Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication

15 Oct 2008

Ideal Spine Centre
30 Whitstable Road
Blean, Canterbury
Kent CT2 9EB
Number of complaints: 1

Media: Regional press
Sector: Health and beauty

Ad
A regional press ad, for the Ideal Spine Centre, was headed "Backchat with Dr. Christian Farthing at the Ideal Spine Centre, Canterbury. The Germ Theory". Below, text stated "If your doctor has taught you that germs can be caught, your doctor should be the sickest person in the world. The question is, can germs be spread? ... If the germ theory of disease was correct, there would be no one living today to talk about it! Although germs are certainly a factor involved in the diseases of man, the germ alone is not the cause of disease ... The cause of disease is within you. It is the lack of your body's ability to ward off disease. Health comes from within, and so, disease manifests from within you also ... The point is, you can either strengthen or weaken your immune system. Things that weaken your immune system are stress, alcohol, lack of sleep and nerve interference. Things that strengthen your immune system include a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, regular exercise, having your spine checked throughout life to make sure your nervous system is free of any interference (ie. [sic] vertebral subluxation) ... If you know someone who is regularly suffering from colds, ear infections, chest infections or are generally run down, tell them to get a wellness check-up by a Wellness Doctor. That is, someone who will not give you antibiotics, but sound advice to get you back on track without medication. Start building a healthier immune system by strengthening your spine and nervous system. Better health comes from within you, not from a bottle of tablets. If you want to get well and stay well, start questioning your doctor's recommendations. Then if you want you and your family to be the healthiest you can be, without medication, for life, go and see a Wellness Doctor. During the month of October our family practice is providing free spine and posture health checks for families ... Free spine and health checks Every Tuesday throughout October ..."

Issue
A reader believed the ad was misleading because:

1. it claimed that strengthening your spine and nervous system would improve the immune system and the body's ability to fight disease and

2. it claimed that disease originated in the body and outside influences, such as germs, were not significant.

The ASA challenged:

3. whether the ad discouraged people from seeking essential treatment for illnesses from a suitably qualified medical professional.

The CAP Code: 3.1;7.1;50.1;50.3

Response
Christian Farthing provided a review of vertebral subluxation and the physiology of the stress response. Matthew McCoy DC, Director of Life University, a college of Chiropractic in the US, also responded on Christian Farthings behalf. He provided a review of vertebral subluxation and its clinical application within chiropractic. He explained that chiropractic definitions of subluxation included a neurological component and provided definitions from various chiropractic organisations to demonstrate this. He also referenced various trials that he said showed chiropractic and subluxation had an impact on wellness and quality of life.

Christian Farthing believed the ad did not suggest that germs were insignificant, but stated that germs alone were not the cause of disease in the individual. He also disagreed that the ad discouraged people from seeking essential treatment for illnesses. He said the ad encouraged people to see their medical doctor but to question the quick prescription of antibiotics.

Assessment
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted chiropractic aimed to offer patients wellness care, promote general health and help to prevent the occurrence of disorders. Nevertheless, we also noted Christian Farthing was not on the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) register and was therefore not entitled to practice as a chiropractor in the UK, although he said he used chiropractic techniques to assist in helping improve people's quality of life. We considered that the review of the purpose, principles and practice of chiropractic provided in support of the ad did not justify the implication in the ad that having the spine checked throughout life would have an impact on resistance to disease. We were also concerned that the claim "If you know someone who is regularly suffering from colds, ear infections, chest infections or are generally run down, tell them to get a wellness check-up by a Wellness Doctor ... start building a healthier immune system by strengthening your spine and nervous system ..." implied that Christian Farthings treatment could prevent or treat prolonged or recurrent bacterial or viral infections. We concluded that the Ideal Spine Centre had not justified this implication and the ad was likely to mislead.

On these points, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1(Scientific substantiation).

3. Upheld
We noted Matthew McCoys argument that chiropractic aimed to promote optimal health and wellbeing and that most chiropractors understood their practice in terms of holistic care. Nevertheless, we were concerned that readers would infer from the presentation of the ad that treatments offered by Christian Farthing at the Ideal Spine Centre might be preferable to, or a replacement for, a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner for some of the conditions listed. We were particularly concerned that the claims "If you know someone who is regularly suffering colds, ear infections, chest infections or are generally run down, tell them to get a wellness check-up by a Wellness Doctor. That is, someone who will not give you antibiotics, but sound advice to get back on track without medication" and "Start building a healthier immune system by strengthening your spine and nervous system. Better health comes from within you, not from a bottle of tablets ... if you want you and your family to be the healthiest you can be, without medication, for life, go and see a Wellness Doctor" could discourage people from seeking essential treatment for bacterial infection from a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 50.3 (Discouragement of essential treatment).

Action
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Ideal Spine Centre to seek advice from the CAP Copy Advice team when preparing future advertising.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)


Advertising Standards Authority,
Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6QT, United Kingdom

This article was posted on June 10, 2009.

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