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Simon Singh & Prof. Ernst – The Truth About Chiropractic Therapy Grant Jacobs Sep 06

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trick-or-treatment-singh-ernst-cover

Some readers may recall that some time ago I wrote about Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractors’ Association. Simon Singh and Professor Ernst are author of a book, Trick or Treatment, which presents the background and evidence, or rather lack of it, for a number of suspect therapeutic practices including acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic. This case, among others, has sparked a demand for libel reform in England.

Those interested in this legal case or ’natural’ remedies, might like to learn that chapter 4, The Truth About Chiropractic Therapy, is available free on-line (click on the book icon to start the presentation).

There’s 50 pages of reading there for you! Judging by the ’temp’ in the URL, this is available only temporarily.*

You’ll need a fairly large screen in order to read it clearly. It’s not particularly clear on my  laptop, which has a approx. 13″ screen, but it is fine on the desktop machine. (My impression is that the issue is more that the fonts presented in Flash are poorly anti-aliased, if at all, than the small size of the text.)

Footnotes

* I haven’t been able to locate details, I’m short on time to keep looking. Sorry about that.


Other articles on Code for life:

British Chiropractors’ Association drops case against Simon Singh

Earthquake, South Island, New Zealand

Preserving endangered species – of gut microbes

Career pathways for NZ science Ph.D. students

Have your say on the development of a Natural Health Products Bill

I remember because my DNA was methylated

Vitalism ideology in chiropractic advertising Grant Jacobs Jul 25

9 Comments

A dissection of an advertisement in which a local chiropractor tries to make vitalism sound credible

It’s been a very long time since I have taken the local chiropractor to task over one of his advertisements. I’m not able to give a full dose of Respectful Insolence in Orac’s inimitable style, but the chiropractor’s latest effort is begging to be deconstructed.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

(Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

In his most recent advertisement (see lower right, page 5) he is selling that vitalism is not only credible (it’s not), but also implying it’s increasingly gaining acceptance (which it certainly isn’t and isn’t going to any time soon).

What’s strikes me isn’t the vitalism angle, it’s that the reasoning used reminds me very much of creationists trying to dismiss the theory of evolution.

Let’s back up a little and start at the beginning.

He starts by asserting – not demonstrating or questioning, asserting – that vitalism exists:

The first chiropractors called this special nature of the body its ’Innate Intelligence […]

Note how this slips in an assertion ’this special nature of the body’: vitalism is assumed to be true from the onset.

It resembles something I’ve often seen in creationist arguments: founding assumptions that assert or imply at the onset what they want to prove true, making their whole argument fallacious.

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British Chiropractors’ Association drops case against Simon Singh Grant Jacobs Apr 15

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Simon Singh (Source: wikipedia)

Simon Singh (Source: wikipedia)

A few minutes ago I learnt from scibling Ken Perrott that the British Chiropractors’ Association (BCA) have served a Notice of Discontinuance, meaning that they are dropping their libel case against Simon Singh.

Great news!

For those wishing to follow events, the Jack of Kent blog is probably the best place to do this. They currently note there is no news on the costs front. (Libel suits are by all accounts expensive and Singh will no doubt want to recover his costs.)

It would be good to see this encourage chiropractors to move towards looking to at scientific evidence, rather than making claims and when challenged reacting by accusing those questioning their practices of defamation or the like. (I won’t be holding my breath though.)

Updated news as it comes in is in the Footnotes below.

HT: Ken Perrott.

Footnotes

(I am adding to these as news comes in.)

9:20pm: Nothing on Simon Singh’s twitter account about this news. (Probably busy with wild celebrations?!)

9:23pm: There is further comment at the Lay Scientist (via Allen Green’s (aka Jack of Kent) twitter.)

9:34pm: A good article on paragraphs 26 & 27 of the appeal ruling, which deal with is meant by evidence in the context of the case and some of the evidence presented, respectively, is offered by guest writer Stephen Curry on the Jack of Kent blog.

9:45pm: The BBC has ’finally’ caught up.

10:26pm: A press release is now available from the BCA (PDF file). I’ll leave you to your own judgement of what they’ve said…

10:55pm: Ben Goldacre is off to write his Guardian piece on the news. I’m looking forward to reading it. Give ’em ’ell.

