UK Libel laws … are dangerous

Fantastic article in today”s Guardian by the Bad Science author, Dr Ben Goldacre. OK, I’ve been banging this drum before, but its important … I mean really important, not for somebody else, but for you and your future health, so pay attention … Ben starts out like this …

Recently we have seen a large number of fairly high-profile libel cases involving scientists and doctors, including Dr Peter Wilmshurst, Dr Henrik Thomsen, Dr Simon Singh, and my own.

Then goes on to say …

In science and medicine, criticising each others’ ideas and practices isn’t an aberration, or a special occasion: it’s exactly what you are supposed to do, all of the time, and with very good reason.

But … why does this matter? …

In medicine, when you make a mistake about whether something works or not, it’s possible to cause death and suffering on a genuinely biblical scale.

there are many examples of this, even in mainstream health care. On paper, for example, it made perfect sense to give antiarrhythmics preventively to everyone who’d had a heart attack, rather than just the people who had abnormal hearth rhythms. But it turned out that this practice had killed more Americans than died in the whole of the Vietnam war.

Ben then goes on to explain that the Libel laws in the UK are gagging the very folks we depend upon to speak out and protect our interests. Remember now, these are the folks who are subject matter expects and have well-tuned bullshit meters, so whenever faced with a potential risk to you a me, its vital that they have the freedom to shout out about it … Ben puts it like this …

At the moment, we expect scientists and doctors to speak out when they see problems with other peoples ideas and practices, and unthinkingly, not even in the melodramatic sense of a whistleblower: it’s simply the job.

But with the law in its current state, doctors and scientists might be wiser simply to stop giving any view about any drug or health-related product that is marketed for commercial purposes, in any forum.

This really does matter to you, so if you have a few minutes to spare, then invest them in your future health by reading Ben’s article here … and if you want to do more, then click here and go sign the libel reform campaign petition, and since you are there, why not check out the rest of their web site.

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