The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Monthly Archives: July 2009

What the fuss is all about

On 19 April 2008, the author and physicist Simon Singh MBE wrote an article for The Guardian newspaper on chiropractic.

This story has been told many times now by bloggers like Jack of Kent, The Lay Scientist, Skepticat and many, many others. It has also been reported worldwide and Simon’s own account can be read at Sense about Science.

But what started this all off? What was it that caused the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) to take the serious and precipitous action of personally suing Simon and which has resulted in a maelstrom of publicity for the BCA in particular and chiropractic in general.

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Taking Osteopathy in Hand

An advert for a local osteopath appeared in my local free paper.

You know what’s coming next…

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Another ASA win against quackery

I’ve had another victory against woo.

The Advertising Standards Authority have today published their adjudication on complaints I submitted against an ayurvedic clinic, Kerala Ayurvedic Health Clinic. This is a clinic that advertised in a local paper and made claims about the effectiveness of their ayurvedic treatments. In total, I made four specific complaints and the ASA added a fifth; three were upheld. The full adjudication can be read here.

Many of these clinics selling woo make claims that they can treat all manner of medical conditions and invariably, they cannot substantiate those claims when they are challenged. Such adverts also try to give the impression that they are proper doctors and medical practitioners, again, usually without being able to substantiate those claims.

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The somewhat muted support for the BCA by the World Federation of Chiropractic

The British Chiropractic Association is 84 years old this year. Founded in 1925, the BCA was:

…a founder member of both the European Chiropractors Union (ECU) and the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) and is the sole UK representative on both organisations.

According to their latest (2007) accounts, they paid £6,753 to the WFC, presumably the membership subscription and another £10,000 for “W F C Matters” (up from £98 the previous year).

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"We don’t regulate associations…but we do regulate chiros"

In his blog post “We don’t regulate clinics or companies”: The GCC Respond to my BCA Complaint, The Lay Scientist, Martin, highlighted the selectivity of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) when they misrepresented the conclusions of a Cochrane study. The BCA reported it in their press release as:

There was weak evidence to support the use of [chiropractic].

when, in fact, it actually said:

There was weak evidence to support the use of hypnosis, psychotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic but it was provided in each case by single small trials, some of dubious methodological rigour.

In Martin’s words, such quote mining was:

a pretty crappy thing to do.

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Advertising Standards Authority adjudications are fascinating!

Yes they are! Well, sometimes, anyway. As is how they arrive at their decisions.

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Looking after personal data…or not? The UCA and the DPA.

A responsible organisation looks after the personal data it holds. That’s not just good practice, it’s a legal requirement under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is there to oversee the Act and ensure it is appropriately followed. In their own words:

The ICO enforces and oversees the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations, and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Our main functions are educating and influencing (we promote good practice and give information and advice), resolving problems (we resolve eligible complaints from people who think their rights have been breached) and enforcing (we use legal sanctions against those who ignore or refuse to accept their obligations).

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Jeni Barnett does vaccines (again)

It looks like Jeni Barnett is going to be ‘discussing’ vaccines again sometime soon. There were 190 complaints to OfCom about her last outing on this and their decision is clinically taken apart by the inimitable Jack of Kent in his blog post: Jack of Kent: Jeni Barnett and MMR: Analysis of the Ofcom Decision.

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Chiropractic complaints put back several months

Both Dr* T and The Quackometer beat me to it! I got the same letter from the GCC this morning.

That wise old bird covered the points about the GCC having to employ more regulatory staff to cope with the 590 complaints they received last month (523 of which were mine, 55 were Simon’s as well as some other individual complaints).

He is right: they do seem to be taking these complaints seriously and are not — as some had predicted — just trying to weasel their way out of them. Good. That’s what a statutory regulator should be doing so they can properly protect the public.

This is an unfortunate delay in proceedings — it would be better for all concerned to have this resolved as quickly as possible. However, we’ll just need to be patient.

Can you hear me at the back?

I’m sure we all know the story of the birth of chiropractic by now. Shopkeeper, spiritualist and magnetic healing advocate, D D Palmer invented it in 1895. Harvey Lillard goes down in history as being the catalyst that made Palmer realise where his fortune and fame lay. Palmer himself tells the story (Palmer DD: “The Chiropractor’s Adjuster.” Portland Printing House Company. 1910. P. 18.), recounted on Stephen Barrett’s excellent Chirobase website:

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