I’m tossing up whether or not to write a word-by-word dissection of my thoughts on that BCA statement… it’s heading into the wee hours here.

11:23pm: Simon Singh tweets that it’s perhaps appropriate that the case ends during what may be Chiropractic Awareness Week. (If you think this is an oblique citation, you’re right: I’m struggling to find websites announcing it. It’s not a very ’aware’ awareness week. Also, the dates they offer on this web page are puzzling. Two days doesn’t constitute a week and why would someone announce support on the day the ’week’ ends?)

11:38pm: Simon Singh tweets: ’Hats off to the BCA for helping raise awareness of the need for radical #libelreform’.

11:50pm: The Guardian, the newspaper that Simon Singh wrote his comment piece in that the BCA objected to, has an article by Sarah Boseley (Health Editor). Towards the lower portion are remarks about recovery of costs. Singh’s solicitor remarks that Singh is likely to be 20,000 pounds and two year’s lost income out of pocket, even if they do well at recovering costs. Even the winner loses, it seems, at least financially. I find intriguing, though, the remark right at the end that the BCA never directed any complaint to the Guardian itself.

Midnight: I’m calling it quits for the night. Feel free to comment, or wander around sciblogs. We’ve ~30 bloggers here writing on all sorts of things! I’ve provided a few links to some of my earlier articles below.

8:15am (pre-work session…): Legal writer Allen Green’s Jack of Kent blog has ‘what does this mean’ article.

8:20am: The Quakometer notes, among other things, that the BCA statement puts it’s reputation ahead of the interests of it’s members and customers.  (My own reading of the BCA statement is similar: I suspect it’s intended to be ’sold’ to their members as a partial victory in an effort to justify issuing the law suit to it’s members. They’re trying to ’spin’ the outcome.)

8:25am: Forgot to earlier add that Simon Singh’s first tweet after the news when public was the he was tied up feeding is new son:

Just finished bottle feeding Hari with top quality expressed milk – just about to change him. I will properly twitter soon.#libelreform

Note also the footnote to the The Quackometer’s article on this subject. Singh tweets that he apologies for the lack of tweets, but he’s dashing between interviews. No need to apologise!

Singh original article, the one that sparked the BCA case, is now back up on the Guardian website.

Over on Nature Network, on Austin Elliott’s Not ranting… honestly blog, Austin Elliott has posted a better link to the Chiropractic Awareness Week has been posted.

Simon Singh has a blog article up on the Guardian website: A pivotal moment for free speech in Britain.

8:25pm: If you want to see a lovely photograph of Simon’s infant son (wearing libel reform T-shirt!) and read some further follow-on, head over to Open Parachute.

Allen Green of the Jack of Kent blog, recommends an illustrated story-book of the BCA case.


Other articles on the Simon Singh case on Code for life:

Breaking news: Singh wins appeal in chiropractic case

Simon Singh, leaving job to deal with chiropractic legal case

Chiropractic libel suit snagged by its own ruling body?

Other articles on Code for life (not about the libel case!):

Earthquake warning systems (and twitterers)

The iPad: a cat toy?

A plastic ocean

Aww, crap.

Breaking news: Singh wins appeal in chiropractic case Grant Jacobs Apr 01

8 Comments

Simon Singh (Source: wikipedia)

Simon Singh (Source: wikipedia)

This news awaits formal confirmation, but early reports are that the Court of Appeal judges found that:

  • Singh’s assertion that there was “not a jot of evidence” that chiropractic could treat certain conditions was “a statement of opinion, and one backed by reasons”.
  • “bogus”, which Justice Eady defined as being an allegation of dishonesty on the part of the British Chiropractic Association, was “more emphatic than assertive” – in other words, merely reinforcing the idea that there was no evidence.

(Source: Heresy Corner and others.)

This is not the completion of the case, but a right to appeal the libel charge laid by the BCA (British Chiropractic Association).

Other reports describe this as in essence the Court of Appeal accepting Singh’s right to have an honest opinion on a subject, i.e. ’the right to rely on the defence of “fair comment” in a libel action being brought against him’, as reported by the BBC.

The Independent and Simon Singh’s former newspaperThe Guardian, report:

Mr Singh described the ruling as “brilliant”, but added: “It is extraordinary this action has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a few words.”

I’d have to say ’indeed.’ It is a rather expensive way to determine someone is merely stating their opinion.

