Intended for healthcare professionals


Science in court

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

Science and polemic

There's a confusion here between scientific debate and insults.
Singh is not being sued for his publication of a peer reviewed article.
He's being sued for his allegedly defamatory remarks published in the
mainstream media. Should "journalism" be exempt from the libel laws of our
country because it claims to be "science journalism"?
Should we expect a lower standard of public debate from scientists than
from other citizens?
It does not suppress scientific progress to insist those engaged in debate
adhere to the libel laws of our country in their public pronouncements.
I know most of the most vociferous "critics" are not medically qualified
doctors, but current GMC guidance on good practice sets a good standard on
interprofessional relations -

46. You must treat your colleagues fairly and with respect. You must
not bully or harass them, or unfairly discriminate against them by
allowing your personal views* to affect adversely your professional
relationship with them. You should challenge colleagues if their behaviour
does not comply with this guidance.

47. You must not make malicious and unfounded criticisms of
colleagues that may undermine patients' trust in the care or treatment
they receive, or in the judgement of those treating them.

Setting aside the issue of libel laws, wouldn't the interests of
patients be better served if the individuals involved in this discourse
adhered to the standards of the GMC, not least to communicate with respect
and to be careful not to "undermine patients' trust in the care or
treatment they receive, or in the judgement of those treating them"

Competing interests:
Full time doctor employed at Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 June 2009
Bob Leckridge
Locum Consultant Physician
Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. G12 0XQ