Last year the British science journalist Dr Simon Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association because he had written an article in the Guardian newspaper saying that chiropractors had been "happily promoting" "bogus" treatments. Singh pointed to the inadequacy of evidence supporting claims that chiropractic could treat childhood colic and asthma.
Earlier this year, Justice Eady ruled on the meaning of the word "bogus" and argued that Dr Singh was accusing the BCA of being deliberately dishonest, which was explicitly not what Singh's article was saying.
It was clear to those reading the article that Singh was deploring the poor quality of the evidence offered, arguing that the claims were unjustified. He was criticising the BCA for defending those members who were making what he saw as unjustified claims.
The response of the BCA in launching a lawsuit was, at best, using a hammer to crack a nut. The obvious recourse would have been to openly evaluate the available evidence, invite those members who were offering treatment of colic and asthma to submit their best evidence, and then organise a panel to evaluate it. At the end of such an evaluation, it would have been reasonably clear whether there was any convincing evidence to support the claim. An open look at the evidence would have resolved, or at least clarified, the issue.
Once it became clear that Simon Singh was going to be dragged into court, very many scientists and eminent people from around the world gathered in support of his right to subject medical claims to criticism and evaluation. A petition was sent to the UK parliament, and open letters were published in the press.
The previous year, Dr Singh and Professor Edzard Ernst (a UK professor of Complementary Medicine) had written a book called Trick Or Treatment, in which they extensively evaluated the evidence for alternative medicine. In their chapter on chiropractic they concluded that there was no evidence for it being effective anywhere except for relief of lower back pain, and even there the evidence was poor, with conventional physiotherapy both more effective and less risky. They also found no evidence for the so-called subluxations, misalignments of the spine which are supposed to provide a diagnostic method for identifying illnesses in the organs of the body.