Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Before every action ask yourself - Will this bring more monkeys on my back?" - Chiropractors react to legal decision

So said Alfred A Montapert. The full quote is:
Before every action ask yourself - will this bring more monkeys on my back? Will the result of my action be a blessing or a heavy burden?

His words seem extremely relevant in light of the recent chiropractic debacle. In short, the British Chiropractic Association is suing science writer Simon Singh for remarks made about the lack of evidence for chiropractic. This has led to the searchlight of skepticism being shone in every corner of the chiro world. Their actions have lead to many more monkeys on their back and the result is a heavy burden for the chiropractic community.

In some astonishing developments brought to light by The Quackometer, Gimpyblog and The Lay Scientist via chiropracticlive.com, McTimoney Chiropractic Association (a chiro representation body) has issued an email telling all McTimoney Chiropractors to remove their websites, remove any claims of cure/help for which there is not evidence (i.e. practically of it), along with the following chiller:
IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, YOU MAY BE AT RISK FROM PROSECUTION. IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, THE MCA MAY NOT BE ABLE TO ASSIST YOU WITH ANY PROCEEDINGS.

The McTimoney website itself now only has a basic holding page.

A McTimoney Chiropractor, Jo Hanstead, used to have this page on her website (note the reference to period pains, debunked in this blogpost), the others have a similar lack of evidence:

It now reads like this.

Emails shown to this blog from Jo Hanstead regarding chiropractic help with arthritis included the following information:
I usually find that treatment can relieve some/all symptoms, depending of course exactly what is going on. Most people with hip problems have a pelvis that is way out of balance. Balancing the pelvis changes the dynamics at the hip joint, and improves the nerve supply.

I read this to be a strong endorsement of chiropractic for arthritis, for which there is no evidence. When questioned about the evidence, this was extremely telling response:
Trouble is, complementary medicine does not have the money pharmaceutical companies have, nor are theralpes [sic] amenable to double blind trials, hence going at it by research publiched [sic] may not get you a realistic viewpoint.
So the claim is that chiropractic can relieve the symptoms of arthritis, but evidence is not available because of lack of funds alog with special pleading that double blind trials are not suitable. Utter nonsense. There are many, many double-blind, sham-treatment controlled, research papers into chiropractic and other manipulation therapies. This reply is just a smokescreen to try and disguise the fact that the evidence is weak to non-existant.

The various chiropractic associations are now wishing they had thought more carefully about the fall-out of the BCA's decision to sue Simon Singh. The number of monkeys is increasing every day.

EDIT: Zeno has also covered the story here, DC is covering the story here, JDC's coverage is here and Frank @ SciencePunk has posted his post here.


BPSDB

8 comments:

  1. Another PR disaster! I wonder if the MCA uses the same PR company as the BCA?

    See my take on the response to my 523 complaints to the GCC:

    Zeno's Blog: Don't panic!, Mr Mainwaring!

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  2. Jo Hanstead's page that you referenced is still there. From the current link that you gave, which seems to be to a home page, click on "symptoms" and you will find the page about period pains and so on.

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  3. CHeers Zeno - have added you link above.

    Rolfe - I still get a Page Not Found message from the link given. Her homepage now also has a broken picture link given. Pretty sure it's down.

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  4. Recent events are serving to make Jack of Kent look rather prescient. He did point out last August that things might not go the way of the BCA.

    I also note that he recently pointed out that:
    "...the BCA have perhaps "ruined" it for other complementary and alternative health practitioners (and for those in other sectors) who had used the threat of a libel writ as a "legitimate" way of dealing with unwelcome criticism in the fields of science and public health. I wonder how popular the BCA are in some quarters." Misconceived Claim.

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  5. I just looked at Jo Hanstead's pages - it's still up - and under Symptons she still claims to treat whiplash, period pain, and infertility. I think she's ignored the McTimoney Assocation's letter.

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  6. Thanks DaveP - the website does seem to be back up. I wonder was the whole thing an elaborate hoax?

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  7. Seems to be "closed for updating" now.

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  8. Who I am is largely irrelevant, and indeed so are most of my thoughts. Nonetheless, it winds me up that I am supposed to swallow half-truths and untruths relating to scientific claims emanating directly from media sources (could that be from Simon Singh then?) and indirectly from people who haven't a clue what they're talking about (could that be Prof Ernst?). Look, you've got me started.

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