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Judge ‘baffled’ by Simon Singh chiropractic case

By Index on Censorship / 23 February, 2010


The Lord Chief Justice expressed surprise today at the BCA’s libel suit against Simon Singh. Padraig Reidy reports

England’s most senior judge today said he was “baffled” by the British Chiropractic Association’s (BCA) defamation suit against science writer Simon Singh.

Presiding at the appeal court in London today in a pre-trial hearing on the meaning of words in a 2008 article by Singh criticising chiropractic treatments, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said he was “troubled” by the “artificiality” of the case.

“The opportunities to put this right have not been taken,” Lord Judge said.

He continued: “At the end of this someone will pay an enormous amount of money, whether it be from Dr Singh’s funds or the funds of BCA subscribers.”

He went on to criticise the BCA’s reluctance to publish evidence to back up claims that chiropractic treatments could treat childhood asthma and other ailments.

“I’m just baffled. If there is reliable evidence, why hasn’t someone published it?”

However, Lord Judge stressed that his comments would not affect the judgment of the case before the Court of Appeal.

The Lord Chief Justice was presiding at a pre-trial appeal on meaning in the case of BCA v Singh. Singh is being sued by the organisation for comments in a 2008 article for the Guardian newspaper in which he criticised chiropractic and claimed the BCA promoted “bogus” treatments, despite there not being “a jot” of evidence of their effectiveness.

Judge is part of a panel which also includes the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, and Lord Justice Sedley — one of the most high-powered panels of judges ever to preside on a single case.

Adrienne Page QC, representing Simon Singh, said it was wrong of the BCA to claim that Singh implied it “knowingly” promoted treatments it knew to be ineffective.

“The least likely explanation [of the article] is that the BCA cynically and dishonestly engaged in peddling remedies it knew were of no value,” Page told the court.
Representing the BCA, Heather Rogers QC said the organisation is a respectable one that takes its reputation seriously.

Rogers argued that the use of the word “bogus” suggested that the BCA knew some of the claims made for chiropractic to be false.

Lord Neuberger asked if it was not the case that Singh had outlined his interpretation of the word “bogus” in the original article, where he described how Professor of Complementary Medicine Edzard Ernst had been unable to find any evidence of the effectiveness of chiropractic in over 70 trials.

Rogers conceded that had Singh written that there was “no reliable evidence”, the defamation suit might never have happened.

But Lord Justice Sedley suggested “isn’t the first question as to whether something is evidence that it is reliable?”

Earlier in the day, dozens of Singh’s supporters had gathered outside the court to back the popular author’s right to free expression.

A date has not been set for delivery of the judges’ ruling.

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37 Responses to Judge ‘baffled’ by Simon Singh chiropractic case

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  3. Chiropractors Derby Reply

    11 August at 17:42

    Great job Padraig,you really done a great work.Keep it up.

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  8. BogusBogusBogus Reply

    13 March at 12:56

    Chiropractors are not the only ‘medical’ people using UK’s repressive libel laws to avoid legitimate critical scrutiny. Certain powerful members of the psychiatric establishment do the same, including successfully threatening non-UK based sites to remove material that is definitely non-libellous in the country where the site is hosted.

    Disgraceful law, made by the rich and powerful to protect their narrow vested interests above the much more important general public interest.

    No surprises there.

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  21. Dr. Brian Blood Reply

    24 February at 16:46

    JS needs to get out more. It is time that the woo-merchants are shown up for what they are – anti-scientific, self-deluded denialists!

  22. JS Reply

    24 February at 15:20

    Considering one of the top researchers for drug companies admitted to doctoring research and there is nothing but anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of surgery why is there such a need for “scientific evidence” of chiropractic. There is no real method to test with a randomized controlled blind study the effectiveness of chiropractic. The fact that millions of people who see chiropractors get relief sometimes immediately isn’t this enough evidence.
    As for Singh if someone criticized the British Medical Association for giving drugs whose side effects are worse than original ailments, people under anesthesia can have permanent brain damage, that many people in hospitals contract nosicomal infections or that there is no scientific proof of back surgery for disc problems is effective (60% have continued back problems) they would sue as fast as I can type.
    If we rely so much on just science there is no art to healing. And as a great teacher once said” Patients do not read the text book”
    To translate due to the fact no 2 people are really identical we cannot assume all disease processes behave the same!

  23. Rosbif Reply

    24 February at 12:12

    Unbelievable!
    Surely the point is not whether the BCA are knowingly provideing treatment that doesn’t work, but rather that they are claiming a treatment does work knowing that they don’t know if it works. That surely makes it bogus?

    Would you take pills from your doctor if he said he had no idea if they would work?

    Is it acceptable that BCA want to test their hypothosis on children and will sue anyone who critisises them?

    If their practices have no clinical test data to prove they work for the cases thay state, then they are not treatments. Therefore they are bogus.
    QED

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  25. James Jones Reply

    24 February at 06:32

    Definition:-

    Plethora – A complete absence.

  26. James Jones Reply

    24 February at 06:30

    “Rogers conceded that had Singh written that there was “no reliable evidence”, the defamation suit might never have happened.”

    “Representing the BCA, Heather Rogers QC”

    Does this mean that the BCA now formally acknowledge that there is “no reliable evidence” that chiropractrickery works in the cases mentioned in Simon’s original article? These seem to be – “children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying”.

  27. Hugh Reply

    24 February at 01:02

    Sounds promising so far.

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  32. bengoldacre Reply

    23 February at 20:43

    good one dude.

    first of many.

  33. dan Reply

    23 February at 19:56

    and “expressed surprised”

  34. Index on Censorship Reply

    23 February at 18:44

    Fixed.
    p

  35. A. Pedant Reply

    23 February at 18:39

    there’s a typo in your article.

    It should read: “…despite there not being “a jot” of evidence of their effectiveness.”

  36. skepticat Reply

    23 February at 18:32

    Fast work. Yes, you got the best bit of today. Now just change ‘their’ to ‘there’ and it’ll be a perfect report. :-)

  37. Nick Cohen Reply

    23 February at 17:41

    Well done Padraig. Have you ever considered taking up this journalism lark full time?

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