British Chiropractic Association sues science writer for libel
In a Guardian article in April 2008, Simon Singh, who has penned the popular science books “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, “The Code Book” and “Big Bang”, wrote about the likely risks of chiropractic treatment and whether or not there was any evidence that it was effective for various childhood conditions, including asthma and colic. The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) took offense to this, claimed that Singh had defamed their reputation and has sued him for libel.
Notwithstanding that in libel cases in Britain, it is the defendant who carries the burden of proof, and that this would be very expensive, Singh decided last year to fight on as experts said “we had a valid defence and stood a good chance of winning the case.”
However, this from the Index on Censorship website – On May 7th, 2009 the English High Court ruled that Singh must show that the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) was deliberately dishonest in promoting chiropractic as a treatment for various children’s ailments.
Mr Justice Eady ruled, with notes apparently written prior to today’s preliminary hearing, that an article by Singh, published in the Guardian should be classified as a ’statement’ and added that by use of the word ‘bogus’ Singh had inferred he believed the BCA had intent to convey dishonest claims to the British public.
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.
Costs of £23,000, relating to the preliminary hearing, have been awarded to the BCA.
Here is some discussion including an intelligent posting by the vice president of the BCA.
Other sources claim that The British Chiropractic Association opened a can of worms by suing Simon Singh for libel over his claim that its members promote “bogus treatments” — and not only because of the implications for free speech and unfettered scientific debate but also that it has invited unwanted scrutiny of the claims made for chiropractic.
Meanwhile, as the science media and bloggers discussed the case, Singh has received offers for financial support from hundreds of people. including some leading scientists. The statement of the Keep Libel Laws Out of Science campaign has been signed by over 100 people from the worlds of science, journalism, publishing, literature and law, expressing support for Singh and calling for a review of the libel law. Supporters include leading biologist Richard Dawkins of the University of Oxford and David King, former chief scientific adviser to the British government, as well as well-known authors Martin Gardner, Martin Amis, Alain de Botton, Hari Kunzru and Monica Ali.
Within a day, 4,000 people signed in support of the statement – available on Singh’s website (senseaboutscience.org.uk). It is to be sent to the British government every time it gets 1,000 signatures online.
On June 9th, 2009, the chair of the McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA), an organization of chiropractors, reportedly emailed the group’s members advising that they remove their websites to avoid being targeted by a coordinated campaign of complaints to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), the UK’s chiropractic regulating body. A copy of the email is posted on Chiropracticlive.com.