Simon Singh Loses Preliminary Hearing in Chiropractics Case May 8, 2009

Simon Singh Loses Preliminary Hearing in Chiropractics Case

I haven’t seen many articles or blog postings on this but it’s too important to go unnoticed.

Writer Simon Singh wrote an article one year ago trashing the false science of chiropractics.

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

… if spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

A powerful article from a masterful science writer.

One important point to make is that Singh is not saying the quacks who practice chiropractics are deceivers on purpose. They actually believe this stuff works — except it doesn’t.

The BCA didn’t care — they sued Singh for libel.

Yesterday, a judge heard the case and made a surprising ruling: he ruled against Singh.

Apparently, his use of the word “bogus” in the article supposedly implies that the BCA is being dishonest on purpose.

But Singh doesn’t believe that and he cannot prove that. That’s not what the article was about, anyway.

In light of this ruling the matter may not go to trial. From Singh’s standing he does not believe the BCA had intent to deceive and therefore cannot prove this.

Mr Justice Eady refused an appeal on the judgement… Singh still will not stand down, and intends to pursue his defence by going to the court of appeals. If this is rejected he may then go to Strasbourg and appeal to the European Human Rights Commission.

Costs of £23,000, relating to the preliminary hearing, have been awarded to the BCA.

That’s a sad victory for the pseudoscientists. I hope Singh wins an appeal. Someone needs to expose chiropractics and its bogus claims.

Plenty more information on why chiropractics is absurd can be found at Chirobase.

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yoo

    It’s a sad day when bogus claims can masquerade as the truth with impunity while bogus claims can’t even be called bogus. Not to mention the court completely ignoring a dictionary definition of bogus as simply “not true”.

  • This is disgusting mistake by the judge. Simon is a good man and I’m sure will eventually win this, at great personal cost to himself. I wonder why the judge would make such a bad ruling? Why is he so biassed against the truth that chiro is very dangerous?

  • Lost Left Coaster

    My understanding is that British libel laws are really harsh against the person that is accused of libel. Seems to me that it has a stifling effect on free speech. The threshold for proving libel should be really, really high; after all, free speech necessarily means that negative things will be said about other people and institutions, and even in cases where these things aren’t fair, it’s still not necessarily going to be libel. Of course, in this case it seems that what Singh said was perfectly fair!

  • Randy

    I will always be in debt to a chiropractor. She looked at my x-ray and saw what the “real” doctors missed (turned out to be 2 protruding discs.

  • Richard Wade

    Maybe the judge has back pain and a chiropractor. If their pain is relieved, people believe in whatever treatment they think did the trick, even if it is simply coincidental.

  • Nick

    My understanding is that British libel laws are really harsh against the person that is accused of libel.

    Lost Left Coaster — Yes, British libel laws are different from the U.S. laws. In some ways, they are tougher on the accused, but they are actually somewhat easier for the accused in others.

    The problem arises with the word “bogus,” as the judge in the post above identifies. If used in a story, the term implies a lack of legitimacy.

    Now, while I agree that most, if not all, of chiropractic medicine is questionable at best, the nature of “legitimacy” is broad. In the U.S. as is in England, there is a governmental body that oversees accreditation for chiropractic schools. Often, medical doctors will refer back pain patients to chiropractors. It could be argued that the writer of the article ignored instances of legitimacy while claiming chiropractic medicine was “bogus.” In this instance, truth wasn’t necessarily and unequivocally on his side.

  • I hope Singh wins. Even when they’re “fixing” your back they can mess you up but good. I’ll go a step further than Singh and say that they’re charlatans and liars. One chiropractor told me that the reason I had back pain was because my left leg was two inches shorter than my right. Another told me that I had two slipped vertebrae.

    I had a physio therapist measure my legs properly (they’re fine) and x-rays of my spine show that there are no slipped vertebrae. Funnily enough, a friend of mine went to a different chiropractor and he told her that the reason she had back pain was because her left leg was two inches shorter than her right. It must be something they’re taught to tell their patients in “school”.

  • jemand

    …70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions….

    does that mean they have some success treating back pain? I imagine it’d help at least as much as a strong massage, might even give some lasting pain relief, but it’s ridiculous to think it can solve things unrelated to back pain.

  • Evinfuilt

    I believe studies show same improvement as massage. Personally I would never let a Chiropractor near my back, after working as an Athletic Trainer in HS/College I saw way too many students get screwed up by them and sent to an actual doctor (all because they felt sore and someone recommended the woo.)

  • @ Randy:

    Your comment illuminates an important part of this proceeding. Singh is not claiming that all of chiropractic medicine is “bogus” (although one could build a case to support that). He is just claiming that there is no evidence to support claims made my chiropractors that they can successfully treat non-back related problems. There are chiropractors out there who claim to be able to cure anything from a hangnail to cancer by manipulating the back. These “doctors” cannot support those claims, and by law in most countries – including the UK – should not be making them. Whether or not they believe the claims is (or should be) irrelevant.

  • medussa

    There will always be quacks in any profession, and some of the claims made by chiropractors will be insane and fraudulent. But to therefore claim that chiropractic is a hoax in general is a pretty far leap. The research Singh claims: do we have any idea if it’s exhaustive? Representative? I’m sure I could find 70 “scientific” claims that evolution is a hoax, that doesn’t make it true. Personally, chiropractic has been a great benefit in my life, and I’m skeptical of claims that it’s all a hoax…

  • Anticontrame

    Homeopathy isn’t bogus either. I hear it can be very effective in treating dehydration.

  • MH

    Off topic, but related. Simon Singh wrote “The Code Book” which is an awesome book.

  • medussa

    MH: That’s only if you drink it. What about those people who inhale homeopathic remedies?

  • @medussa:

    Did you even read any of the other comments? Specifically, the one immediately above yours? Singh isn’t saying that all chiropractic is bogus. Don’t condemn him for the wrong thing.

  • medussa

    In fact, Paul, I did. It was Hemant who states chiropractic is a hoax, right after he posts Singh’s statements and research, thereby implying a connection between the 2.

    And I didn’t condemn Singh: I merely asked whether anyone knows how exhaustive his referenced research is. I know nothing about this Singh guy, so I don’t know whether he’s a quack, or an otherwise respectable researcher. So I asked.
    I still stand by my post.

error: Content is protected !!