The Sciences

Aussie chiropractor a pain in the neck

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitOct 13, 2009 9:35 PM


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Recently, science writer Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for having the audacity of telling the truth in a newspaper article about chiropractic: while it may have some small efficacy when treating back problems, there is exactly zero good evidence that it can treat illnesses, and in fact can be very dangerous when people get their neck manipulated. The Australian Skeptics posted Simon's original article so that it would get more attention. And it worked, kinda: like a fly to honey, one chiropractor took offense at what was written, and decided to send them a nearly logic-free letter. That's fine, and pretty much what I expect from a vocal alt-med devotée. As justified, Eran Segev, president of the Australian Skeptics, responded. All well and good, until...

... two weeks after responding we received a letter from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) indicating Mr Ierano [the chiropractor] has lodged a complaint against Australian Skeptics. The letter attached to the complaint was the same one that Australian Skeptics had received and responded to.

Well, that's a bit odd! I mean, why go to the trouble to pursue legal action against someone responding to your claims when it should be easy to present a simple rebuttal based on the evidence that chiropractic works? ... oh, right. What's funny is that originally, the BCA (the group suing Simon in the UK) tried to defend their position, and presented a poorly-researched, off-topic press release that somehow managed to make them look worse. Apparently, that's a theme amongst chiropractors trying to support some of their less reality-based claims. And while I'm using a light-hearted tone here, I'll note that this is a very serious issue: there are people out there trying to stifle free speech. It's that simple. The UK libel laws are draconian and designed to shut up any protest, making scientific objections and investigations into potential and real quackery very difficult. As Eran says on the AS page:

Australian Skeptics sees this complaint as lacking any merit even if it did not include some factual errors (e.g. the claim that a British court ruled Simon’s article is biased). We have prepared a detailed response to the HCCC and will be defending our right to publish articles relating to any scientific issue, as long as they are backed by scientific evidence.

Good on ya, mate!

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