I have put my name to a petition that feels that libel laws should not be used to silence discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence. This is following the British Chiropractic Association bringing a libel case against Simon Singh for questioning the evidence relating to their claims. It seems to many people, including your blogger, that the response to this should be open debate and defending of claims, not suing the respected author of an article for highlighting such doubts.

Simon has taken the brave move of appealing the pre-trial ruling, and Sense About Science have joined with him to gather support for the freedom of speech issue that underpins this. It can all be read about here. Simon is quoted as saying:


“It has been a stressful and frustrating twelve months since I published my article on chiropractors and their attempts to treat children with conditions such as asthma. The British Chiropractic Association’s decision to sue me for libel has been an enormous drain on my time and energy. However, the support that I have received from family, friends, readers, bloggers, scientists, journalists and those who care about free speech has been incredible, and it has played a crucial role in my decision to continue defending my article and fighting the libel action.

More importantly, everyone agrees that there is something fundamentally wrong with the English libel laws, which have a chilling effect on journalists, whether they write about science or anything else, whether they live in Britain or anywhere else. Hence, I am delighted that so many individuals and organisations have come together to launch a campaign with Sense About Science to highlight how the English libel laws clash with the right to discuss science in a frank and fair way. The Keep Libel Laws out of Science Campaign will also raise issues related to my particular libel case, and it will encourage a debate on the reform of the English libel system.

The campaign launch revolves around the statement shown below, and I would urge anyone who cares about science or free speech to show support by signing up.

And I would also encourage you to make your friends and colleagues aware of the issues at stake and ask them to sign up. It is possible that the time is right for major libel reform in England, which will then allow scientists and journalists to write with less fear of being intimidated.”

Let’s hope so.