The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

British Chiropractic Association (BCA)

Obituary: The death of the subluxation

It is with no sadness whatsoever, that the death of the chiropractic subluxation at the ripe old age of 115 has finally been declared.

The long-anticipated demise was announced this evening by Skeptic Barista and, indeed, there are grounds for believing that he played a very significant part in that death. It is rumoured that he will be helping the ASA with their enquiries, although he maintains there is not a jot of evidence to support those bogus allegations.

It died on Wednesday 12 May during a meeting of the General Chiropractic Council after suffering numerous assaults, particularly over the past 12 months and despite a rigorous wellness maintenance program.

All in vain, it seems.

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Bronfort on: Ear Infections

Time to take a closer look at some of the conclusions of the Bronfort report.

Otitis Media is, to the average parent, an ear infection — of the middle ear, to be precise. This can affect children and can be very painful and disturbing to both infant and parents. About one in five chiropractors I complained about made claims about ear or similar infections. It was also one of the childhood ailments that Simon Singh mentioned in the Guardian article the BCA had a hissy fit about.

Because of my complaints and because there appeared to be no definitive list (other than the ASA’s list of acceptable claims, of course) of what conditions were backed by robust evidence, the GCC commissioned five US chiropractic researchers to review the good evidence for all the conditions I complained about. I’ve already said something about the kinds of evidence Bronfort et al. decided should be included in the report: they were interested in only relying on quality evidence.

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Chiropractic Awareness Week 2008-2010

The British Chiropractic Association has finally dropped their misconceived libel action against Dr Simon Singh.

Best of all, the BCA have done this in Chiropractic Awareness Week.

The first announcement of it was from the Chambers of one of Simon’s QCs, William McCormick:

British Chiropractic Association v Singh – BCA admits defeat.

The BCA today served a Notice of Discontinuance bringing to an end its ill-fated libel claim against Dr Simon Singh arising out of criticisms he made of its promotion of treatments for childhood ailments.

Dr Singh’s predicament as the sole defendant in an action brought in respect of a comment piece in the Guardian newspaper (to which the BCA never directed any complaint) was seen as a rallying point for those concerned about the abuse of UK libel laws in connection with scientific debate.

Interest intensified when Eady J ruled that his words were not comment and that in order to defend himself he would have to prove the objective truth of what he wrote.

Earlier this month the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling and this has lead the BCA to abandon its claim.

William McCormick QC acted for Dr Singh instructed by Robert Dougans of Bryan Cave LLP.

This is great news, but the question of costs still has to be resolved. However, even if he recovers his costs, Simon has still spent the last two years fighting this misconceived and unnecessary libel case.

It is not known what will happen to the BCA: their finances are in a bit of a sorry state and their members should be asking a lot of searching questions of those individuals responsible. Indeed, those running the BCA need to do a lot of soul searching. But that’s up to them.

And the nominees are…

The inimitable Jack of Kent has been longlisted for the Orwell Prize 2010 and he will find out later today if he has been shortlisted.

Perhaps the BCA should also receive  a prize: Lifetime Achievement Award for their contribution to Chiropractic Awareness Week?

They get my nomination.

Update

The Guardian has now reinstated the original article Simon wrote for Chiropractic Awareness Week 2008, the one that the BCA had such a hissy fit about: Beware the spinal trap

What better way to celebrate Chiropractic Awareness Week 2010 and make everyone aware of chiropractic.

NHS Choices

The NHS Choices website has the tag line “Your health, your choices” and aims to inform the public:

NHS Choices is the online ‘front door’ to the NHS. It is the country’s biggest health website and gives all the information you need to make choices about your health.

They provide first-rate information about your health, illnesses, careers, etc as well as helping you find a local GP or other NHS services.

They also have some pages on alternative therapies such as homeopathy. On the page for homeopathy, they say:

Homeopathy is a type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAMs are treatments that are not based on conventional scientific theories. Other CAMS include:

  • acupuncture – where needles are placed in certain parts of the body,
  • chiropractic – where physical manipulation of the spine and joints is used to try to relieve symptoms, and
  • faith healing.

It’s good to see them place chiropractic firmly along side homeopathy, acupuncture and faith healing.

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All change!

The GCC’s Bronfort report is starting to have an effect. And not before time.

The British Chiropractic Association removed their Happy Families leaflet from their website last year, but it is still on the websites of some chiropractors (for example Weston Chiropractic Clinic here (cached).

Over the intervening months, various chiropractors have removed loads of claims from their websites, with one of them even asking Skeptic Barista if he could check they had made the appropriate changes!

As part of the ongoing complaint process, I have received observations on my complaints from 290 chiropractors (so far) and some have included ‘before and after’ screenshots of their websites, showing what they have removed or changed. (Don’t worry, I intend to write about what’s been happening and what the current position of my complaints is very soon.)

Now, presumably as a result of the Bronfort report, the BCA have removed various statements from their website over the last few days.

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Mass Lobby for Libel Reform

Do you know who your MP is?

If you don’t, you can find him or her on the excellent They Work for You website.

Why is this important? Well, in case you’ve been hibernating all winter (and who could blame you), there’s going to be a General Election fairly soon and there’s no better time to lobby your MP and find out what his/her views are on important issues.

In case you’re struggling to think of something to ask your MP, here’s a suggestion:

Libel law.

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Talking the talk

The first few pages of Bronfort et al. certainly talk the right talk:

EBH [Evidence-Based Healthcare] is about doing the right things for the right people at the right time. It does so by promoting the examination of best available clinical research evidence as the preferred process of decision making where higher quality evidence is available. This reduces the emphasis on unsystematic clinical experience and pathophysiological rationale alone while increasing the likelihood of improving clinical outcomes. The fact that randomized clinical trial (RCT) derived evidence of potentially effective interventions in population studies may not be translated in a straight forward manner to the management of individual cases is widely recognized. However, RCTs comprise the body of information best able to meet existing standards for claims of benefit from care delivery. The evidence provided by RCTs constitutes the first line of recommended action for patients and contributes, along with informed patient preference, in guiding care. (page 4)

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Spot the difference

The first photo was taken in East Kilbride shopping centre on 16 August 2009. The second was taken this morning.

Spot the difference:

Answer: Today’s advert has the claims for “Children with colic & ear infections” covered up.

The removal of these claims may have been due to the GCC’s recently released Bronfort report, or perhaps they’ve now read the ASA guidance they’re supposed to follow. Who knows.

The claims left are for: “headaches and migraines, neck, back and shoulder pains, sciatica or disc injuries, sports or accident injuries, pins and needles in arms and legs”.

A step in the right direction, but a long way to go yet.

What’s Polish for ‘chiropractor’?

Czego mogę się spodziewać podczas wizyty u kręgarza?

If your Polish isn’t up to scratch, this roughly translates as: What can I expect when visiting a chiropractor?

Ah! I hear you say. Is it just a coincidence that this is suspiciously close to What can I expect when I see a chiropractor?

No, of course it isn’t. That was the title of the GCC’s leaflet that Simon Perry (Adventures in Nonsense, Leicester Skeptics in the Pub and skeptical columnist for the Leicester Mercury) complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about last year. Continue reading

The GCC’s Plethora

Well. The GCC’s ‘independent’ review of the effectiveness of chiropractic has finally been published: Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report (although not yet on the GCC’s website).

Paid for by the GCC (see page 77), this document runs to 113 pages and there is additional commentary by two others, adding a further 13 pages.

It’ll take time to read through and digest fully, but here’s a handy summary of what they did — and didn’t — find evidence for. They have listed conditions in three categories: effective, inconclusive and ineffective. Continue reading


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