Think tank: Costly libel suits are stifling science Simon Singhs article in the Sunday Times 14/6/09:
Last year I published an article in The Guardian about chiropractors who claim to treat childhood conditions such as asthma, colic and ear infection. My views on that treatment clashed with those of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) and it threatened to sue me for libel.
Although The Guardian offered a right of reply, the dispute was not resolved and the BCA served proceedings. At this point, I could have backed down, apologised and paid a relatively small amount of damages. However, I believe that my article is important and covers a matter of public interest, so I have decided to fight the libel action.
So far, standing by my article and fighting the case has taken up a year of my life and has cost £100,000; the battle could continue for another year, and final costs could exceed £500,000.
It seems ridiculous that I should have to pay such vast amounts of money to defend an article about an important health issue. I am not alone: libel suits against scientists and science journalists are increasingly common. …………….Rest of article.
I have met Simon Singh he seems like a nice bloke, he wrote an article he genuinely believes in. If Simon is prevented from expressing his opinions, what of chiropractic?
Chiropractors would only be allowed say things everyone agrees with; If DD Palmer had been prevented from expressing his views about medicine there would be no chiropractic. Is the UK chiropractic profession about to accept the sceptics conclusions that chiropractic has nothing to offer people beyond treating back pain. Are we to share the painful backs with physiotherapists and Osteopaths giving politicians and the pharmaceutical industry exclusive rights over health policy. I say BOLLOX to that.
I may be the village idiot, I may be the only person in the UK prepared to stand up and say I have no doubt that symmetrical movement in spinal joints (correcting a subluxation) is a prerequisite for good health (including clean water, good nutrition, exercise, etc etc) I have no doubt I help people achieve better health every day in my practice and I have never been accused of misleading or ripping anybody off.
The leaders of the chiropractic profession scurry around changing their websites trying not to offend sceptics which makes one wonder about the integrity of these “leaders”. Were they making claims they did not believe in, just to have more members in their associations. Disgusting! Were the GCC happy to let these digressions of the code of practice pass, giving the ASA time to do what the GCC the regulatory body was unable to do. No matter how you look at it the GCC is not fit for purpose.
What did these chiropractors see in their practice, if they never saw someone with asthma benefit from a healthy spine. Perhaps these chiropractors were not very good at providing spinal care, these must be the chiropractors Professor Ernst usually meets. Ernst made a presentation at the GCC in August 2006 and the 10 chiropractors on council were like rabbits caught in the headlights did not challenge him on any of his views.
There was an Interferential machine and Ultrasound in the AECC clinic for students who could not adjust. The recent NICE guidelines showed these interventions to be ineffective for Back pain, its fair to assume these chiropractors were not very successful in practice, so what do they do? They go back to the institutions as teachers of the next generation of chiropractors or become politicians. If you can’t do, become a politician and now the profession is reaping this harvest.