A galaxy of luminaries from the disparate worlds of science, comedy, the arts and humanities – from Ricky Gervais to the president of the Royal Society – have come out in support of a science writer who is being sued by chiropractors for saying they practise "bogus treatments".
Dr Simon Singh allegedly libelled the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) in an article claiming the association is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes "bogus" therapies. The BCA demanded an apology and a retraction, and in its libel action won a preliminary court ruling against Dr Singh last month. In it, Mr Justice Eady ruled that Dr Singh's use of the word "bogus" meant he was accusing the BCA of being dishonest and backing treatments it knew did not work. He refutes this, saying that "alternative therapists who offer treatments unsupported by reasonable evidence are deluded rather than deliberately dishonest".
Dr Singh announced yesterday that he intends to appeal against the ruling, which has already cost him about £100,000 in legal fees but won him the backing of more than 100 prominent figures – including a Nobel laureate.
The signatories to the statement in support of Dr Singh include Gervais, the actor Stephen Fry, the scientist Richard Dawkins, Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, former government chief scientist Sir David King, the novelist Martin Amis and the comedian and doctor Harry Hill. "We, the undersigned, believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence," the statement reads.