Intended for healthcare professionals


Science in court

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 03 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2254

Ignorance in Court

Why should I feel sympathy for someone who has invoked the wrath of
the British Chiropractic Association and landed himself in court with his
ill-judged remarks such as Mr Simon Singh? Presumably he was well aware of
such a risk when he took scientific debate outside the normal forums and
decided instead to lambast an entire professional group in a mainstream
newspaper. When I am asked about chiropractice, osteopathy and other
modalities of treatment in my GP surgery, I defend the scientific evidence
base but in a respectful and non-confrontational way which is likely to
help my patient rather than build resentment. I am also willing to concede
that science doesn't have all the answers that my patient is looking for.
It is a shame that some people use the mantra of 'freedom of speech' to
defend the indefensible. For most people, including myself, freedom of
speech has limits of dignity to protect the rest of society. If one
transgresses this limit - be they a fundamentalist scientist or a
religious extremist - he or she cannot cry foul if they find themselves
defending their comments in court.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 June 2009
Rashed Akhtar
Leicester, LE2 0JN