Tomorrow there is a debate in parliament on the subject of libel reform.
English libel laws are being used to stifle scientific debate in the UK, to the point where many scientists are not bothering to make their opinions heard. Those that do criticise others are being heavily punished for doing so.
Medical doctor and journalist Ben Goldacre was recently involved in a libel battle following his criticism of a vitamin salesman who claimed that anti-retroviral drugs were ineffective in treating AIDS and offered his vitamins as an alternative. Despite the fact that Goldacre won, they still came out of it £150,000 poorer. The science author Simon Singh is going through a similar situation right now.
In 1961, the German paediatrician Widukind Lenz criticised the drug Thalidomide. By this time, at least 10,000 children had been born with birth defects. If he, and all other scientists since, had refused to make their criticism known for fear of legal action, the deformities may still be continuing today.
If we put a stop to criticism, we not only put an end to our ability to know which of our current treatments are effective and safe, but we also make it impossible to evaluate the treatments of the future.
We must do everything we can to reform our uniquely repressive English libel system.
The future health of everyone in this country and the world depends on it.