Congratulations to Simon Singh

Simon Singh no longer has to worry about that pesky, quacking lawsuit against him.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has admitted defeat in its defamation battle with science writer Simon Singh.

The BCA yesterday served notice of discontinuance of its action against Dr Singh.

But wait! There’s more! (And it’s even better.)

Solicitor Robert Dougans, of law firm Bryan Cave, which represented Dr Singh, said: “To have won this case for Simon is the proudest moment of my career, but if we had the libel laws we ought to have I would never have met Simon at all.

“Until we have a proper public interest defence scientists and writers are going to have to carry on making the unenviable choice of either shying away from hard-hitting debate, or paying through the nose for the privilege of defending it.

He said the only issue which remained to be settled was the amount of his costs Dr Singh would be able to recover from the BCA, and how much he would have to pay himself.

It is believed that Dr Singh’s costs amount to some £200,000.

Simon Singh wins

Simon Singh is a physicist and author who has been facing legal challenges from a bunch of U.K. chiropractors who sued after he called them out for being quacks. His legal woes at first looked mournful as decisions were going against him, but he has just won his appeal.

Dr Singh questioned the claims of some chiropractors over the treatment of certain childhood conditions.

The High Court had said the words were fact not opinion – meaning Dr Singh could not use the fair comment defence.

However, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled High Court judge Mr Justice Eady had “erred in his approach” last May, and allowed Dr Singh’s appeal.

BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady’s ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.

Two things. First, the U.K. has extravagant names for its justices. Second, this is great news for science. It’s an all too common tactic of quacks to threaten lawsuits. Their goal is to quash criticism; they damn well know what they pedal has little to no evidence. To expose that fact is to undermine the whole PR machine that keeps these people in business.

Dr Singh described the ruling as “brilliant”, but added that the action had cost £200,000 “just to define the meaning of a few words”.

Again, the hope of the chiropractors was that this excessive cost associated with these legal matters would result in a settlement. The Guardian, where Singh’s article originally appeared, had even offered to pay to settle. Fortunately, Singh fought for the intergrity of the scientific process and pushed ahead with all the court proceedings. (The Guardian still chose to pay for his legal advice.)

The British Chiropractic Association said it was disappointed to lose the appeal but it was “not the end of the road”.

BCA president Richard Brown said: “We are considering whether to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and subsequently proceed to trial.

“Our original argument remains that our reputation has been damaged. The BCA brought this claim only to uphold its good name and protect its reputation, honesty and integrity”.

The distinction between chiropractors with real medical training who can actually offer people help and sometimes even effective therapy versus those who are just quacks is becoming increasingly useless because the field has such low standards. I have no idea what Richard Brown is thinking when he actually claims his association has this so-called honesty and integrity. Perhaps it’s fair to say a few individuals are reputable (within particular constraints and boundaries), but as a whole? No. Even if this decision went against Singh (forcing him to defend his comments as fact as opposed to opinion), he would still eventually win. It’s just too implausible to think so many people can honestly think so many things to be true without any evidence.

Oh wait.

Letter to ‘Dr.’ Christopher Maloney

You know, I was pretty much done attacking Christopher Maloney a couple of months ago. I really didn’t care much about the guy. Hell, a Google search of “Christopher Maloney Maine” without the quotation marks yields For the Sake of Science as the 7th result. A Yahoo! search of “Chris Maloney Maine” without the quotation marks yields a link to a letter to the editor about him by yours truly as the number 1 result. And then there’s this awful YouTube video where Maloney thought setting his webcam to pedo-view was a good idea. (I mean, c’mon. He’s not a pedophile so why use that creepy-as-all-fuck pedo-setting?) So, I think the issue is pretty well settled for me. I post about quacks (like like Andreas Moritz) and since few people pay attention to or otherwise talk about them (what with all the quackery), my website finds its way toward the top of search engines. But it wasn’t good enough for Maloney to leave things as they were. He had to whine to WordPress that I said he wasn’t a real doctor. In reality, I pointed out that Maine considers him a real doctor but I don’t. Last time I checked libel laws did not protect people from the opinions of others – especially when those opinions are built upon facts laid out before everyone. (This is more than one can say for Maloney – he told several lies about an easily accessible study.)

But as I said, I was good with forgetting about the guy. People who search for him will find my blog and get a better perspective on why naturopaths are dangerous non-doctor doctors. But since that isn’t cool with Maloney, he has received this letter from me.

It was super cute of you or one of your friends to report that I pointed out that you aren’t a real doctor on my blog, but I’m curious. Why can’t you read? I noted that Maine allows quacks like you some of the same rights as real doctors. My qualm is that by the standards of the actual medical community, you aren’t a doctor. The states where your practice has been deemed too dangerous have things right, not Maine.

I’ll be real careful in the future to not hurt your feelings by pointing out how much of a charlatan you are without noting Maine’s BS laws. Of course, you’ve only gone and made things worse for yourself by whining to WordPress. I run a publication which gets distributed all over UMA and you just landed yourself on the front page. (With a note that Maine endorses your dangerous ideas, of course, Chrissy!)

The publication I’m referencing is, of course, Without Apology. I was actually already considering addressing naturopaths in the next edition, but now Maloney has just put himself on the front page for sure. I doubt I’ll mention any of this fiasco, even though it shows the sort of lengths naturopaths will go to demand respect (which reminds me of creationists, frankly), because it would be unwieldy in print, but I will be sure to note all the incorrect things he has said about science. Hopefully I can potentially save a life.

The moral of the story? I do not just quit because someone is under the false assumption that he can bully his way into being right.

Update: The search results will vary slightly. Sometimes my writing shows up higher than I said, and I presume sometimes it will be lower. At any rate, it is always near the top.