Science Journalist Sued For Questioning Value Of Chiropractic Therapy

British writer Simon Singh was sued for libel by a chiropractors' group in 2008 after publishing an article which questioned the scientific value of chiropractic therapy. Now a court has found his statements "fair," but the battle continues.

Cosmos magazine has posted a copy of the original article, published in The Guardian, here. In it, Singh suggested chiropractic therapy may not have the health benefits its practitioners claim.

According to Cosmos:

The [Chiropractors] association had called Singh's article in The Guardian newspaper in 2008 a "serious attack" which "tarnished" its reputation.

Last year, London's High Court, in a preliminary ruling, found that his comments were an "assertion of fact", denying him the defence of fair comment - which permitted him to argue that what he wrote was based on an honestly held opinion expressed without malice.

The fresh ruling now allows him to proceed to trial armed with a stronger defence. Despite this, the case has already cost an estimated £200,000 (A$330,000) in legal fees.

British libel laws are unlike those in the United States, where you can't sue somebody for libel if they have made a factual statement. So even though a UK court found Singh's comments factual, the suit continues.

This libel problem isn't limited to science journalists. Tracey Brown of the Coalition for Libel Reform told Cosmos:

There is a cardiologist currently being sued by a device manufacturer, we have researchers who have been unable to publish their critique of lie detector technology because of threats of libel action. A major science journal is also currently being sued and our academics are being told to pull down blogs. We urgently need a public interest defence so that we can all be sure of our rights as publishers, writers, authors and academics.

Let's hope Singh prevails in his case. In the meantime, you can check out Singh's awesome books about science here. (My personal favorite is The Code Book, which contains an amazingly readable chapter on asymmetric key encryption.)

via Cosmos Magazine