March 12, 2010

Sad news - Simon Singh goes offline

British science writer Simon Singh is a national treasure. He chose to write about chiropractic “medicine” and was promptly sued for libel.
More at the UK Guardian:

Simon Singh: This is goodbye
Almost a year after writing my first column for this site, I would like to welcome you to my final article.

At first I was able to deliver my monthly column on time, but my submissions have become increasingly delayed, and this is my first since November. The problem is that I have spent the past two years being sued for libel, which has taken up huge amounts of time. And now all my remaining spare time is being devoted to campaigning for libel reform.

The crippling and prohibitive financial cost of defending a libel case is often highlighted, but the equally terrible cost in terms of time and stress is rarely mentioned.

I recently discussed this with Dr Peter Wilmshurst, the eminent cardiologist who is being sued for libel for commenting on the efficacy of a new heart device. Peter was put under immense stress when he received legal papers on Friday 21 December 2007 at 5.09pm, which was nine minutes after most solicitors closed for their Christmas holiday. It was not until the new year that Peter was able to get any legal advice, so it was an anxious Christmas.

Perhaps it was just as well that Peter was not aware of the full implications of what lay ahead of him, namely at least two years of anxiety, misery and the threat of bankruptcy. Almost all his spare time has been spent on the libel case. When finalising his defence, he took two weeks of annual leave to work on the documents. Moreover, dealing with ongoing legal issues has prevented him from carrying out his usual medical research, and a number of publications have been put on hold.

After chatting to Peter, I decided to count up how much time I had spent defending the article published in the Guardian in April 2008 that led to the British Chiropractic Association suing me for libel. I reckon I have spent 44 solid weeks on the libel action spread across two years.

I am in the very fortunate position of having no employees, being a freelancer, having financial resources and having a very supportive wife. In any other circumstance, I cannot imagine fighting a libel action because of the enormous sacrifices involved.

I should have started writing a new book a year ago, but as yet I cannot even develop proposals and talk to publishers because I have no idea how the next year or so will develop.

The case could easily continue for another two years. If I win then I will not recover all of my legal costs, but (worse still) I will never recover the time I have dedicated to poring over legal documents.

Draconian laws — allowing anyone with money for a lawyer to effectively shut down anyone.

Posted by DaveH at March 12, 2010 01:34 PM | TrackBack
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