The McTimoney Letter: Remarkable Chiropractic Website Withdrawal

June 10, 2009 at 5:09 pm (Alternative Medicine, Chiropractic) (, , , , , , , , )

I’ve been rather shocked today by the news that the McTimoney Association has told all their members to take down their websites. Presumably because they were concerned that their members were making claims that were unsupportable and therefore open to prosecution*.  In fact, these points are raised in the McTimoney letter.

The letter includes this gem: “The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research.” So they are apparently aware that chiropractors have been making claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated but have only acted because bloggers have been drawing attention to this fact.

It also includes the rather frightening warning that: “IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, YOU MAY BE AT RISK FROM PROSECUTION.” Which I think implies that chiropractors may have been doing something illegal. Oh dear. As Le Canard Noir wrote: “Stunning. What have they got to hide?” The desperation of this chiropractic association to avoid scrutiny is striking. How the McTimoney Chiropractic Association and their members must rue the day that the British Chiropractic Association decided to sue Simon Singh. Perhaps the BCA are beginning to feel the same way. They were warned of the potential pitfalls: The lawyer and blogger Jack of Kent (back in August 2008) set out the ten questions British Chiropractic Association members should now be asking. Question 6 asked whether the decision had been considered from a media perspective.

What consideration, if any, was given to the predictable “Streisand Effect” of the alleged libel being repeated and popularised? […]

And what consideration, if any, was given to the potential adverse impact this case could have on the reputation of the BCA and Chiropractic generally? […]

Also, by suing over an issue related to the efficacy of Chiropractic, the BCA are potentially also putting at risk the reputation of the whole discipline. They have needlessly created the scope for “Chiropractic on Trial“, which they can be seen to lose.

These points were also alluded to in Jack of Kent’s more recent post titled Why the BCA claim is misconceived.

It will be interesting to see if any other associations take similar action. The website of Bassett Chiropractic Clinics (members of the BCA, with clinics named St Albans Chiropractic Clinic, The Hertford Chiropractic Clinic, Watford Chiropractic Clinic, and Kings Langley Chiropractic Clinic) still appears to be up as I write this post.#


I regret that I have been rather late to the party in reporting on this stunning news. Frustratingly, I have been away from the internet today and have missed out on this story. In my defence, this is because I have been carrying out voluntary work at my local community centre. While I have been out doing good works in my community, however, the below bloggers have been out doing good works in the blogosphere.

Lay Science; Quackometer; Gimpyblog; Thinking is Dangerous; Improbable Science; SciencePunk and Zeno have all provided us with their take on the situation. Meanwhile, Yaxu has a pretty comprehensive list of chiropractic websites and Shpalman provides some light relief.

The website God Knows What continues to maintain a list of the coverage of chiropractic here. As does Zeno here.

*With apologies to Andy Lewis for the misquote.

#Just in case it disappears, you can see a PDF of their front page here: Bassett Chiropractor St Albans, Hertford, Watford – Chiropractic Trea..

Further links

Skepticat has also blogged on this. It’s also on the badastronomy blog. And on the blog of a disenchanted chiropractor ( who thinks that “The McTimoney Chiropractic Association would seem to believe that chiropractic is “bogus””. Edit 21.55: PZ Myers of pharyngula has now joined those blogging about the McTimoney Association. Edited 12.10pm 11th June to add: the Thinking Is Real take on the actions of McTimoney Chiropractic; a post from the Business Ethics blog; a little something from Jack of Kent and Cubik’s Rube on McTimoney metaphorically shredding the incriminating documents.

From the Thinking is Real blog, I am able to add the following links to my post: FNQhome; Evidence Matters; ziztur; Verbal Razors; skeptools;

Mainstream media: Mark Henderson of The Times has mentioned the advice of the McTimoney Chiropractic Association in a piece titled The Simon Singh libel case: an own goal for chiropractic?. Pleasingly, he also mentions the Quackometer blog and provides a link back to the Quackometer post on the website withdrawal. I would guess that Dr Crippen and others may find this a welcome change from the seemingly typical policy of journalists not to credit sources such as bloggers. (See for an example.)

Feel free to leave links to other “McTimoney Letter” blogs in the comments.


  1. Twitted by jdc325 said,

    […] This post was Twitted by jdc325 – […]

  2. The plot thickens « Cubik’s Rube said,

    […] blog The Quackometer The Lay Scientist DC’s Improbable Science jdc325’s Weblog Pharyngula Bad Astronomy Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)TinfoilspottingColorado […]

  3. AndyD said,

    I’ve covered it in Australia and am also attempting to maintain a list of links using variations of the link text “McTimoney Chiropractic” to maximise Google juice.

    thinking is real: McTimoney Chiropractic

  4. jdc325 said,

    Thanks AndyD – I’ve added a link to your post and will also be adding the links that you’ve got and I have so far missed.

  5. Simon Singh Case Response Roundup « God knows what… said,

    […] jdc325’s blog has a nice roundup of links and a good discussion on the developments. […]

  6. wendell said,

    If you are thinking about chiropractic treatment for whatever ails you, please read my previous post and read the story below.

  7. louisville chiropractic said,

    It is just another case of chiropractic treatment. What they do is just right, that they take down their website before the things got worst.

  8. Michael Haley said,

    Too bad the drug companies aren’t held to the same standard! Imagine if they had to substantiate their claims legitimately.

  9. jdc325 said,

    Too bad the drug companies aren’t held to the same standard! Imagine if they had to substantiate their claims legitimately.

    Yeah, it’s too bad isn’t it… Oh, hang on – they do have to substantiate their claims, and they are probably held to higher standards than chiropractors.

    As Ben Goldacre wrote in 2007:

    …the BMJ recently announced the three most popular research papers from its archive, according to an audit which assessed their use by readers, the number of times they were referenced by other academic papers, and so on. Every single one of these papers was highly critical of either a drug, a drug company, or a medical activity, as its most central theme.

    The top scoring paper was a case-control study which showed that patients had a higher risk of heart attack if they were taking the painkillers rofecoxib (Vioxx), diclofenac, or ibuprofen. Vioxx of course was at the heart of a major scandal. At number 2 was a large meta-analysis of drug company data, which showed no evidence that SSRI antidepressants increase the risk of suicide, but did find weak evidence for an increased risk of deliberate self harm, which is worth keeping an eye on. And in third place was a systematic review which showed an association between suicide attempts and the use of SSRI’s, and highlighted – very critically – some of the inadequacies around the reporting of suicides in clinical trials.

    This is how ideas move forwards. Meanwhile, a survey of all the studies reported in 4 alternative medicine academic journals found that 1% of them – one per cent! – reported negative findings.

    If only there were the same level of critical self-appraisal in alternative medicine as there is in evidence-based medicine…

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