N – Court silences science writer

The science writer and broadcaster Simon Singh (www.simonsingh.com) is being sued for libel in the UK courts by the British Chiropractic Association. Singh wrote an article on 19 April 2008 in the Guardian that criticised claims made by chiropractors about the efficacy of spinal manipulation for childhood conditions such as asthma, colic, and ear infections, citing a lack of evidence. He also complained that the association “happily promotes bogus treatments.” In a preliminary hearing the judge ruled that Singh’s words imply conscious dishonesty and that they amount to a statement of fact rather than comment. English libel law demands that to win the case Singh will effectively have to prove that the association recklessly promotes chiropractic. The charity Sense About Science has a campaign to keep libel laws out of science (www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/freedebate). More than 100 prominent supporters, including David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, call for an urgent review of English libel law in a statement (www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/334). (BMJ 2009;338:b2254)