Chiropractors bend over backwards to screw up

By Phil Plait | October 15, 2009 9:41 am

In my last post, I said that the British Chiropractors Association — which is suing Simon Singh for libel — put out a press release saying that Simon was acting maliciously, and then hastily put out a modified release with that part taken out. This is a huge development in the case, since this is arguably a defamatory statement on their part about Simon. If he countersues, or threatens to, they may be forced to drop the entire suit.

Because it’s too delicious not to point out specifically — and because I think it’s vital that skeptics raise awareness on this issue — here are the two versions of their press release: the original, and the modified one.

The difference? This paragraph (emphasis mine):

Original: "The BCA supports and would never seek to stifle legitimate open scientific debate. However, this action is actually a simple libel claim based on the fact that the BCA was maliciously attacked by Dr. Singh in the Guardian newspaper."

Modified: "The BCA supports and would never seek to stifle legitimate open scientific debate. However, this action is a simple claim based on the fact that the BCA was libelled by Dr. Singh in the Guardian newspaper."

Yeah. Oops.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this indeed. Simon Singh has my full support in his effort to overturn his own suit and these awful UK libel laws.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience

Comments (32)

Links to this Post

  1. Friday Links (23-Oct-09) -- a Nadder! | October 22, 2009
  1. Muahahaha, I love it. Let the counter suit begin!

  2. Danny

    If they hurt their back bending over in this way, I wonder if they will go to a real doctor or a bogus one.


    The British draconian libel law is a double-edged sword!

  4. Link for the modified release points to the original one.

  5. Carole

    Hi Phil
    Your tweet has the wrong link for Simon Singh, it’s a different one.

  6. “Um… When we said we were ‘maliciously attacked by Dr. Singh’, we didn’t mean that he acted with malice. To say that would just be, um, bogus.”

  7. Gary

    So a vertebral subluxation causes brain farts?

  8. If the suit is dropped, that would mean that the odious libel law remains intact, doesn’t it?

  9. Other than the plethora of anecdotal copies of their press release squirreled away on the hard drives of skeptics (and still on the BCA’s website), there’s not a jot of evidence that the BCA defamed Simon!

    What a turn up for the books. Tonight’s talk with Simon on the press and libel law is going to be interesting!

  10. I would almost encourage Dr. Singh NOT to counter sue, just so that he can go to court and expose the BCA for the quacks they are! Maybe that “sli” was intentional since they were starting to get afraid of Dr. Singh and are looking for any way out.

  11. Gabor Hrasko
  12. Is *epic facepalm* an appropriate reaction here?

    How about “SWISH!”

    I hope Simon counter sues to get his legal fees back.

  13. Mike
  14. Gary Ansorge

    Speaking of bending over back ward, how do contortionists do what they do and do THEY employ chiroquackers to alleviate their back pain, or are they immune to such disabilities?

    Just wondering(enquiring mind, doncha know?).

    GAry 7

  15. Roadtripper

    Countersuit? Yes, please! Then maybe we can get the BCA on record stating how truly awful the libel laws are.


  16. OtherRob

    @Mike (#12): “Blunderful.”

    What a wonderful word. :)

  17. Augray

    Isn’t “the fact that the BCA was libelled by Dr. Singh in the Guardian newspaper” something the court is being asked to decide? In other words, isn’t the BCA being premature with this?

  18. Brian

    Augray: Well, that’s the claim that they filed in order to initiate the court case, so I don’t think it’s premature for them to state that.

  19. IBY

    Oh my goodness, a large Freudian slip that is, eh? ^_^

  20. Grizzly

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, nor do I play one on TV, but this is too delicious to be true.

    I suspect that this is a way to avoid going to court by prompting a countersuit.

    As I mentioned in another post earlier this week, Sheldon Comics has had a delightful little story arc over the last 2 weeks on the British libel laws.

  21. Live by the sword; die by the sword.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    All bets are off when you pull the nuclear option.

    My question is, is there a time limit as to how long he has to file his law suit, or could he keep it as an ace up his sleeve while trying to win in the courts, especially if it can get appealed to the EU courts?

  22. Floyd

    Got treated by an American chiropractor after a back injury; I also worked with an MD who had suggested the treatment. After a few adjustments over 3 months under the supervision of both of them, my pinched sciatic nerve was un-pinched. My right calf nerves actually worked again, and continue to work fine.
    That doesn’t mean there aren’t quack chiropractors, however.

  23. Spencer Attridge

    Er Floyd, thanks for that but see

    Glad to hear that your right calf nerves are fine, but your back might have got better by itself. Or because for many other reasons….

