I feel that I should point out, with reference to my writing that “It feels perhaps a little harsh to make a formal complaint about someone in this way” in a previous post on complaining to the GCC, that I have now seen people commenting on the problems that chiropractors may be facing and whether we sceptics are adding to their distress.
This comment on the chiropracticlive blog includes the following:
The ordinary chiropractors from all the associations are innocent of anything except being in a badly governed profession. The lack of unity, lack of promoting the profession and disproportionate adversarial style of regulation has had the inevitable consequence of allowing people to target us. No doubt the sceptics will be able to ask some very awkward questions about cases dismissed by Greg Price. It would be funny except life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, of the 500+ people complained about , many will be experiencing divorce bereavement or other major difficulties, they are not web addresses or web sites but real people, the rest of us can give them emotional and moral support.
BCA chiropractors today; others tomorrow, it is a fatuous difference, real people going about their daily lives and facing yet more difficulty from a bunch of people who have not even met them. This is unfair, unreasonable and one of the problems is that whichever way the investigating committee decides it will be open to scathing comment because of the history and actions of the GCC employee Greg Price.
First things first: “The ordinary chiropractors from all the associations are innocent of anything except being in a badly governed profession.” Really? So “ordinary chiropractors” haven’t been making any unsubstantiated claims? Ordinary chiropractors haven’t been publicising their practices inconsistent with ASA guidance or the best available scientific evidence? Just how confident are you of the complete innocence of “ordinary chiropractors”?
“The lack of unity, lack of promoting the profession and disproportionate adversarial style of regulation has had the inevitable consequence of allowing people to target us.” No – the promotion of chiropractic for treatments where the evidence is negative or is lacking has allowed people to “target” chiropractors, as you insist on putting it. If the claims could have been substantiated then I don’t see how a lack of promotion of chiropractic, for example – or a lack of unity among chiropractors – in itself would have allowed sceptics to target anyone. What exactly would they have been targeting? People making reasonable claims backed up by robust evidence? How could they “target” anybody for that?
As I wrote in my earlier piece, it does feel a little bit harsh to be making formal complaints about these people. The alternative, though, seems to be to allow people to make whatever medical claims they like, to allow them to avoid any form of self-reflection or engagement with critics, and to let them continue to do as they please without any regard for evidence or ethics.
I am not responsible for any personal problems that chiropractors may have. I am not responsible for chiropractors choosing to make unsubstantiated claims. I am not responsible for the inability of chiropractors to accept criticism. I am not responsible for the BCA’s decision to sue Simon Singh – which was the catalyst that encouraged so many to shine a light on the way that chiropractors operate. Neither is any other sceptic or blogger or sceptical blogger responsible for any of these things. Yet again, instead of looking inward and reflecting on what they might have done better chiropractors are looking for someone to point the finger at: regulators for not doing enough to protect them; and sceptics for, well, being unkind.
This latter point seems to be a recurring theme. Those who are criticised for making unsubstantiated claims or for having failed to think things through properly lash out at their critics and accuse them of unkindness, aggression, or even “vitriol” rather than taking a look at what they themselves could have done differently.
Let us look briefly at one or two other examples of this phenomena. I note that comments and posts on the Holford Watch blog provide the occasional example and this one in particular is worth linking to: while blog comments can sometimes be written in anger and cannot normally be edited by the author of the comment, newsletters from popular media nutritionists are, I believe, a different animal. Patrick Holford, in his 100%health Newsletter, No 41, September 2007, referred to Ben Goldacre as attacking Panorama and Alasdair Phillips “in his usual vitriolic and inaccurate way”. This ‘vitriolic and inaccurate attack’ can be read here, if you would like to make up your own mind as to whether Goldacre had launched a vitriolic and inaccurate attack or not: badscience.net. Here is another sample (this time from the comments section) – “I have just come upon this site for the first time and am horrified at the vitriol and jealousy piled on to Patrick.” It is noted in a later comment that “in some quarters it seems as if there is a Knee-Jerk dictionary that defines vitriol as “someone who disagrees with me using science and my own words to do it”.”