Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Update on Chiropractice and Libel

I've been meaning to put together something about the situation with Simon Singh and the BCA as referred to in an earlier post, but I think this article:

Science-Based Medicine

does a much better job than I could. It explains beautifully how the BCA have done more to discredit themselves than anyone else could have done.


Simon Singh is a science journalist who last year wrote an article in the Guardian critical of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for promoting chiropractic treatment for certain childhood ailments. Singh characterized these treatments as “bogus” because they lack evidence to back up claims for clinical efficacy. The BCA responded by suing Singh for libel. In the English court system the person being sued for libel is essentially guilty until proven innocent, and even successfully defending oneself can be ruinously expensive. Therefore suing for libel in English court is a very successful strategy for silencing critics.

This case resulted in a bit of a backlash against the BCA, who were accused of silencing legitimate and very necessary public scientific debate regarding the safety and efficacy of medical interventions. The BCA could have simply responded by providing evidence to back up their claims, and the Guardian even offered them space to do so, but instead they sued.

Part of this backlash is a movement, supported by many scientific organizations, to keep libel laws out of science.

Recently the BCA has responded to this backlash with a statement and a list of studies they claim provides the evidence Singh said was lacking.

....snip ....

The BCA’s list of evidence for these four clinical claims is not impressive. The best they have to offer is a few weak and poorly designed studies. They also ignore larger better trials where available that are negative.

A more thorough assessment of the evidence for chiropractic treatment for asthma and colic is reveals evidence for lack of efficacy. For otitis media and nocturnal enuresis there is a lack of evidence for efficacy.

Despite the state of the evidence, the BCA feels they are justified in promoting chiropractic for these pediatric indications. The reader can decide if the term “bogus” applies.


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