I see, it’s not who you are…
In a comment on my last blog post, I mentioned that the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) had appointed two more chiropractors to their Investigation Committee (IC): Aaron Coode and Amanda Jones-Harris. Both work at the Anglo European College of Chiropractic (just how did they ever get a .ac.uk domain?) and both are members of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA).
A third new member is Helen Kitchen: she’s not a chiropractor, but she does work for Penningtons Solicitors LLB, one of the GCC’s legal advisers.
Anyway, the full IC now consists of the following:
Michael Cann (Chair)
Kathryn Adams (chiropractor and BCA member)
Graham Donald (Deputy Chair)
Anthony Kerrigan (chiropractor)
Jane McKenzie-Riley (chiropractor)
Helen Kitchen (co-opted, GCC legal advisor)
Aaron Coode (co-opted, chiropractor, BCA member and works for the AECC)
Amanda Jones-Harris (co-opted, chiropractor, BCA member and works for the AECC)
Kenneth Vall (co-opted, chiropractor, BCA member and AECC Principal)
This gives four non-chiropractors and six chiropractors, with three of them also working for the AECC, including their Principal. A good balance, some may say. Some may not. I’ll leave it to you to ponder any independence and objectivity implications, particularly if the chiropractors complained of attended the AECC and may be known to the staff or if they are fellow members of a beleaguered trade association.
So, what does the IC do?
The Investigating Committee considers all complaints against chiropractors received by the GCC. If the Investigating Committee decides there is a case to answer it refers the matter to either the Health Committee or the Professional Conduct Committee.
In many cases, all that is required is to look at all the evidence, look at the Code of Practice and decide whether there is a case to answer. The case is then passed on to either the Health Committee or the Professional Conduct Committee, depending on the nature of the alleged breach.
The Health Committee considers complaints against chiropractors relating to their mental or physical health.
The complaints are about whether claims made on the websites of chiropractors breach the conditions laid down in their Code of Practice (CoP). I’ve already covered the link between the Code of Practice and the Advertising Standards Authority’s guidance in the form of the Code of Advertising Practice, other guidance and, of course, previous adjudications (including all relevant adjudications):
ASA adjudications provide guidance to the industry on how the advertising codes are to be interpreted and act as a record of ASA policy for consumers, media, government and all parts of the advertising business.
Note that the relevant adjudications include not only those against chiropractors, but any that concern claims — particularly medical ones — and how the ASA have viewed the evidence required to substantiate them.
Since the ASA provides clear guidance on what they would — and would not — accept, the job of the IC and PCC is straightforward.
Who is capable of making such decisions? The ASA are certainly experts, but are the members of the IC and PCC? Most people should be able to read and understand the ASA’s guidance and understand not only what it is but also why it is there. Indeed, Mr Justice Jackson has said:
that the CAP Code is a clear and simple code of guidance. It is intended to be readily understood both by the professions and by committees such as the PCC of the General Chiropractic Council.
No problem there, then. Hopefully.
But it also requires someone to be capable of understanding how the ASA views evidence — scientific evidence, that is.
Note also that how any other organisation (such as the BCA or AECC or GCC) or a chiropractor might interpret evidence is entirely irrelevant. It’s how the ASA’s view it that matters.
There has been a move recently by the GCC to sway public opinion by trying to consider all sorts of ‘evidence’. This would appear to include customer preferences and chiropractors’ personal views. And not forgetting the BCA’s attempt to use a glossary definition, similarly wide and woolly, on which to base their view of evidence. It might be interesting to see what they come up with, particularly in the light of the utter destruction of the plethora of ‘best’ evidence the BCA could come up with for their libel case against Simon Singh.
This, however, has no bearing whatsoever on how the ASA consider evidence: the ASA are hardly going to change how they have always considered the best way to protect the public from ill-founded claims, just because the GCC or whoever come up with some different — and no doubt less scientifically rigorous — definition of what are acceptable forms of evidence, now are they?
So, the GCC’s hands are tied: the CoP says that it is the ASA’s guidance that is the standard that has to be achieved, not some arbitrary level of some other organisation. Lowering the bar is not an option, no matter how much they might want to.
It’s not rocket science
…as Mitchell & Webb said, but is it even science? Vitalism and vertebral subluxations might have been OK two centuries ago, but not today. They are un-scientific and outdated notions of how our bodies work.
What about the ability to properly understand science and scientific evidence that is required to consider the complaints? Can someone who believes that medical conditions are caused by invisible vertebral subluxations and in vitalism and claims to be able to cure/help/treat Tourettes Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Emphysema and Dyslexia by making ‘adjustments’ to the customer’s back really be a good judge of what constitutes scientific evidence?