Saturday, June 23, 2007

"The name of the page has been changed"

Or why the word "quack" seems to have been adjudged to be inflammatory.

The ever bombastic pharmacology Professor David Colquhoun has been running a "quackery" blog for some time. In it he takes on the purveyors of such woo-woo as "blood cleansers" and "magic water". His posts are less readable than the taut prose of Ben Goldacre, and he can get even more frothing than James Randi. What he says about pseudoscientific quackery, a multi-billion pound industry which preys on ignorance and fear, is ill-tempered but well founded.

Recently, the husband of one of these placebo-mongers launched a "kitchen sink" legal action which, according to Colquhoun and UCL provost Malcolm Grant, included: allegations of defamation, malicious falsehood and breach of copyright; enquiries under the FOI and a demand that "a paper [be] circulated to all UCL Council members concerning an alleged misuse of IT resources and possibly office space and secretarial facilities by Professor Colquhoun". UCL, in what must be conceded was a responsible, if ass-covering, move requested Colquhoun's blog be shelved whilst a QC was summoned to give advice.

Long story short - the blog is back. Ben Goldacre covers the public statement released after the advice was given. The joint statement by Colquhoun and Grant concludes:

"UCL... continues strongly to support and uphold Professor Colquhoun’s expression of uncompromising opinions as to the claims made for the effectiveness of treatments by the health supplements industry or other similar bodies"

The victory was not complete however. In thesis speak, some minor emendations were required. Colquhoun writes:
"The name of the page has been changed from quack.html to improbable.html on [the] advice of lawyers"

Who says lawyers don't have a sense of humour.

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