ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY ADJUDICATION
After ten months, the advertising Standards Authority (ASA) adjudicated on complaints about H:MC21's advertisement in the Care supplement of the New Statesman magazine in the autumn of 2010.
H:MC21 appealed against the adjudication. The appeal can be read here.
The full adjudication is no longer available on the ASA website.
Our commentary on the adjudication can be downloaded here.
H:MC21 is profoundly concerned at the lengths the ASA investigation team was prepared to go to in order to try and get the challenges upheld. These included:
Refusing to read the evidence
Misrepresenting and censoring the evidence
Changing their arguments and even rewriting a challenge to justify their arguments
Using nonsensical arguments
Using unscientific and inconsistent arguments
Using unscientific or unreferenced evidence
Acting beyond their competence
Unsurprisingly, H:MC21 made a formal complaint about the handling of the case (after version 3 of the Draft Recommendation). Responding to this complaint, the Chief Executive of the ASA fully endorsed the investigation team's conclusions, claiming "that our latest version of the Draft Recommendation provides an accurate summary of your response and that our assessments are sound."
Only four days later he had to apologise, saying that "I appreciate that some errors and misinterpretations must have caused you concern. Please be re-assured however that we will correct what needs correcting."
In version 4 of the Draft Recommendation one of the challenges was rewritten - seven months after the original notification;
In version 5 of the Draft Recommendation two of the allegedly "sound" assessments were reversed by the investigation team itself on the very grounds H:MC21 had raised four months earlier;
In the final adjudication two more assessments were reversed by the ASA Council.
The process of fighting this complaint has given H:MC21 the impression that the ASA does not consider it sufficient for homeopaths to state facts and supply evidence to support those facts. It would appear that if those facts support homeopathy, the ASA considers them to be unacceptable in an advertisement.
We consider that an independent investigation into the ASA's handling of this case and of other cases against homeopaths is urgently required.
For the H:MC21 press release, click here.
For a list of key issues, click here.
To go to the advertisement itself, click here.
H:MC21 wishes to thank William Alderson for his work in dealing with this complaint.
H:MC21's critique of Trick or Treatment? by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst is still available here. Trick or Treatment? also had so many flaws that is was not scientifically reliable, but many of its arguments continue to be used by others as though they were still credible.
New praise for Halloween Science has been published in Dirty Medicine: The Handbook (London: Slingshot Publications, 2011). Its author has said that:
Halloween Science, is exceptional and brilliantly titled
This is undoubtedly how writing should be used, as a weapon