t make a generalisation which would have brought in the regulator. Whose suggestion this was is up to any interpretation, Ernst or otherwise.

    What I don’t think Simon Singh factored in was a personal writ from the BCA and having to back either factual discourse or fair comment in corss examination in court – either of which would have made a fool of him and possibly forever destroyed his ego.

    And yes the skepdicks weighing in was an opening he couldn’t refuse to play.

    I would say he got a real let off as did the chiropractic profession from the latest embarassment served up by the BCA.

    Its a pity the skepdicks now think it is a victory for them when realy it was the reality of common sense.

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    Hi Jeff (I pronounce it it key to open a door and o)

    Simon had no idea the BCA were going to respond they way the did, he just wrote a flippant article promoting his book which basically relied too much on one source; Professor Ernst.

    When the article came out the majority of chiropractors were laughing because of the focus on the BCA “the respectable face of chiropractic” The BCA executive have been saying similar things about chiropractors like me for years, I would argue I have defended my corner far better than the BCA have defended theirs which is very hard for them to take.
    The BCA and the GCC want to base chiropractic scope of practice on published “scientific evidence”, they see chiropractors in the NHS as the specialists on back pain thats why the BCA are seeking prescribing rights, even though only 10% of the profession want it. This latest move will destroy what little credibility the chiropractic profession has left. Its much easier now to explain to patients why I resigned from the GCC register and I will be one of the few chiropractors who come out of this with any credit.
    Being a back pain specialist” would limit my practice to low back pain and the empirical evidence of many experienced chiropractors suggests chiropractic is much more than a treatment for back pain, most back pain is caused by sedentary posture so its not something you cure its more management and maintenance. While spinal adjustments help with back pain its the Swiss ball exercise classes I do each week in Esporta that teaches people how to care for their backs.
    “ Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life”.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Richard,

    It is a good Irish name, although apparently I mispronounce it! An Irish friend of mine took umbrage at the way I say my name – can you believe it? We antipodeans are an uncultured bunch.

    No-one has suggested that Simon has greatly suffered; certainly not in the way that activists in other causes, other countries and other times have suffered. However, I think it unreasonable to suggest that his experiences have caused him no stress or little cost. I think that that is quite evidently untrue.

    The BCA’s shooting themselves in the foot (and with the collateral damage that has occured to innocent chiropractors in the UK and abroad) cannot be laid at his feet, however. That they did all by themselves.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Paul,

    I can’t help but read your comments to mean that you think that Simon Singh wrote his article in the hope that the the events of the last two years would unfold. Is that your meaning? If so you have any evidence for this?

    I’ve been an interested follower of the case since its inception, and my reading of Singh’s (and his supporters’) reactions throughout has been that he has been greatly inconvenienced. Indeed, he has said that when the case was initially brought his gut feeling was that he should cave in to the legal muscle being flexed by the BCA.

    This seems to me to be the antithesis of a man plotting to bring down the BCA through the courts!

    He may well have written his Guardian article with the intent of promoting his book; he’s a writer after all, and that’s what they do. But the ensuing foolhardy response from the BCA was out of proportion, and can hardly have been a part of Simon’s planning.

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    Jeff, (Good Irish name you have) When the sceptics offered to raise money for Simon he said he did not need it. Simon took on the BCA because he had the money and the balls and he enjoyed doing it.

    I have been doing this kind of stuff for years. If I had the money I would have gone for judicial review against the BCA in 2004 and GCC in 2008.It fustrating but you know what, I have fun with it I love widing up arseholes.

    Please dont tell me Zeno, Simon Perry made their complaints because they want a better world. The are doing it because its fun for them wind up CAM practitioners its a game simple as that. Mordechai Vanunu thats suffering, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, they suffered for what they believed in, Simon collected material for his next book and good luck to him he put his head above the parapet and was prepared to take the risks that went with it.

  • Paul

    Indeed especially as his book sales soared whilst he only last month gave up work …. Hardly two years Jeff and as I see it a fight between two groups of buffoons (-;

  • Jeff Keogh

    Yes, that’s quite right. Losing two years of your professional life while trying to fight a frivolous legal battle against a cadre of unscientific buffoons is a very small price to pay. 20,000 pounds is just pocket money, too.

    Cheap at half the price!

  • Paul

    To be fair I think alot of chiropractors agree with Richard and the notion of free speech.

    However Simon Singh has played the BCA and skeptics beautifully and has paid relatively little for the PR he has recived.

  • Nico M

    wow, high praise indeed. I too can picture the BCA high commission stewing in their blazers and stroking their beards in fury at J of K’s comment, before denying that any of them read your website anyway. I wonder if you will get a special mention in Jack’s book.

  • http://spinaljoint.com Richard Lanigan

    Thank you for that. You have to remember Simon has only been dealing with these people for two years, I have been dealing with them since 1990, I am the last person they would listen too, however your words will be a stake through their heart. Their problem is they like power and are not the sharpest pencils in the box. They maintain the status quo by feeding the apathy of the profession. The profession has had a rude awakening and hopefully they will do something about their incompetent leadership. I know you will find this hard to believe there are some really bright people in the chiropractic profession, unfortunately they would never put themselves up for election and the suits would never appoint them because they would undermine the power. Like in the Wire I hope you are a fan.
    My partner who is a solicitor with Herbert Smiths never saw anything like the way the chiropractic profession issues writs to each other. The BCA went outside there comfort zone with Simon and deservedly got a pasting.
    If I was a racist or had extreme views about things there might be “deep differences” as you can see I dont, what I do is easily explained and sometimes “empirical evidence” with a theoretical explanation is more effective than a weak “Plethora”. On the contrary I hope you do write about chiropractic in the future. Perhaps after Simon and Andy have started to listen to me more than Ernst they might bring their kids into me for a spinal check. Now that could be the “exclusive extra new chapter” for the paperback version of your book.

    Not to forget the chapter on Simon Perry and Zenos complaints. I promise that will turn out to be even more ridiculous that the attack on Simon. Please call it “Turkeys paying for Christmas”

    Richard

  • http://www.jackofkent.com Jack of Kent

    Now that the case is over, I would like to say whatever our deep differences, Richard Lanigan was the only chiropractor or supporter of chiropratic who made any sensible contributions to the public debate around the Simon Singh case.

    Indeed, he appears to me to be the one only chiropractor or supporter of chiropratic who comes out of all this with any credit.

    I can understand why the BCA leadership sought to ignore my warnings (in respect of which I was proved resoundingly right, btw), but they really should have listened to the warnings on this site instead.

    And once I have finished the book of the case, I hope that I never have to write about chiropractic again. And, if chiropractors now keep away from libel abuse, I will not need to.

    Best wishes
    Jack of Kent

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