• The Works

Selective Regulation

I have held off from posting about the Charity Commission for quite a while, because I wanted to give them enough time to fulfil the assurances they have given me and others about effectively regulating certain charities operating in the health space. But enough is enough. I have engaged with the Commission over the last eight years, and nothing substantive has changed. I don’t believe this is because it’s a basically useless regulator. Very detailed and professional-looking enquiry reports on a wide range of compliance issues in charities are published by the Commission. They know how to do the job, and have resources, but it looks as if there are bits of it they just don’t want to do.

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Making up Law on the Fly

I was going to apologise for yet another post about the Charity Commission, but on reflection why should I? This is a serious matter and whatever I do the Commission seems more determined to look silly. You’ll recall that they have accepted that their internal guidance on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) contains major errors of fact and logic, but that they refuse to update it. They did say however that my own review of the guidance would be circulated internally, as case officers also have to take into account updated information as well as approved guidance when making decisions. So I decided to see whether that had had any effect. Continue reading

The Charity Commission – so near and yet so far

Some things take time, and it’s rewarding to get even a tiny bit of progress. My effort to get the Charity Commission to introduce an evidence-based policy has at last reached the stage of a reasonably sensible dialogue, but not yet any meaningful action. To recap, there are several charities that make misleading health claims, homeopathy of course being a prime example. I have been asking the Commission why they granted charity status to these organisations, when they clearly fail the public benefit test. For the full back story read my posts here, here, here and here – in reverse order. Continue reading

Yet More Weasel Words from the Charity Commission

At last the Commission has provided what they describe as their “conclusion of stage one complaint process”. If you are new to this saga you’ll need to read my previous posts on the subject here, here and here. If you have done that, you will not be surprised to learn that the Commission still refuses to accept logical arguments about homeopathy charities. Continue reading

Lynne McTaggart – champion of free speech?

The proprietor of the magazine `What Doctors Don’t Tell You‘ has a rather selective definition of free speech. Lynne McTaggart has repeatedly railed against sceptics in her blog, which currently carries a highly defamatory rant about the “bullies” who try to shut her up. Believe me, I would love her to shut up. But in the spirit of intelligent debate (OK that’s hardly possible with la McTaggart) I am wont to ask searching questions via the comments facility. However I’m finding that my comments mysteriously have stopped appearing. So this is free speech?

Well there are ways round that. This post is a running list of my comments submitted to McTaggart’s blog. So you can bring up her blog post in one window and my comments in another. Here goes:

22.5.15, 15:00

I’ll have to paraphrase the first two as I didn’t save them:

  1. Where’s the evidence that “cyber attack dogs” were sent by any sceptics?
  2. Where’s the evidence that the “comments robot” actually existed?

I need to correct a misunderstanding. You are perfectly free to talk nonsense. Others are equally free to show how it is nonsense. Your advertisers are not free to mislead people with false claims.

22.5.15, 1600

I’m sure your readers will be avidly interested in your “pages of evidence”. In the spirit of transparency you should publish the whole lot. If not, why not?

23.5.15, 09:45

Lynne – presumably you will continue to censor my comments and will refuse to publish all your “pages of evidence”?

24.5.15, 10:30

Still not prepared to publish any of your `evidence’ Lynne? Or to publish my requests for it?

Other comments are appearing, but not mine.


24.5.15, 19:12

Lynne, how hard is it to say yes or no to whether you will publish your `pages of evidence’? It’s a reasonable question and I’m prepared to be reasonable with you as to how you answer it. I realise it may take you some time to publish a lot of pages, so just say when you will get round to it. You know how much there is not me, so I won’t impose a deadline. Just say when!

25.5.15, 22:21

Lynne, I see you are publishing supportive comments as usual but not my questions. You asked me how long I have got to read your `evidence’. The answer is – longer than you could imagine. I am publishing my questions elsewhere and your silence speaks volumes.

30.5.15, 13:50

Lynne: The conclusion is inescapable that you actually DO NOT have any evidence to back up your conspiracy theories, let alone `pages’ of it. You continue to post supportive comments while censoring valid questions from me and from others. Such behaviour is deeply dishonest. Should I be surprised?

19.10.15, 16:55

Comment on her post at http://bit.ly/1Kk7YY8

Why Lynne do you insist on calling Sense About Science “Simon Singh’s charity”? He is a trustee, but doesn’t own it or run it. You frequently beat the drum of free speech, so in that spirit your readers should read the reply to The Times sent by Tracey Brown, SAS Director:


There is rather a big difference between a charity that promotes truth and evidence, and your magazine which is funded by advertisers who have been found to make misleading claims, eg:


Oh by the way, I never did see the “pages of evidence” for your wild claims back in May. The last comment on your blog is mine:


Are you still counting the pages?

Yes, five months later she still hasn’t coughed up any evidence. Why am I not surprised?

The Charity Commission and Quack Charities – Update

This quick update is more about the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) than about the Charity Commission, which is currently silent as usual. When I phoned the PHSO on 11th May I was told that a letter had been sent on 30th April. Yesterday (18th May) nothing had arrived, so I phoned the PHSO again. At my request the letter concerned was emailed to me. It wasn’t actually a letter, but text pasted into the email, and dated 1st May. Here it is: Continue reading

The Charity Commission is not fit for purpose

Last year I was pleasantly surprised when the Charity Commission advised a charity to stop making unsubstantiated claims, after I complained. I am now much less impressed. Encouraged by my initial success, I started looking at more charities that seem to mislead the public. Remember that charities are legally obliged to operate for public benefit, and there are many that do not. Several promote homeopathy, in some cases to vulnerable people in poor countries, which can’t possibly benefit them, and could do much harm. Continue reading

The Myth of Big Pharma

Forty years ago this year (god, can it be so long?), I joined the pharmaceutical industry. Its reputation then was little better then than it is now, various companies having weathered scandals in the previous two decades. In the 1950s Pfizer was top UK company by a long way, on the back of its tetracycline antibiotics. Oxytetracycline was promoted via golf weekends for doctors, and a dimpled ball emblazoned with the brand name Terramycin was famously brandished in the House of Commons in the late 1960s by Gwyneth Dunwoody MP. Not many years later I was working for Pfizer, and doctors still asked me for golf balls, I suspect only half in jest. In the 1960s Roche was forced to repay excessive profits from benzodiazepine anxiolytics, and of course the now long gone Distillers Company presided over the worst ever case of teratogenic damage from a drug. Continue reading

More Cherry-Picked `Evidence’

Some of you will have seen an email that went out the other day to subscribers to the `What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ website. Here it is:

Would you like to be featured in a future issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) magazine? Continue reading

I’m the Doctor – or am I?

Around the end of 2012 I was alerted  to the claims which Dr Jessica Middleton was making on her website, which she calls The Natural Doctor. A central issue was that Dr Middleton (now Dr Braid – see below) was clearly trading as a medical doctor, as evidenced by the name of her business, and the use of her medical degrees on the opening page of the site. However she does not practise anything which might be called conventional medicine, preferring to offer a wide range of diagnostics and `treatments’ which mostly lack robust evidence. I don’t intend to provide a detailed critique of what is on offer, as my purpose with this post is to explore how such a doctor is regulated. Meanwhile, I’m sure some of you will have your own views about an apparently intelligent young woman who was extensively educated in medicine, to a large extent at public expense, and now chooses not to utilise any of that training in service to the public.

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