A science writer who is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association is to fight on after a preliminary judgment against him was overturned on appeal today.
Simon Singh was sued by the BCA after he wrote an article in the Guardian criticising the association for supporting members who claim that chiropractic treatments – which involve manipulation of the spine – can treat children's colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying.
Singh described the treatments, for which he said there is not a lot of evidence, as "bogus" and criticised the BCA for "happily promoting" them.
The whole case has underscored and drawn attention to the fact that scientific scrutiny and frank language should take precedence over libel laws. In the court of (scientific) inquiry, if your claims are without merit, you should be more careful about making them.
And in case you think there was any question of the quacks' intentions, the British Chiropractic Associate sent a pointed warning to all of its members:
Date: 8 June 2009 09:12:18 BDT
Subject: FURTHER URGENT ACTION REQUIRED!
If you are reading this, we assume you have also read the urgent email we sent you last Friday. If you did not read it, READ IT VERY CAREFULLY NOW and - this is most important – ACT ON IT. This is not scaremongering. We judge this to be a real threat to you and your practice.
Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:
The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is as follows.
1. If you have a website, take it down NOW.
When you have done that, please let us know preferably by email or by phone. This will save our valuable time chasing you to see whether it has been done.When you have done that, please let us know preferably by email or by phone. This will save our valuable time chasing you to see whether it has been done.
So, do you think they have anything to hide, there, folks?
And remember, these people were advocating spinal manipulations on infants. You think that isn't a bit barbaric?