Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chirocopalypse: British chiropractors running scared

The bad publicity for chiropractic, caused by the libel suit filed by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh, is causing the profession to panic. The case is beginning to become a Pyrrhic victory and an example of the Streisand effect for the profession, with the charity Sense About Science nipping at their heels with a very successful campaign in defense of Singh, with over 10,000 signers and loads of publicity. Several scientific skeptics have already targetted over 500 chiropractors and filed formal complaints against them.

The situation is like a group of rabbits being spotted by a hunting dog. They have hoped to remain unseen by the hunter (the public), but they have made the mistake of making fun of the dog, and now the hunt is on. They and their dubious practices are now very, very visible and publicized by the entire British press and numerous websites!

The British Chiropractic Association, McTimoney Chiropractic Association, and the United Chiropractic Association have all sent letters to their members. They are running scared and are doing what they can to keep their members from getting prosecuted. The McTimoney Chiropractic Association has even blanked its own website and asked its members to delete their websites, thus hiding possibly incriminating evidence. Fortunately some resourceful bloggers had already made copies of ALL their websites, so the evidence is now available when necessary.

The British Chiropractic Association letter

The British Chiropractic Association has acted like a startled rabbit and has bolted. They have written a letter to their members:

4 June 2009

The BCA would remind members of their obligations under the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) section 50 (relating to Health & Beauty Products and Therapies: see

Members are strongly encouraged to review their current marketing materials (whether they are paper- or web-based to ensure that they are compliant with both ASA and GCC requirements. Note that the ASA has no jurisdiction over editorial materials placed on members own websites.

When reviewing your materials it may be helpful to consider the following:

1. Are there any claims made that cannot be justified by reference to evidence? Remember, the GCC requires chiropractors to practice evidence based care, which is defined as “clinical practice that incorporates the best available evidence from research, the preferences of the patient and the expertise of practitioners (which includes the individual chiropractor himself).

2. Be mindful of making promises that you cannot be sure of delivering on;

3. Be wary of listing conditions that are controversial and away from mainstream chiropractic care e.g. dyslexia/dyspraxia unless you have research to back this up. If you have made references to prolonged crying, sleep and feeding problems, breathing difficulties and frequent infections, as these are symptoms rather than condition specific, we suggest you remove these references.

4. Do not refer to yourself as a specialist in any particular form of chiropractic;

5. Do not use unfamiliar words for common conditions;

6. Do not unjustly criticise other healthcare professionals;

7. If you refer to subluxations, provide information to explain what they are.

8. Take care in the use of the Doctor title. Ensure that there is no way there can be any doubt that you are a chiropractor, and not a registered medical practitioner. Do not use the doctor title in paper advertising without explicitly stating that you are a chiropractor.

Source: British Chiropractic Association tell their members to hide their sins from prying eyes

.... which found the letter on ex- General Chiropractic Council (GCC) board member Richard Lanigan’s blog:

  • Scope of medipractic practise by the back door of the General Chiropractic Council

    The McTimoney Chiropractic Association letter

    Another rabbit, the McTimoney Chiropractic Association, has twitched and then bolted, even removing most content from its own website(s),[8] [9] and has asked its members to do the same! It has even sent the following "confidential advice" letter to its members:

    Date: 8 June 2009 09:12:18 BDT


    Dear Member

    If you are reading this, we assume you have also read the urgent email we sent you last Friday. If you did not read it, READ IT VERY CAREFULLY NOW and - this is most important – ACT ON IT. This is not scaremongering. We judge this to be a real threat to you and your practice.

    Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:

    The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is as follows.

    1. If you have a website, take it down NOW. When you have done that, please let us know preferably by email or by phone. This will save our valuable time chasing you to see whether it has been done.

    2. REMOVE all the blue MCA patient information leaflets, or any patient information leaflets of your own that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems in your clinic or at any other site where they might be displayed with your contact details on them. DO NOT USE them until further notice. The MCA are working on an interim replacement leaflet which will be sent to you shortly.

