Thursday, May 14, 2009

BCA vs. Singh - New Scientist Comment

New Scientist article on the BCA vs. Singh libel case:

Comment: Don't criticise, or we'll sue, by Dave Allen Green


Here's a quote:

It is against this troubling background that on 7 May a preliminary hearing of a case brought against the science writer Simon Singh by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) was held in London. The case concerned an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper in which Singh criticised as "bogus" the use of chiropractic for treating various children's ailments. The BCA complained that it had been libelled, and launched an action against Singh (but not The Guardian). The hearing went against Singh (see "Libel victory for alternative medicine").

The BCA's case is part of a trend in that many of the recent threats and actions are responses to criticisms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In some of these cases one could fairly argue that simply producing scientific evidence would settle the issue. Despite this, it is not unusual for CAM practitioners to threaten a libel action against anyone who publishes doubts about the scientific validity of their treatment.

In one such case, writer Ben Goldacre and The Guardian were sued by Matthias Rath, who has promoted vitamin supplements in southern Africa for people with AIDS. Rath eventually withdrew the action, but there are other examples outside of CAM.

Scientists and journals are also finding themselves on the wrong end of libel threats and actions. Peter Wilmshurst, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in Shropshire, UK, is being sued for libel by the medical devices company NMT Medical of Boston, Massachusetts, over comments he made to a US online news service about one of its devices. Wilmshurst was the co-leader of a clinical trial of the device.

3 comments:

Paul P. Mealing said...

This is a perversion of justice, where the party making the claim doesn't have to prove anything, and is effectively immune to any challenge, because what's in dispute is their 'good name' and not the claim itself.

To quote from Green's article:

This is the notorious "reverse burden of proof" which, for many, discredits English libel law.

There is something deeply wrong that legitimate scientific criticism can be silenced in this way.

Regards, Paul.

Joe Otten said...

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/reformlibellaws/

wombat said...

More comment just in from NS/Jack of Kent

Don't criticise, or we'll sue