Libel law in the UK seems very odd to Americans, with our emphasis on free speech. But, hey, we’ve had our own country for two hundred and almost two score years now, and I’m happy to report that, at least over here, we can still call a quack a quack. But in England, you can’t even allude to it. Here’s what happened. Simon Singh, a British reporter who tends to take the side of truth in science wrote the following:
The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.
For various technical reasons, this last phrase, containing the word “bogus”, is getting him in a world of trouble. Never mind that the chiropractors are disseminating false and harmful medical information; never mind that one should—morally—be free to express an opinion regarding this horrid practice; the law is an ass. And so, apparently, is the judge.
We have a horrible quackery problem in the US, but in our fight against the powers of the De-lightenment we have our pens (and keyboards). It seems as if blogs like this one, Orac’s, and Science-based Medicine wouldn’t have a chance in the UK. Hopefully the English courts won’t extend their idiocy to the internet and our British colleagues can still read what we write. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to what is going on over there.
But there is so much to do here, I can’t see how we can monitor quackery in the UK—-and that’s what it is: legally protected health fraud. The British Chiropractic Association, in claiming to treat these common childhood illnesses, is perpetrating a fraud on the British people. The courts apparently believe that it’s more important to defend the BCA’s right to injure children than to protect its citizens from deliberate harm.
Shame on them.