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BCA Drops Its Defamation Lawsuit Against Science Writer Simon Singh

Chiro org has been following this story since it’s inception.

Source Mail Online

The British Chiropractic Association has dropped its defamation case against science writer Simon Singh, days after he won a legal battle for the right to criticise what he regarded as ‘bogus’ science.

The BCA today served notice of discontinuance of its action against Dr Singh, after its successful claim suing him for libel was overturned by the Court of Appeal on April 1.

Dr Singh had said claims by some chiropracters that they could help treat conditions such as colic, ear infections and feeding problems in babies and toddlers were ‘bogus’ and without a ‘jot of evidence’ to support them.

The Court of Appeal held that what Dr Singh had written was a statement of opinion which was backed by reasons. The BCA said the Court of Appeal ruling had prompted its decision in a statement.

‘While it still considers that the article was defamatory of the BCA, the [recent appeal] decision provides Dr Singh with a defence such that the BCA has taken the view that it should withdraw to avoid further legal costs being incurred by either side,’ it said.

‘As those who have followed the publicity surrounding this case will know, Simon Singh has said publicly that he had never intended to suggest that the BCA had been dishonest. The BCA accepts this statement, which goes some way to vindicating its position’. Dr Singh’s article had appeared on a page marked ‘Comment and Debate’ in The Guardian in April 2008.

In it, he criticised chiropractic and the BCA’s claims that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying ‘even though there is not a jot of evidence’.

The case became a cause celebre for campaigners for reform of the libel law after Mr Justice Eady, dealing at first instance with issues of meaning and whether the words were fact or comment, held that they were defamatory – the ‘plainest allegation of dishonesty’ – and amounted to a verifiable statement of fact.

Solicitor Robert Dougans, of law firm Bryan Cave, which represented Dr Singh, said: ‘To have won this case for Simon is the proudest moment of my career, but if we had the libel laws we ought to have I would never have met Simon at all.

‘Until we have a proper public interest defence scientists and writers are going to have to carry on making the unenviable choice of either shying away from hard-hitting debate, or paying through the nose for the privilege of defending it.

He said the only issue which remained to be settled was the amount of his costs Dr Singh would be able to recover from the BCA, and how much he would have to pay himself.

It is believed that Dr Singh’s costs amount to some £200,000. ‘However well this process goes, Simon is likely to be out of pocket by about £20,000,’ Mr Dougans said.

This – and two years of lost earnings, which he can never recover – is the price he has paid for writing an article criticising the BCA for making claims the Advertising Standards Agency has ruled can no longer be made.’

‘In the game of libel, even winning is costly and stressful.’

More on this story from MacLeans.ca

6 comments to BCA Drops Its Defamation Lawsuit Against Science Writer Simon Singh

  • Embarrassing.

    You don’t sue somebody to get them to say “uncle”, and that is essentially what the BCA did here. They bullied a bully, and ended up looking worse in the end.

    I think Singh’s attacks against the profession were unwarranted, and unfair. The media attack against the profession and association following the lawsuit certainly did more harm than good.

    A positive campaign for chiropractic would have been much more effective. Following the suit to the end would have been better as well.

    This result only solidifies Singh’s statements.

  • Seattle

    I beg to differ. Singh is a professional science writer, a notch above the rest of the pack, and he certainly understood the meaning of the word bogus when he wrote his article. He should be held accountable.

    Further, saying that there is not a “jot” of evidence is inaccurate. Case studies are low on the evidence chain, but they ARE in the hierarchy of evidence. If he had just said the evidence was low-quality, I would have been the first to agree with him.

    I don’t blame the BCA for cutting and running after this ruling, why should they throw good money after bad? However, there is a downside to this controversy. Now every self-important science wanna-be intellectual will be taking new pot shots at our profession. Just when the Quackbusters were running out of gas, Singh had to throw new fuel on the embers.

  • The more ridiculous part of this situation is that the evidence, which the Advertising Standards Agency used to determine that Chiropractors could no longer claim to help these various conditions is Simon Singh’s statements. Then in turn part of Simon Singh’s defense is that the Advertising Standards Agency no longer allows Chiropractors to make these claims!

