Cash for Honours – again?

I am not conducting a campaign against the Royal Society of Medicine. I have attended lots of very nice meetings there, and the restaurant is excellent. So this second post about its rather seamier side must be read in the context that it isn’t a wholly bad organisation. I am indebted to my good friend Zeno for bringing to my attention a nice little earner which the RSM has had going for a while – the Wall of Honour. I’ll leave you to read what they say about it.

Finished? OK. For more detail there is an interesting thread at JREF, but briefly the honour afforded to John McTimoney, for which the McTimoney Chiropractic Association paid the going rate of £2500, attracted some less than flattering comments. The timing of such an `honour’ seemed especially inapposite in view of the large scale demolition of the claims of chiropractors in recent months. The adverse comments built up until someone tipped off the RSM, who removed the lot and promised to issue a statement by 18th November. To its credit the Society did invite further comment, and here is mine:

Thanks for providing the means to comment further on this issue.

Firstly, there may be a fine line between abusive and critical comments, and I thought the adverse comments were forceful but not abusive. I realise that the comments board wasn’t intended for that purpose, but if the RSM wishes to honour controversial figures (which it has a right to do), then it must allow free speech regarding those people. There is though the matter of the criteria for admission, which the RSM would do well to publish – hopefully it is not simply a matter of money.

However there is the matter of evidence based practice, which I would assume the RSM supports. The vast majority of chiropractic practice, as measured by the range of conditions its practitioners are willing to treat, is not evidence based, and that is a matter of scientific fact not opinion. In addition, the vitalistic basis of chiropractic is fanciful, and entirely at odds with what we know of human physiology. It is not approprate for a respected professional organisation to lend credibility to it.

I must emphasise that I am not a supporter of a strict medical orthodoxy, at the expense of creativity. Paradigms do need to be challenged, but chiropractic is not a new perspective on a medical problem, it is an old idea which never had any rational foundation. Accidentally, manipulation has some benefit for low back pain (no better than standard therapy), but that has nothing to do with `subluxations’ or whatever is the current invention of its adherents.

I hope these comments are seen as constructive, and I look forward to seeing the result of your internal review.

As promised the RSM statement duly arrived:

Over two years ago The Royal Society of Medicine launched an initiative to raise money for the provision of medical education, called the Wall of Honour. The project has to date been very successful and over £589,000 has been raised. Donors have responded enthusiastically to the idea that they (not the Society) have the opportunity to honour someone who works (or worked) in the healthcare and medical sector.

In autumn 2010, the Society expanded its website to include a ‘Virtual’ Wall of Honour which provided the donor, family, friends, colleagues and admirers to share personal thoughts, stories, anecdotes and photos of the person being honoured. This facility was launched following feedback from those who were unable to travel to London due to ill health or because they are based overseas.

In recent weeks some people – who are not family, friends or colleagues of the person being honoured – have chosen to abuse the purpose of the Virtual Wall of Honour by placing a variety of personal views on the website and specifically on the page dedicated to John McTimoney.

The donor who gave money to honour John McTimoney is entirely within their rights to honour him and at the same time to support the medical education provided by the Society.

The acceptance of this donation does not mean that the Society endorses the work of John McTimoney. Nor does the Society endorse the names or work of any of the 461 names inscribed on the Wall. The Wall solely exists for families, friends and colleagues to remember someone close to them.

As stated from the day the website was launched, the Society reserves the right to remove or edit entries made on its website and those submitting comments have agreed to abide by the RSM’s terms and conditions. These particular pages are not a forum for debate or discussion. Due to the misuse of the website the Society will now pre-moderate all contributions on all pages.

It should be noted that anyone who has an interest in medicine or healthcare has been able to join the RSM as an Associate Member for many years. Membership of the RSM does not automatically mean that the Society as an organisation endorses what its individual members do, say or practise.

Make of that what you will. What it has achieved so far is that more people are looking more closely at the list of names on the Wall. One such name is a company, Immodulon Ltd, which apparently is a small academic offshoot. It seems to have a domain name but the website isn’t responding at present. It may have great potential, but is this really the place to advertise commercial operations? The Wall is obviously open to all comers, the only qualification being that they come packaged in 2500 pound notes. What do the real intellectual giants of health care, already inscribed thereon, think about such company? Or will they stay silent?

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5 Responses

  1. Of course, those that coughed up the money to ‘honour’ McTimoney must realise that it will be spent by the RSM on proper medical education, and not on quackery! Sweet irony.

  2. Obviously there is a language (being an American where English is a more of a suggestion than a requirement) or personal context part of this that I missed.

    I have just received a report on my daughter’s high school scores. She received high marks in all subjects and plastered across the page was that she is an “Honor Student.” Since I do not believe in paying children for doing their best in school, I thought this was that type of post.

    (actually I just force under performing children to stay in their room without internet service and deprive them of food — that is a joke! …. truthfully I have a learning disabled child, so I have realistic expectations and never forced my younger children to achieve, it is all of their own volition)

    I see it is much worse. So instead of a “Wall of Honour” for real, there is a wall of of names paid for by friends, relatives, business associates and advertising agencies. ARGH!

  3. I can see the arguments for both sides. Up until where the RSM side is significantly weakened by allowing all and sundry to part with £££’s and get an honourable mention. And they moderate open debate?!?!?

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