    3. If you have not done so already, enter your name followed by the word ‘chiropractor’ into a search engine such as Google (e.g. Joe Bloggs chiropractor) and you will be able to ascertain what information about you is in the public domain e.g. where you might be listed using the Doctor title or where you might be linked with a website which might implicate you. We have found that even if you do not have a website yourself you may still have been linked inadvertently to a website listing you or your services.




    4. If you use business cards or other stationery using the ‘doctor’ title and it does not clearly state that you are a doctor of chiropractic or that you are not a registered medical practitioner, STOP USING THEM immediately.

    5. Be wary of ‘mystery shopper’ phone calls and ‘drop ins’ to your practice, especially if they start asking about your care of children, or whiplash, or your evidence base for practice.



    Although this advice may seem extreme or alarmist, its purpose is to protect you. The campaigners have a target of making a complaint against every chiropractor in the UK who they perceive to be in breach of the GCC’s CoP, the Advertising Standards Code and/or Trading Standards. We have discovered that complaints against more than 500 individual chiropractors have been sent to the GCC in the last 24 hours.

    Whatever you do, do not ignore this email and make yourself one of the victims. Some of our members have not followed our earlier advice and now have complaints made against them. We do not want that to happen to you.

    Even if you do not have a website, you are still at risk. Our latest information suggests that this group are now going through Yellow Pages entries. Be in no doubt, their intention is to scrutinise every single chiropractor in the UK.

    The MCA Executive has worked tirelessly over the last week keeping abreast of development and contacting at risk members. We have decided that this is our best course of action to protect you and the Association at this time of heightened tension. This advice is given to you solely to protect you from what we believe is a concerted campaign, and does not imply any wrongdoing on your part or the part of the Association. We believe that our best course of action is simply to withdraw from the battleground until this latest wave of targeting is over.

    Finally, we strongly suggest you do NOT discuss this with others, especially patients, Firstly it would not be ethical to burden patients with this, though if they ask we hope you now have information with which you can respond.

    Most importantly, this email and all correspondence from the MCA is confidential advice to MCA members alone, and should not be shared with anyone else.

    Please be aware that the office phone lines are likely to be busy, so, if you need our help, please send an email to the office and we will get back to you as soon as we can.


    Berni Martin

    MCA Chair.

    Best wishes,


    Source: Panicking chiropractors order slash-and-burn of their own websites.

    The United Chiropractic Association letter

    The United Chiropractic Association has also reacted to the situation and sent a letter of its own:

    The UCA Office has become aware of the ongoing media coverage of the libel case involving the BCA and Simon Singh. As a result chiropractors are being targeted as part of a concerted campaign to discredit the profession, particularly in relation to the publicity materials they are using. The Investigating Committed of the GCC have a statutory responsibility to look into every complaint they receive. This is an attack on the profession which all chiropractors should be aware of.

    There is also evidence that complaints are being made to Trading Standards authorities, and several chiropractors have received enquiries from them. Before responding to any communications you might receive, please contact the UCA office in the first instance for help and advice.

    The BCA have issued the following statement to their members. The UCA fully supports this statement and recommends members to adhere to the points raised.

    Source: 'Chiropocalypse' Spreads to United Chiropractic Association and BCA

    Some sources that cover the situation

    Many sources are covering the story. Here are a few:

  • British Chiropractic Association tell their members to hide their sins from prying eyes
  • 500 Chiropractors reported to Trading Standards and GCC
  • Omnibus Complaint to the General Chiropractic Council
  • Complaints against 523 chiropractors
  • Ok, so how many chiroquacktors claim to treat colic?
  • Chiropractors running scared
  • The Simon Singh libel case: an own goal for chiropractic?
  • Jack of Kent: The Quacklash - Causes And Effects
  • Jack of Kent: The McTimoney Letter
  • Chiropractors in Mass Website Withdrawal
  • McTimoney Chiropractors told to take down their web sites
  • Chiropocalypse
  • The McTimoney Chiropractic Association would seem to believe that chiropractic is “bogus”
  • British Chiropractors Retreating from Publicity
  • Panicking chiropractors order slash-and-burn of their own websites
  • Win or lose, the cost of fighting a libel suit chills science and journalism
  • The Great Beyond: Petition, press release follow libel campaign - June 08, 2009

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