    I am disgusted at the direction, which this case is migrating the profession in the UK. They are allowing the Advertising Standards Agency bureaucrats define the Chiropractic profession. The educational standard in terms of Chiropractic principles was questionable at best in the UK schools as they already focused the education into a pigeon hole of musculo-skeletal complaints. This ruling will give fuel to the fire in the schools to further entrench their philosophic position that Chiropractors should only treat musculo-skeletal complaints and only until the succession of symptomatology.

    I take care of many people from the UK that are visiting Spain on holidays and it is very difficult to explain why the Chiropractors in the UK only treat them until their symptoms are gone while I recommend taking care of their spine and nervous system for life. There are only a handful of Chiropractors in the UK that I feel comfortable in referring family members to and some of them have had to change their title after persecution from the GCC.

    I thought that this case was finally going to bring to light in the UK all of the wonderful research, which has been done for Chiropractic and it’s ability to help people regardless of the health condition they suffer from, e.g. the research last year from Chicago in relationship to blood pressure, but now as a result of the BCA capitulating at the first road block they will never again be given such an opportunity to display all of the available evidence. This was the time for them to get on the soap box and scream but instead they have crawled back into their model of musculo-skeletal mentality. Of course, this should be no surprise as the BCA is the musculo-skeletal organization in the UK – they never should have been leading this fight!! It would be like the NACM leading this fight in the US! They had already decided to give up even before the fight began because they were never fully vested in the principles or any research that actually supports Chiropractic.

    The classic evidence of this is that the head of the research department for the biggest school in the UK (AECC), Dr. Alan Breen, refuses to introduce any of the research from Chiropractic Biophysics into the curriculum. Whether you like Chiropractic Biophysics or not is not the point. Dr. Alan Breen is the head of the research department for the AECC and is the lead instructor in the Chiropractic Science department and is intentionally filtering the research which the students of the AECC are allowed to be introduced to. This is because accepting this research would totally change the direction of the profession within the UK. Dr. Alan Breen is called upon by the GCC to introduce evidence which would either support or refute evidence for duration of care which is appropriate for recommending. Most recently the GCC decided that a recommendation of 3 adjustments per week for 12 weeks is over utilization based on the evidence provided by Dr. Alan Breen and his cronies. All they had to do was look at a shred of evidence from CBP to show that this level of intense care in combination with exercise and traction was required to create measurable structural changes to the to the spine. So, essentially through their intentional efforts to ignore evidence they have now created laws that make it impossible to utilize one of the most researched and published methodologies in Chiropractic today.

    Shame on them – it was their moral obligation to review the evidence and to provide an accurate portrayal of the available evidence and instead they provided they personal beliefs. Personal beliefs are supposed to be set aside for the purpose of scientific advancement but unfortunately most scientists (supposed scientists) fail to leave their emotional attachments to their belief systems at the door.

    The BCA, the AECC and the GCC all got exactly what they wanted. The Chiropractic profession in the UK is now officially a limited therapy for the treatment of acute low back pain and migraine (not even headache) because this is the only evidence which they provided. Who suffers from their laziness or intentional omission? All of the people of the UK and the rest of the Chiropractic profession in Europe because they hold the majority position on the ECU council as they have the greatest number of representatives.

    I only hope that the efforts of the new Chiropractic College in Barcelona can bring some balance back into the profession in Europe in the future.

    Chiropractically yours,

    Dr. Pat

  • Hi Frank,

    I think we are actually in agreement. I’ve been real busy with our new baby so haven’t had a chance to respond in a timely manner.

    He should be held accountable, but in the court of public opinion the chiropractic profession has been getting lambasted since his comments were made and the lawsuit happened.

    I haven’t even spoken about the trashing chiropractors have taken in their media over this, and Singh has been portrayed as an innocent man in search of the truth(or dispelling myths.)

    If the BCA were actually interested in protecting the profession, but were unwilling to see it to the end, they should have used this time to promote chiropractic more, and prove what Singh was discounting. Testimonials, anecdotal evidence, trials, whatever…but not by getting their butts handed to them in the court of public opinion and the actual court system.

