A chiropractic association in the UK has taken the very unusual step of contacting all of its members and recommending they take down their websites, apparently because of the risk that those websites contain unsubstantiated claims about chiropractic's ability to treat certain conditions.
This blog entry on DC’s Improbable Science blog — The McTimoney Chiropractic Association would seem to believe that chiropractic is “bogus” — has a copy of the letter. It reads, in part:
The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is as follows.
- If you have a website, take it down NOW.
When you have done that, please let us know preferably by email or by phone. This will save our valuable time chasing you to see whether it has been done.
- REMOVE all the blue MCA patient information leaflets, or any patient information leaflets of your own that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems in your clinic or at any other site where they might be displayed with your contact details on them. DO NOT USE them until further notice. The MCA are working on an interim replacement leaflet which will be sent to you shortly.
The "campaigners" referred to in the website are individuals — mostly skeptical bloggers, from what I understand — who've taken on the task of emailing chiropractors and saying, basically, "your website says you can treat X...can you provide any credible evidence for that claim?"
Many commentators think this letter is a smoking gun, proving that chiropractors themselves know how little evidence there is that their practices are effective. (My non-expert understanding from what I've read is that there is some evidence for the effectiveness of chiropractic treatments for certain kinds of back pain, but little beyond that.) In fairness, it's worth pointing out that MCA explicitly denies that its letter is an admission of anything. Their letter says: "This advice is given to you solely to protect you from what we believe is a concerted campaign, and does not imply any wrongdoing on your part or the part of the Association. "
Now, I want to set aside entirely the debate over chiropractic in general. What interests me, here, is the move by this professional association — a kind of business association, in effect — to tell its members not to publicize the details of the services they offer. This means that all communications is now going on behind closed doors. This is clearly a dangerous move. It means that consumers now can't see in advance what ailments a various chiropractor offers to help with. It also means that (some) chiropractors are now going to be doing business in a way that's insulated from public scrutiny. That sort of behaviour is surely beneath what we expect of people who claim the title of 'health professional.'
(FYI...Here's the strikingly brief website for the McTimoney Chiropractic Association itself. Essentially, they've deleted all content. But here, thanks to the Internet Archive (which archives websites) is what the McTimoney Chiropractic Association website looked like on February 2008.)
Please note: I will not be approving comments that try to engage the general question of evidence for/against the effectiveness of chiropractic. Please limit comments to the specific issue at hand. Thanks.