Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Back-Cracking Quack Attack - The Sequel

Just over a week or so ago, in the brief post Another Back-Cracking Quack Attack, I wrote about how the New Zealand Medical Journal had received a letter from Quack Defender, Paul Radich, representing the New Zealand Chiropractors Association Inc. threatening legal proceedings unless a retraction is made regarding an editorial written by David Colquhoun about an article by Andrew Gilbey of the misuse of the 'Dr' title by Chiropractors.

Anyway, in an unrelated yet extremely similar event, the British Chiropractic Association are suing Simon Singh for his article in The Guardian about how Chiropractic is quackery. Gimpy has republished the Guardian article (removed from the Grauniad Website) on his blog here, with some helpful annotations.

As I've said before, these bully boy legal tactics have habit of backfiring - I think the BCA are backed into a corner; either they demonstrate the evidence put to them is inconclusive or they admit to the world they are one of the largest and wealthiest flocks of quacks in the world.

The third way is to silence dissent by legal action - not, you'll note, by going after the Guardian, who printed it, but by going after Simon Singh himself. Dirty, dirty bully boy tactics - and as far I am concerned, a obvious admission that of that Simon Singh's evidence presents a real and credible threat to Chiro-quack-tic.

For more see the Quackometer, HolfordWatch and A day at The Pharmacy


  1. It is difficult to understand that the BCA think they will get from this. The contingencies of forensic sophistry will always make the result uncertain and in no way invalidate the criticisms being made against the chiropractors. Whatever happens, there is bound to be more critical examination of the trade and that examinations is unlikely to be good for them.

    Are they really hoping to simply bully critics into silence? Has such a thing ever been achieved before in similar circumstances?

  2. Presumably part of the benefit for the chiropractors is that Simon Singh will be restrained from talking about them for some time. It's all very disappointing.

  3. I have blogged about this from the perspective of an English media and telecommunications lawyer and an active Skeptic.

    Newspaper reports are notoriously bad guides to the essence of any legal case. The claim has not been published and it seems that the defence has not been served yet. Until one has sight of these documents, it is difficult to assess the merits of the question which will before the Court.

    That said, if this goes to Court, the BCA have to show that the article defaes them, ie lowers their reputation. If this is established, then it id for Simon Singh to show that a defence (privilege, fair comment, justification) applies. This reverse burden of proof, and the legal costs risks of losing, means that libel litigation is often used by charlatans and crooks.

    The Court room is not really the correct venue for assessing scientific claims (outside the specialised area of patent litigation).

    I predict the BCA are not going to come out of this matter well.

  4. Interesting to note that not one practitioner of genuine medicine sued Andrew Wakefield, or Melanie Phillips, over the MMR scare that really endangered lives. Spot the difference, as they say...

  5. Interesting to note that not one practitioner of genuine medicine sued Andrew Wakefield, or Melanie Phillips, over the MMR scare that really endangered lives. Spot the difference, as they say...

  6. Unity over at the Ministry of Truth asks an interesting question: Can you libel woo? She has some plausible insights into what might be driving the chiropractors' agenda in this action.

    "Conceivable, the public kicking that another bunch of woo merchants - homeopaths - has gotten over the last year or so may have spooked the BCA but, casting around for information presents a rather more enticing and plausible explanation as to why they might want to prevent the publication of adverse commentary in the press and any kind of critical public debate surrounding the efficacy and risks of chiropractic…

    …and to see that explanation first hand one need only take a short trip over to the website of NICE the National Institute for Clinical Evidence, where we find that one of things they’re working on is a new set of clinical guidelines for the treatement of non-specific lower back pain.

    Yep, its the key to the NHS gravy train. If NICE approves the use of chiropractic manipulation as part of the treatment regime for lower back pain then the door opens to chiropractors taking referrals from the NHS under contracts in which the NHS pays their fees and before you can say ‘vested interest’ you’ve got a whole bunch of chiropractors on what is effectively the public payroll. Little wonder then that just about the last thing that the BCA want right now is science journalists asking all sorts of awkward questions like ‘is there any evidence to show that it works?’ and ‘what kind of risks might patients face when referred for a course of woo?’. [Emphasis added.]"

    All of which does sound plausible.

  7. I wonder if they got the idea of using lawsuits to bully critics from the Scientologists?