Simon Singh to appeal bogus chiropractic libel ruling

Great news from Jack of Kent. Simon Singh has released the following statement:

The law has no place in scientific disputes

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children’s ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the “libel capital” of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.


The list of signatories is impressive. Go to Jack of Kent to see them.

2 Responses to “Simon Singh to appeal bogus chiropractic libel ruling”

  1. Peterd102 says:

    I really hope he wins. Libel for stating the truth that – Theres is not a jot of evidence for the treatments effectiveness.

    A perhaps more up to date list can be found from the Sense about Science website:

  2. Liam Stone says:

    I applaud and welcome open, rigorous, intelligent debate on scientific and health issues. Indeed, this approach to such issues is not new. Historically, challenge to new ideas and theories by sceptical opponents has always promoted the activity of working harder to demonstrate and prove that such new ideas and theories were true by their proponents. It’s vital that legislation should not stifle the debate that actively furthers our scientific understanding. And in this vein, I should like to suggest that the self-declared victim of this libel case, Dr Simon Singh, should meet and discuss these issues with representatives from the British Chiropractic Association. Otherwise, Dr Singh’s challenge to efficacy and evidence based practice which he claims are lacking within the chiropractic profession can not receive appropriate attention and scientific scrutiny. Dr Singh and his co-author, Dr Ernzt currently focus much negative attention directly towards chiropractic, while their scrutiny of other similar health disciplines is confusingly absent. Furthermore, a willingness to sensationalize their health concerns in a book titled, ‘Trick or Treatment’ , in addition to the article authored by Dr Singh in the Guardian which sparked the current debate on libel/freedom of speech discussion serves merely to confuse and generate panic amongst the public. Please, justify the integrity of your scientific titles and professions, by using appropriate and constructive channels of communication to air your ideas. Demonstrate the courage of your convictions by meeting with and understanding each other. Preserving the health and safey of the public in a non-alarmist manner is a greater goal than furthering the professional and career driven egos of individuals.