Addendum

Please see my comments for additional information as it arises. (You are most welcome to contribute.)

HT: A run of ’hits’ on my previous article on this suggested something was afoot. Good news to hear.


Other articles on Code for Life:

Simon Singh, leaving job to deal with chiropractic legal case

Chiropractic libel suit snagged by its own ruling body?

Homeopathy check-up: Not in the health system, disclaimers on labels

Homeopathic remedies in NZ pharmacies

Lancet formally retracts Wakesfield paper

Aww, crap.

Simon Singh, leaving job to deal with chiropractic legal case Grant Jacobs Mar 13

10 Comments

Science writer and journalist Simon Singh, who faces a libel suit from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for writing that a number of chiropractic claims of treatment of disorders unrelated to the spinal cord such as asthma were ’bogus’ has written in his column that it will be the last. He is resigning his job in order to give the libel suit the BCA has served on him full attention.

Simon Singh (Source: wikipedia)

Simon Singh (Source: wikipedia)

I recently pointed out an extensive review of the evidence for and against chiropractic treatment that showed that the claims that Singh objected as unsupported, are unsupported.

Another survey of the research literature for chiropractic treatments, that of Ernst (available free from the British Medical Journal), has an extensive collection of follow-on letters. The author, replying to the early letters, points out that neither his article nor the libel case are about safety; in moving onto safety in his reply, he concludes: ’Applying the precautionary principle, one should therefore not recommend chiropractic but warn patients not to use this form of therapy.’

Surely any sincere business would respond by simply pointing to evidence backing their original claims. Not so the BCA. The BCA was offered an opportunity to write a rebuttal in the Guardian (the newspaper that published Singh’s original article), but declined, seemingly preferring to legally bludgeon the writer, rather than reaffirm readers of the accuracy of their claims and the validity of the particular chiropractic practices referred to. (Or withdraw them.)

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Chiropractic libel suit snagged by its own ruling body? Grant Jacobs Mar 06

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The UK’s ruling body for chiropractors, the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), has declared the same claims that the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) have charged science writer Simon Singh as falsely claiming as ’bogus’ are contrary to evidence. Or, some would say, actually bogus.

u-johannesburg-spineAccording to the GCC’s ’What is the GCC’ page, ’it is a criminal offence for anyone to describe themselves as any sort of chiropractor [in the UK] without being registered with the GCC’ and that one of their aims is to ’set the standards of chiropractic education, conduct and practice’ (my emphasis).

I’m no lawyer, but on the face of it the BCA have two obvious choices: pull out of the libel case against Simon Singh as a consequence of the GCC’s findings, or part ranks with the GCC and sue their own ruling body in order to be consistent with continuing with their suit against Simon Singh.

Although (highly) unlikely, particularly as they are almost certainly legally obligated to work within the constraints of the GCC, the latter option would be an entertaining dog fight.

The news of the GCC’s findings originate from an article from the Guardian by Martin Robbins that scibling Alison Campbell emailed me and earlier reported earlier tonight. In his article, Robbins claims that an up-shot of the law suit against Simon Singh is that:

A staggering one in four chiropractors in Britain are now under investigation for allegedly making misleading claims in advertisements, according to figures from the General Chiropractic Council.

The details for the interested are in Robbins’ article, but the essence is that the BCA is swamped with claims and it’s costing them.

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The End of Chiropractic? Grant Jacobs Dec 12

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Science-based Medicine reviews a research paper in a chiropractic journal showing that a key chiropractic claim–treatment of subluxation–has no merit. What’s new is this includes chiropractors rejecting this central claim of chiropractic treatment. Progress, perhaps?

Some of you will know that I have previously written about a local chiropractor’s claims in advertisements.

In these I have avoided dealing with bone manipulation itself, as I feel that this is best addressed by a spinal specialist, which I am not. (In my previous articles I wrote about the logic of the claims made, in particular claims outside of spinal treatment. Chiropractic claims (good background in this link) include that treatment of the spine will address a excessively wide range of conditions and illness far removed from spinal origins. The breadth of the claims, their lack of connection with the spine and lack of evidence supporting them, to be very polite, make the claims suspect.)

This paper in a chiropractic journal rejects a core claim of chiropractic treatment, treatment of subluxation as a treatment for (supposed) secondary conditions.

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