"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.
This gross misrepresentation of the scientific evidence was something Martin felt was worth complaining about to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), the statutory body charged with regulating the chiropractic industry. As Martin points out, the GCC’s Code of Practice (CoP), states at C1.6:
[chiropractors] may publicise their practices or permit another person to do so consistent with the law and the guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority. If chiropractors, or others on their behalf, do publicise, the information used must be factual and verifiable. The information must not be misleading or inaccurate in any way. It must not, in any way, abuse the trust of members of the public nor exploit their lack of experience or knowledge about either health or chiropractic matters. It must not put pressure on people to use chiropractic.
However, he was given short shrift:
…we have no role in the regulation of chiropractic associations, clinics or companies.
Well they may be right, but the Chiropractors Act 1994 says at a) 1. (2):
It shall be the duty of the General Council to develop and regulate the profession of chiropractic.
You might have thought this would give them some powers over associations, etc. Be that as it may, the GCC says it doesn’t regulate associations, etc, just chiropractors.
(The McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA) beg to differ: their website claims that the MCA is Regulated by the General Chiropractic Council and governed by statute since 1994.)
Let’s look at the BCA. I’ve already said a bit about them, but who are they?
They don’t say who actually runs the BCA on their website, but their Current Appointments Report at Companies House gives: Timothy Hutchful (Secretary), Richard Brown (Director), Anthony Metcalfe (Director) and Colin Rose (Director). This was correct on 08 May 2009. All of them are registered with the GCC as practising chiropractors — their registration numbers are 00217, 00027, 00018 and 00209 respectively. I assume from these numbers that they have been there right from the start.
(Richard Brown was the one who tried to ‘clarify the issues’ recently in the British Medical Journal. His attempt has been dismantled by Edzard Ernst, the editor of the BMJ, Fiona Godlee (“[Edzard Ernst's] demolition of the 18 references is, to my mind, complete.”) and by bloggers such as Andy Lewis of The Quackometer.)
So, the people who run the BCA are all registered as practising chiropractors. When an executive of the BCA publishes — or allows to be published — misleading and distorted information about chiropractic it clearly does fall within the GCC’s remit. It matters not one jot that it was done on behalf of an association; what is clear is that this misleading information was published by one or more GCC-registered chiropractors. Remember, the CoP says that any information published by them or on their behalf:
…must not be misleading or inaccurate in any way.
The information published by the BCA, having been cherry-picked, was clearly misleading — and obviously so — as Martin has shown, so they should be held to account.
What’s more, considering the humiliation the BCA suffered when it published its ‘plethora’ of supporting evidence that was so utterly demolished by so many — and so easily — there might even be a case to answer of bringing the ‘profession’ into disrepute. That’s all the BCA seems to have been doing all through this sorry affair.
No, the GCC doesn’t regulate the BCA itself, but Martin made a complaint about what was published by a chiropractor and on behalf of the BCA’s 1,038 members. Since it appears that the GCC are sticklers for procedure and accuracy and Martin’s complaint was in terms of the BCA, perhaps all he (or anyone else) needs to do is to re-submit the complaint and cite all the chiropractic executive of the BCA or, indeed, all 1,038 members of whose behalf this misleading information was published.