WooHOO! My huge and hearty CONGRATS to Simon!
The British Chiropractic Association, an umbrella organization for chiropractors in Britain, had sued Simon for libel because he had written in a newspaper article that they "happily promote bogus remedies".
They said this was defamatory, and that Singh meant they knew that they were lying about the remedies. If you read what Simon wrote that’s clearly not true; he was obviously saying that they were happy to promote remedies that happened to be bogus, not that they necessarily knew what they were promoting was bogus. What Simon certainly was saying is that a lot of the so-called "remedies" chiropractors claim to work simply don’t, and have no evidence at all to support them. But he never said the BCA was knowingly lying to the public to promote quackery.
Simon Singh – the journalist who has been sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for having the temerity to write that they happily promote bogus remedies — has won a big victory in the UK: he has the right to argue that his statement was opinion, and not a statement narrowly (and, in my opinion, incorrectly) defined by a judge.
Rebecca has the lowdown at Skepchick (some NSFW, but totally funny, language there), as does Steve at Neurologia. While this doesn’t mean Simon has won the case, it does mean he can continue his arguments, when before he had been stopped cold by a judge.
The BCA is looking ever-more ridiculous, mean, and venal in this case. We already know that many of the claims made by chiropractors and by the BCA specifically are totally wrong. The heat is on these guys. Now we can hope that the BCA will be handed their heads in this case… and if we really grab the brass ring, the UK’s awful libel laws will get reformed, too.
We’re on the verge of a huge, huge win here. It hasn’t happened yet, and there is much to do. But the light is there, on the horizon.
I have talked here many times about the atrocious libel laws in England, and how they are used by cranks and crackpots (and others) to clamp down on freedom of speech. Most notably, skeptic Simon Singh is being victimized by the British Chiropractic Association, who decided to sue him rather than actually defend their dodgy claims about their practice.
Simon’s case has started a grassroots campaign to reform the libel law there, and this has gained incredible momentum. The Libel Reform Campaign website was put together by the group Sense About Science to provide information on all this. It has news, affidavits, and much more, all set up to keep you informed on the progress made about this.
Freedom of speech is so important on so many levels, but it’s pertinent to you, BA Bloggees, because you know how pernicious and prevalent quackery is. Many of the people behind such antiscience — the antivaxxers, the chiropracters, and others — would love to see us, the voices of reality, shut off. So go take a look at the Libel Reform page. Sign up, sign the petition, and make sure that your voice will not only be heard, but will continue to be heard.
Crispian Jago may be our single greatest weapon against nonsense that exists when it comes to the public. Why would I say that? Just go and read his brilliant satirical page, "The Ladybird Book of Chiropractic Treatment and English Libel Law".
Incredible. He sets the bar pretty high for himself — he did the Skeptics playing cards (he even made one for me), a homeopathic urine video, and much more. He’s hysterically funny, with a laser-sharp wit. When most of us are grinding our teeth and fuming, he is responding with humor that cuts right through the garbage and exposes the fetid underbelly of antiscience nonsense like chiropractic.
If you liked his Young Readers book, then please Digg it! Help spread the word, and show the world that science cannot be silenced.
A couple of weeks ago, a chiropractor lodged a complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) against the Australian Skeptics. Why? Because they had reprinted journalist Simon Singh’s article about chiropractic, which said that in the UK they were making bogus claims about how chiropractic can cure all manners of ills such as asthma and colic in babies, when it’s been shown it cannot.
Got that? This chiropractor, Joseph Ierano, complained against them because of someone else’s article! Brilliant.
The good news is that the HCCC just told the Skeptics they have dismissed the complaint. I’d love to report that, amidst howls of laughter, they said that Ierano’s complaint has no merit, his arguments were totally wrong, and not only has chiropractic been shown in many studies to have no efficacy against diseases like colic and asthma, it in fact can be a very dangerous practice.
Instead, however, it was dismissed because the Australian Skeptics group is not a health care provider, and is therefore not in the jurisdiction of the HCCC. So it was a technicality. That’s still good news, since the AS is not in any trouble, but as they say in that link above, they wish this could’ve been used by the HCCC as a larger scale means to investigate and publicly discuss the inefficacy of chiropractic in these cases. Too bad.
There is still a lot of publicity coming from this whole thing, since the British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh for libel due to his original article, instead of simply providing evidence that their claims were not bogus (and when they finally did try to support chiropractic, their claims were woefully off-target). The blogosphere erupted with support for Singh, as did a lot of mainstream press soon thereafter. A very cynical eye indeed has been turned to the practice of chiropractic of late. It’s long overdue.
From what I have read — including studies done by doctors as discussed in such books as Trick or Treatment and Bad Science — chiropractic’s only claim for helping is that there is some marginal evidence it can relieve lower back problems, but that’s it. It doesn’t cure toothaches, or anything carried by germs, or really anything else (excluding the placebo effect, which can be provided in any of number of other ways that don’t involve actual physical manipulation). And when the neck is manipulated, chiropractic can have serious side effects.
I am not a health care practitioner, but with what I know now, I would never go to a chiropractor. Some of them may understand the limitations of their practice, but clearly far too many do not. If you have some sort of health issue, go to your board-certified physician and ask them what they think of alternative practices, and ask them to be blunt.
We’re talking about your life here, folks. Don’t hand it over to someone who may not have a clear grasp of what their so-called alternative medicine can — and cannot — do.
Recently, science writer Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for having the audacity of telling the truth in a newspaper article about chiropractic: while it may have some small efficacy when treating back problems, there is exactly zero good evidence that it can treat illnesses, and in fact can be very dangerous when people get their neck manipulated.
The Australian Skeptics posted Simon’s original article so that it would get more attention. And it worked, kinda: like a fly to honey, one chiropractor took offense at what was written, and decided to send them a nearly logic-free letter. That’s fine, and pretty much what I expect from a vocal alt-med devotée. As justified, Eran Segev, president of the Australian Skeptics, responded.
All well and good, until…
… two weeks after responding we received a letter from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) indicating Mr Ierano [the chiropractor] has lodged a complaint against Australian Skeptics. The letter attached to the complaint was the same one that Australian Skeptics had received and responded to.
Well, that’s a bit odd! I mean, why go to the trouble to pursue legal action against someone responding to your claims when it should be easy to present a simple rebuttal based on the evidence that chiropractic works?
… oh, right.
What’s funny is that originally, the BCA (the group suing Simon in the UK) tried to defend their position, and presented a poorly-researched, off-topic press release that somehow managed to make them look worse. Apparently, that’s a theme amongst chiropractors trying to support some of their less reality-based claims.
And while I’m using a light-hearted tone here, I’ll note that this is a very serious issue: there are people out there trying to stifle free speech. It’s that simple. The UK libel laws are draconian and designed to shut up any protest, making scientific objections and investigations into potential and real quackery very difficult. As Eran says on the AS page:
Australian Skeptics sees this complaint as lacking any merit even if it did not include some factual errors (e.g. the claim that a British court ruled Simon’s article is biased). We have prepared a detailed response to the HCCC and will be defending our right to publish articles relating to any scientific issue, as long as they are backed by scientific evidence.
Good on ya, mate!
[Entire post redacted.]
[Update: In this post, I was trying to poke fun at chiropractors, but wound up making fun of the wrong target. I don't like to remove posts -- I've never done it before in my memory -- but I couldn't find a way to edit this one without leaving a joke up that in the end, due to a mistake on my part, missed the mark. Since this was basically a content-free post anyway, taking it down seems like the right thing to do.]