Zeno's Blog

The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Humpty Dumpty regulation

The phrase Humpty Dumpty chiropractic cropped up in a Google Alert a few days ago. It was the fitting title of an editorial (cached) in the December 2010 issue of Clinical Chiropractic, which discussed the slippery and nebulous meaning of vertebral subluxation complex (VSC).

For those who don’t remember their childhood, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty is discussing the meaning of words with Alice. HD remonstrates:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

Such equivocation is typical of on-line conversations with chiropractic supporters discussing the VSC, but it applies elsewhere as well.

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Where the evidence leads

Google Alerts is a very useful tool for skeptics. It sends you an email whenever the word or phrase you’ve asked for crops up in their searches of news, blogs or other websites. They are excellent for keeping tabs on what’s going on by helping you track new stories and hits.

Naturally, I have one set up for the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), just to see where they crop up on web sites and in the news.

A few days ago, I received a Google Alert about a page that had been recently updated, although the mention of the GCC was from some time ago. It linked to a decision by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about complaints made by the GCC against the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Guardian about articles published on 9 November 2007.

According to the GCC, the articles said:

  • Chiropractors ‘are waste [sic] of money’, Daily Telegraph, Rebecca Smith
  • Chiropractors ‘are a waste of time’, Daily Mail, Jenny Hope
  • ‘Chiropractors may be no use in treating back pain, study says’, The Guardian, Alok Jha

Nothing new there, then.

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The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition.

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform.

Getting their nappies in a twist

It had never occurred to me that one of the important design parameters of a nappy would be how little noise it makes when flexed.

However, this seems to be a USP for some manufacturers and they want to tell prospective customers all about it.

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Credit where credit’s due

I’m insulted. I’m miffed. My good name…

How could anyone possibly think that I would complain to the Advertising Standards Authority about misleading claims for AltMed?

Someone objected to claims being made by the Craniosacral Therapy Association (CSTA) in one of their leaflets.

It wasn’t me!

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Another weapon in the skeptic’s arsenal

Mooted nearly a year ago, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have today announced that their digital remit is to be extended to cover:

  • Advertisers’ own marketing communications on their own websites and;
  • Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Starting on 1 March 2011, this landmark agreement means that claims made on a seller’s website will be subject to the ASA’s Committee of Advertising Practice Code (the CAP Code), just like adverts in newspapers, magazines, and paid-for online advertising.

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Chiro evidence for subluxations pwned — by chiros!

When the British Chiropractic Association published its ‘plethora‘ of 29 references they thought supported chiropractic for childhood conditions, it took just 24 hours for it to be utterly demolished by scientists and skeptics. Only 18 of these were relevant to chiropractic and childhood conditions.

Shortly after that, Fiona Godlee, Editor on the BMJ, commenting on an article by Prof Edzard Ernst, said:

But in response to our recent editorial by Evan Harris (doi:10.1136/bmj.b2254), the vice president of the BCA, Richard Brown, has now presented the evidence (doi:10.1136/bmj.b2782). He writes, “There is in fact substantial evidence for the BCA to have made claims that chiropractic can help various childhood conditions” and lists 18 references. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not they are convinced. Edzard Ernst is not (doi:10.1136/bmj.b2766). His demolition of the 18 references is, to my mind, complete.

This, presumably, was the best evidence the BCA could muster and it was left in tatters by those more knowledgeable about science and robust trials.

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NHS Tayside want to employ a new doctor

Very laudable indeed, particularly in these economically tough times — we all need to tighten our belts (so we’re told). But there are sick people out there needing healed.

But this isn’t just any doctor. They want a specialty doctor. A specialty doctor in homeopathy, no less.

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The beginning of the end? Part three

It’s only taken 433 days to get this far.

On Saturday, I received three batches of letters from the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), sent Recorded Delivery.

These letters are the formal notices that a complaint against a chiropractor has been considered by the Investigating Committee, that they have decided that there is a case to answer and that the complaint will go before their Professional Conduct Committee (PCC).

The letters consist of the formal notice, the Notice of Allegation and some of the website pages that contained the claims I complained of and where they were using the title ‘Dr’. The Notices of Allegation are all very similar to this redacted one; straight and to the point. (There’s lots to be said about the documents and I’ll cover that in a separate blog post.)

I have so far received these formal notices for 93 chiropractors.

There will be far more to follow.

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My local NHS Trust and AltMed

Ever anxious to ensure the taxpayer isn’t paying for bogus therapies, I though it was about time I asked my local NHS trust.

I duly sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust. I wanted to get a comprehensive understanding of what AltMed therapies they indulged in. Their responses are in italics:

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