Thursday, 28 May 2009

A success with Victoria Chiropractic, a chap called Lanigan, and a paradigmatically relevant hypothesis...

Hurrah, time to chalk one up for the good guys! Following my complaint to Victoria Chiropractic Clinic in Woking I have finally had a response from Jeremy Spanton. As you may remember, I complained about his misleading use of the "Dr" title as well as his claims to be able to treat childhood illnesses such as colic.

He emailed me today to confirm that he had been
"in touch with my association, and on their recommendation... I have altered my name to Jeremy Spanton, Doctor of Chiropractic, and have removed mention of the specific childhood ailments for which Chiropractic can be helpful"

Sure enough, a quick visit to his site confirms that he now correctly identifies himself as a "Doctor of Chiropractic" and whilst he still refers to treating children he has removed references to colic, ADHD, IBS etc. The tone of this page has also been changed somewhat. I'm still not comfortable with his equating spinal exams with dental and hearing tests, but it's a big improvement.

Now, his reference to being in contact with his association interested me. Was he talking about the GCC (the industry regulator) or BCA? As you may know, the BCA are currently suing Simon Singh for claiming that treatments for conditions such as colic are "bogus". It struck me that if the BCA was now advising its members to remove references to such conditions then it might have some bearing on the case.

It turns out Spanton was referring to neither. He was in fact refering to the United Chiropractics Association (UCA), an organisation I had never heard of before.

I looked the UCA up, and what an odd bunch they are! The first thing that struck me was how unprofessional their website looked - kind of worrying for a "professional association". It looks like something straight out of the '90s.

It seems the UCA was set up in 2001 by a bunch of disgruntled chiropractors who were concerned that existing organisations just weren't wacky enough didn't adequately represent "the subluxation based wellness view of chiropractic". These are the people who won't only claim to help you with your sore lower back, posture etc. These are the ones that will claim to help with all sorts of conditions, for which there is no evidence chiropractic can help.

Their "Mission" page shows how bizarre they get. It's full of mumbo-jumbo cod philosophy that would make even a stoned sociology undergraduate blush. They base their mission around a "Philosophical Construct" that states:

Vitalism: We ascribe to the idea that all living organisms are sustained by an innate intelligence, which is both different from and greater than physical and chemical forces. Further we believe innate intelligence is an expression of universal intelligence.

Holism: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Neural supremacy: We ascribe to the concept that the nervous system is the major co-ordinator and regulator of all bodily systems.

Conservative ethic: Our belief in the body's ability to heal itself logically implies that the best care is the least invasive care.

Humanism: We ascribe to the belief that individuals have immutable rights.


Looking further down the page we have the following gems:

In Relation To The Science Of Chiropractic

- Science should seek to answer paradigmatically relevant hypothesis, which by necessity, are borne out of our philosophical constructs
- Science itself is based on a metaphysical belief system built on a priori assumptions not amenable to proof.

This is classic "woo", and a clear attempt to change the rules of the game. Essentially, they're saying "science is what we say it is". That makes it nice and easy to later say that "science" says this stuff works. I call that bullshit.

The UCA currently have 250, 350 or 450 members, depending on which page you look at. Jeremy Spanton is one of them. I dare say the websites of a fair few others contain a few unjutifiable claims.

This isn't the end of the story though. What this demonstrates to me is that chiropractors don't really know what they are. The internal politics of the profession seem quite interesting, and mirrors some of the disputes between other alternative medicine groups such as that between the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths and the Society of Homeopaths:

SoH has sent out inaccurate and defamatory information to ARH members to coincide with ARH membership renewals. This communication has been accompanied by information and registering documents inviting ARH registered members to join SoH. This at the very least, constitutes unethical behaviour.

[T]he SoH’s recent actions suggest that they are more concerned about preserving their own position of power within the profession, than representing the actual needs of practising homeopaths.

I was made aware of the internal politics of chiropractic when a Richard Lanigan copied and entire earlier post of mine on his blog.

It seems Lanigan hopes that complaints from skeptics such as myself will bankrupt the GCC. Lanigan can't call himself a chiropractor, because he isn't one. He resigned from the GCC last year. Though he does offer chiropractic treatment at his clinic. in Kingston-upon-Thames. He is good enough to tell us on his website that:

This may affect your ability to claim from an insurance provider for chiropractic treatment from Richard

Buyer beware!

Not being a member of the GCC does have its benefits though. It means he is presumably not bound by their code of conduct and can therefore make whatever claims he likes on his website.

There's more to say on Lanigan, the BCA and the GCC, but I'll leave it there for now.

Make what you will of all of this. Perhaps you could even make a "paradigmatically relevant hypothesis"!


  1. Are you a bit confused as to how the chiropractic sector works? The GCC is a regulator, the BCA, the UCA and mcTimoney are trade associations. They provide their members with services like insurance, etc, etc.

  2. I'm aware the GCC are the regulator. I just hadn't come across the UCA before.

  3. I was a bit amazed to see how a PhD in Victoria is okay to call themselves doctor, but a Doctor of Chiropractic cannot? Is it so confusing up there?