The Sydney Morning Herald | 4 August 2009
By Deborah Smith, Science Editor
AN AUSTRALIAN science magazine has taken a leading role in an international campaign to keep libel laws out of science by republishing an article by a journalist being sued by the British Chiropractic Association.
Simon Singh is being personally sued for an article in The Guardian last year in which he criticised the association for claiming spinal manipulation could treat children for conditions including colic, asthma and ear infections.
The editor of Cosmos magazine, Wilson da Silva, said medical claims should be supported by evidence, and the public had a right to know if they were not. ‘‘Rather than suing a journalist for libel, the British Chiropractic Association should mount a robust scientific defence,’’ he said.
In the reprinted article, on legal advice, Mr Singh’s description of the treatments as ‘‘bogus’’ has been changed to ‘‘utter nonsense’’, which was the meaning he had originally intended.
An adverse court ruling in May, which Dr Singh hopes to appeal, found that the word bogus could imply the association had been deliberately dishonest.
Mr da Silva said the article, published in this month’s Cosmos, had been translated into several languages and posted on at least 86 other websites worldwide. ‘‘If the aim [of the lawsuit] was to silence journalists and shut down debate, then clearly the effort has backfired.’’
Dr Singh said the case had cost more than $200,000. ‘‘However, the support that I have received from family, friends, readers, bloggers, scientists, journalists and those who care about free speech has been incredible.’’
The British Chiropractic Association said it had never claimed chiropractic could cure childhood conditions such as asthma or colic, and there was a ‘‘significant amount’’ of research showing it could help. These studies, however, were analysed in the British Medical Journal last month, with an editorial concluding that ‘‘demolition’’ of this evidence was ‘‘complete’’.