I have received an interesting email from the British Chiropractic Association in response to my queries about the Happy Families leaflet and whether the BCA still endorse chiropractic for the treatment of colic.
I set out this email response below with the kind permission of the BCA.
I am flattered that they have chosen my Blog as the means to place these important clarifications into the public domain rather than their own website or through their Brand Alchemists (er, PR company) Publicasity.
To recap, my queries were:
1. Does the British Chiropractic Association still endorse the "Happy Families" leaflet? If not, when did this endorsement cease and why?
2. Does the British Chiropractic Association still support chiropractic as a treatment for colic? If not, when did this support cease and why?
The BCA's formal response is:
"1. The BCA has removed this leaflet from circulation as it is the subject of legal action.
"2. The BCA does support chiropractic management for the treatment of colic in babies and young children where it has been demonstrated that it can help with the management of these conditions. This is in common with the management of such conditions by physiotherapists and osteopaths and medical practitioners using similar techniques."
My initial reactions to these clarifications are as follows.
1. The BCA has confirmed that the leaflet is withdrawn.
However, I am not sure that the "Happy Families" leaflet is actually the subject of any legal action. The subject presumably is instead the original Guardian article and the alleged libel therein.
Unless there is something of which I am unaware, I cannot see any legal reason for withdrawing the leaflet during these libel proceedings.
On that note, and again subject to anything of which I am unaware, I also can see no legal reason not to release the "plethora" of supporting medical evidence into the public domain. For example, I do not think (though I could be wrong) that there are currently live proceedings for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act.
2. This appears to me to be a concession.
What the BCA response here appears to be saying is that chiropractic can be promoted for colic (and presumably all other ailments) subject to (in effect) it meeting the standards similar to those required by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
But, as we saw recently, the ASA has prohibited a chiropractor from promoting chiropractic for colic because of breaches of the advertising code provisions on Substantiation, Truthfulness, and in respect of Health and Beauty Products and Therapies.
Even if I am wrong here (which I may be, and I should be grateful for further BCA clarification), a perhaps significant point should now be made.
The "Happy Families" leaflet simply did not state that the promotion of chiropractic for colic (or any of the other named children's ailments) is or should be subject to it being demonstrated that the treatment can help with the management of such a condition.
The BCA has brought libel proceedings because Simon Singh's article was, in their view, defamatory.
However, it appears to me that it is their original leaflet which was incomplete.
Had the "Happy Families" contained the careful wording now supplied in the first place, it may well be that Simon Singh would not have needed to criticise the claims made in the leaflet.
So where does this leave the libel case?
The High Court has held that Simon Singh said something he did not mean, and which almost nobody can actually see in the original article; and now the BCA has provided a clarification which in turn was not in the original leaflet and (in my view) really should have been.
But still the libel case moves.
The BCA do, however, deserve credit for now clarifying their stance on the promotion of chiropractic for colic (and I suggest, by implication, other ailments), and I am grateful for their prompt response to my queries.