Skeptic News: Simon Singh threatened with legal action for criticising health magazine

From: Guardian

The science writer and libel reform campaigner Simon Singh has been threatened with legal action after criticising an alternative health magazine on Twitter.

Earlier this week, Singh took to the social media network to denounce a magazine called What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY). Described by its editor, Lynne McTaggart, as being aimed at “intelligent women between 35-55” the magazine claims to provide information about what works and what does not work in both conventional and alternative medicines. Coverlines on the current issue include “sunbathe your diabetes away” and “how I avoided my hysterectomy through diet”.

Writing on Facebook on Tuesday, McTaggart called on the magazine’s supporters to fight the actions of “bully boys” who wanted to push it off newsagents’ shelves. “Simon Singh, who was leading the charge, was just told by our distributor essentially to shove off and reminded that tweeting untrue statements about us or them is, well, libel,” she wrote.

Singh confirmed that he had contacted Comag, the distributors of WDDTY, to say that in his opinion the magazine was largely unscientific and was promoting advice that could potentially harm readers.

“Also, many of the adverts appear to make pseudoscientific and unsubstantiated claims,” he said. “I even offered to meet with Comag and introduce them to medical experts, but they have not accepted this invitation. When I suggested that I would blog about our email exchange, their reaction was to tell me in no uncertain terms: ‘I should inform you that we have sought legal advice in respect of this matter. We would take any attempts to damage our reputation on social media or elsewhere very seriously.'”

In another email Comag informed Singh of the company’s intent not to discuss the matter further and that it had instructed legal counsel.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health programme, McTaggart said the magazine was meant to tackle “a conspiracy of silence” among conventional doctors. “We are going to continue to overburden the NHS with a lot of treatments that are less than good unless we open this debate and we all realise that we have to work together and look at what works,” she said. “We need conventional medicine to open its mind to other potential treatments.”

We wonder if McTaggart is aware of the last time some quacks tried to silence criticism of their “science” using libel? Perhaps she should give the BCA a ring to see how that went?

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