    I do agree with the throwing good money after bad statement, but that should have been thought of before they tried to make him say uncle.


    RESPONSE from Frank:

    Congrats on the new baby!

  • Patrick N

    Why are you giving this guy coleman room on your site? contact the Chiropractic Association Of Ireland and ask them why they couldn’t give a letter of good standing toward his membership application of the chiropractic association in Spain.


    RESPONSE from Frank:

    The Comments section is available for our readers to air their thoughts. We only delete comments that are malicious or ridiculous. If you have an accusation against this person, please state your facts plainly.

  • Whilst this process was bound to occur, it seems like such a waste of resources, time and energy by two very intelligent groups of people.

    The fundamental flaw to the argument about the Advertising Standards Authority is they want evidence to prove that a healing art can cure a condition. Most medication does not provide this but can be distributed throughout medical doctors surgeries by the thoudands every day.

    Chiropractors should never be making claims to cure a condition because that would contradict the natural laws of healing and physiology. The body heals itself, it is as simple as that.

    Medication does not cure anything. The body has to utilise its resources to cure itself. Whether it is cancer or the flu, the body has to ultimately do the work. Modern medicine does have interventions that can help, but the majority of them are unproven and can actaully cause more harm than good.

    Any surgeon would state the same as they rely on the body’s recuperative powers to heal the wound where the surgeon has cut. The body heals the wound around the stitches. The healing starts after the operation has been completed. Surgery can be life saving BUT it is what goes on after the trauma of surgery that is really magical. This process of healing is something that is missed in the whole argument about treatment of conditions.

    I believe Simon Singh has an argument that needs to be listened to. It is a shame such a reputable scientist was not embraced by the profession. His understanding of science and inductive thinking is valuable as we move into an era where people want to see the proof.

    Unfortunately the British Chiropractic Profession has made an enemy, when they should really be trying to engage with people like Simon Singh and seek his help and advice.

    The British Chiropractic Association does not represent Chiropractic in the UK, it simply represents a percentage of chiropractors. There are many Chiropractors who are disgruntled and do not like the way the profession is being steered by beaucracy.

    Chiropractic is very effective in helping the body to eliminate all kinds of conditions. Science is always discovering new things about health and healing. Why should we wait for science to catch up before Chiropractors can share their experiences to help those people who are suffering.

    If Chiropractic helps people with conditions and saves them needless suffering, returns them to work faster, reduces the amount of medication and surgery they need and significantly lowers the burden on the NHS, let it be. Why do we spend so much time on arguring when we should be helping people get well and stay well.

    When arguments like this occur, it makes me wonder if any of those people in the heat of the argument actually know how it feels to have pain, suffer from a disease or sickness.

    We need to bring this whole thing back to the needs of the people. Unfortunately the pharmaceutical companies have done exactly this: produced all kinds of medication to provide a quick fix, BUT do not actually help the person with a long term solution. Therefore more people than in recorded history are taking some kind of drug for an ailment. Regretebly, they are no healthier for it. They are simply masking over the symptom.

    It makes far more sense to address the cause and Chiropractic does that. A Principled Chiropractor removes the interference to the nervous system and lets the body do what is designed to – to maintain itself. Just like good regular exercise, nutrition and basic hygiene have been proven to help someone with their health, it is only a matter of time when regular spinal health care to take care of your nervous system will become a normal healthy habit too. Brushing your teeth was not considered to be normal years ago. We have been well educated and now realise the many benefits of keeping our teeth healthy. Oneday people will be educated about why it is so imperative that you keep your spine and nervous system healthy too.

    If the Chiropractic Profession had the same amount of money that the Big Pharma companies had to invest into research, I have no doubt we would be not be engaging in such an argument that wastes resources and money.

    We need to be spending time, energy and money into helping people, not fighting. Whilst the BCA ans Singh case had to happen, upon reflection, what is the outcome?

    Asking people what results they have had and life changing experiences they have witnessed under Chiropractic care provides valuable evidence and insight into what is truly effective.

    For the truth and common sense to prevail.

    Dr. Christian Farthing

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