  24. Trebuchet

    Floyd (#21):
    You at least went to a chiropractor for a condition they might (might!) be marginally qualified to treat. When they tell patients to stop taking critical medication, as happened to both my wife and my father, they are outright quacks. Dangerous quacks, at that. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure there are more of those than of the ethical variety.

  25. Markle

    Er Spencer, thanks for that but perhaps you should understand what you’re referencing before you lay the smack down on someone.

    Anyways, there should be some clarification in terms since this is a US-based blog commenting on UK matters lest we find ourselves putting our foot in it like Phil found himself with Chiropody. Chiropractor is not a protected term in the UK or the US. Physician, Lawyer, Engineer (in some US states), Licensed Electrician and the like are terms for the practitioner who has passed some sort of qualification. There are penalties (usually criminal) for calling yourself one and practicing if you are not licensed to do so. Non-woo chiropractic in the US has no protected term, however, in the UK they are called Osteopaths. UK Osteopaths have no prescribing authority and, typically, limited medical training. Osteopathy in the UK is Complimentary Medicine.

    This can be confusing as, in the US, a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) is a licensed physician practicing evidence-based medicine with all the rights and responsibilities of a Doctor of Medicine (MD). The education and qualifications for both are nearly identical, differing in aim like an Applied Physics degree differs from a Physics degree. Indeed, a US-trained DO has the right to practice as a physician in the UK and Canada (and others) whereas a UK-trained DO (Diploma of Osteopathy) is a mere undergrad and has no such rights. I guess the closest to a UK osteopath in the US is a Licensed Physical Therapist, but that requires a post-grad degree, usually a doctorate (DPT).

    The point being, since these are legal terms and have precise definitions, it would pay to know and express exactly what it is you are talking about before throwing about those terms like epithets. I’ve probably got some details wrong, but that’s the gist.

  26. Michael Kingsford Gray

    The delicious irony!
    Should Simon choose to sue the BCA for libel, the current misconceived case against him by the BCA would be dropped immediately!
    Could they have put both feet further down their big mouth?

  27. Damon

    “Anecdotal Evidence” my ass. If you take the overwhelming majority of satisfied patients and break them down case by case, it’s easy to fall back on “anecdotal”. Unfortunately the sum of satisfied Chiropractic patients forms a coherent whole, regardless of supporting scientific evidence (assuming you don’t count x-rays as evidence for some reason.)

    Chiropractic clinics don’t stay open based on “anecdotal evidence”, bub. Any more than laws stay in effect based only on the legal contracts that created them. Human experience trumps some experiments a nerd performs under highly controlled conditions any day of the week.

    But I guess my back just straightened itself magically after 20 years AT THE EXACT SAME TIME I started seeing a Chiropractor. Just a big coincidence, right?

  28. Pieter Kok

    Damon, I believe there is ample evidence that chiropractors provide real relief for back-related issues, albeit temporary. I am too lazy to look up the links right now. However, some (many?) chiropractors overstep their mark and claim that their techniques have healing power beyond simple back adjustments. That’s the pseudoscience Singh is fighting against.

  29. Tony Lloyd

    @ Damon

    “Chiropractic clinics don’t stay open based on ‘anecdotal evidence”, bub.”

    1. There is actual evidence that chiropractic helps with back pain. This was stated by Singh in the article complained of by the BCA. Singh mentioned specific ailments, all unrelated to the spine, for which claims of efficacy had been made. He criticised the BCA’s actions in respect of those, and only those, treatements for which there is insufficient evidence. I’m glad your back has cleared up, I’m sure you are delighted: but you’ll agree that something helping your back is evidence for it curing asthma in the same way that a burger giving you energy is evidence that you can run a space shuttle on quarter pounders.

    2. The claims of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity form a “coherent whole” based on the sayings and writings on others, a whole load of “anecdotal evidence”. At least three of them are complete bunk. Yet their “clinics” remain open.

    “Clinics” do stay open on “anecdotal evidence”. Bub.

  30. StuartB


    “Chiropractic clinics don’t stay open based on “anecdotal evidence”, bub.”

    There’s a palm-reader in the fair down the road. Same one for twelve years. I take it we can apply the same levels of warrant and deduce that palmistry works too?

    Commercially viable != true

    “Human experience trumps some experiments a nerd performs under highly controlled conditions any day of the week.”

    Umm, that may be something of a minority opinion around this neck of the interwebs.

  31. Austin L

    Oh these guys crack me up


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