... although this form of acupuncture may carry slightly greater health risks.
So while killing time on facebook researching new science articles I came across this short Guardian article containing a startling headline announcing that:
“Dozens killed by incorrectly placed acupuncture needles”
But before I could begin hunting for news stories about the recent activity of an acupuncture themed serial killer the sub heading informed me that a “survey reveals punctured hearts and lungs among causes of death over past 45 years”. Despite my general lack of statistical competence even I can work out that ‘dozens’ of deaths across more than four decades does not work out as a particularly scary statistic and certainly not one that warrants such a sensationalist headline. In fact as the first paragraph of the article explains the total recorded deaths numbers 86 over 45 years which works out as an average of around 2 deaths a year.
What makes this figure even less impressive is that the number was obtained from worldwide reports including those from Japan and China. Two deaths a year from a treatment that is performed on millions of people, multiple times every year is really not something which people should worry about. Winning the lottery would appear to be more likely than dying from a botched acupuncture treatment.
I suppose the first thing I should make clear is that the following post is my opinion, it does contain facts, but overall the post should be regarded as being mostly about my opinion of those facts rather than simply a collection of facts devoid of my personal opinions. As such I would think it constitutes commentary on a current event. I would normally think that such things go without saying but in light of today’s events I’m not so sure.
Today, I attended the preliminary hearing for the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) vs. Simon Singh case at the (discussed previously). This case is concerned with an article Singh wrote for the Guardian over a year ago and whether or not his comments in the article constitute libel against the BCA.
The specific paragraph that the BCA claim is based around is the following (and in particular the bolded phrases):
You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.
Simon Singh is a British science journalist who aside from being a great populariser of science also happens to be the co-author of one of my favourite books ‘Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial‘. He is also currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA).
The BCA took exception not at his book, wherein he discussed chiropractic medicine at some length- it’s history, it’s clinical evidence and it’s problems- but at an article (and in particluar one paragraph) he wrote in April 2008 for the Guardian’s website (ironically titled ‘comment is free’). The article has since been removed from the Guardian’s website, however, a copy is now being hosted on a Russian server here (and it makes a good read!).