How UK Chiropractors' Attempt To Silence One Critic Created The Backlash That May Change Chiropractics In The UK

from the can-a-chiropractor-fix-that? dept

Last year, we wrote about a really troubling incident in the UK, where the British Chiropractic Association had sued Dr. Simon Singh for noting that there was little scientific evidence to back up some of the marketing claims used by the BCA concerning what chiropractors could treat. Rather than responding with evidence, the BCA responded with a lawsuit. As we noted at the time, the backlash against the BCA was pretty impressive, with it calling a lot more attention to the questionable medical claims, as well as tremendous anger towards the BCA and chiropractors for the actions against Singh. It was a classic Streisand Effect in action. What was also interesting was how a group of bloggers then teamed up to do the investigative work that no full-time journalist was doing (and who says bloggers can't do investigative journalism?) to debunk the BCA's claims.

While the lawsuit continues, the loosely organized group of folks who had been fighting back against the BCA have continued to work their magic. Brandon writes in to let us know that they've been going one-by-one through every chiropractor who's a member of the BCA and examining their web sites for false marketing claims -- leading to a situation where a stunning one out of every four chiropractors in the UK is under investigation for misleading marketing or advertising. This isn't just the Streisand Effect, this is the Streisand Effect on steroids. In trying to hush up one critic, the BCA has unleashed a large group of concerned folks who are organized (perhaps loosely, but quite effectively) to bring about massive change concerning the BCA and chiropractor marketing practices in general.

The article linked above also goes through more details of how this group has helped dismantle the BCA's weak attempt at showing scientific evidence for some of those marketing claims:
The statement, supported by just 29 citations, was ripped apart by bloggers within 24 hours of publication, before being subjected to a further shredding in the British Medical Journal. It emerged that 10 of the papers cited had nothing to do with chiropractic treatment, and several weren't even studies. The remainder consisted of a small collection of poor-quality trials.

More seriously, the BCA misled the public with a misrepresentation of one paper, a Cochrane review looking at the effectiveness of various treatments for bed-wetting, claiming that the authors had simply concluded that, "there was weak evidence to support the use of [chiropractic].
One day someone will write a big case study (or perhaps a book) about what happened here. An attempt to silence a critic may end up resulting in massive changes to not just the British Chiropractic Association (the article notes that many chiropractors are horrified and want to leave the organization), but also how people view chiropractors and how chiropractic services are marketed.

Filed Under: backlash, chiropractors, streisand effect, truth in advertising, uk


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  1. icon
    fogbugzd (profile), 4 Mar 2010 @ 7:43am

    One surprise

    One surprise I found in this is that only 1 in 4 chiropractors were making false claims on their websites. I wonder if a lot of their web sites were very simple and didn't make any claims at all.

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