Relief for Shrewsbury cardiologist under libel threat

The science journal Nature reports:

Contentious libel action ends as medical company folds – April 20, 2011

The medical company suing cardiologist Peter Wilmshurst in a high profile libel case has folded.

NMT Medical said in a statement yesterday that has entered into an ‘Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors’, an alternative to bankruptcy where the company assigns its assets to an individual for liquidation and distribution.

The company’s libel actions against Wilmshurst have become a cause célèbre among those pushing for reform of England’s laws (who count Nature among their supporters).

Wilmshurt says fighting the case has cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds and it is unclear how much he will be able to reclaim.

His solicitor Mark Lewis said (in a statement released by campaign group Index on Censorship), “It looks like the nightmare is nearly over. After 4 years NMT looks to have gone out of business. Poor Dr Wilmshurst. The continual deployment of the libel laws to stop scientific discussion seems to be over. Peter Wilmshurst and his family enter the normal world blinking from the bright light of a case that is over.”

Local libel news

According to the BBC, the company NMT Medical has  stepped up its libel action against a local hospital consultant, Dr Peter Wilmshurst of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Please support the Libel Reform Campaign, if only to sign its petition. It is trying to get the law changed to (amongst other desirable aims) make it more difficult to try to suppress inconvenient scientific debate by using the libel law.

Note that a big company does not have to win its case to use English libel law to suppress discussion. Just defending his case will cost Dr Wilmshurst a huge amount of money. English libel law costs around 140 times as much to defend as the European average, so much valid discussion is suppressed without ever coming to court.

Keep libel laws out of science

free debate
The use of the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence discourages debate, denies the public access to the full picture and encourages use of the courts to silence critics. The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic through an open discussion in the medical literature or mainstream media.

On 4th June 2009 Simon Singh announced that he was applying to appeal the judge’s recent pre-trial ruling in this case, in conjunction with the launch of this support campaign to defend the right of the public to read the views of scientists and writers.

Join the campaign! In a statement published on 4th June 2009, over 100 people from the worlds of science, journalism, publishing, comedy, literature and law have joined together to express support for Simon and call for an urgent review of English law of libel. Supporters include Stephen Fry, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Ricky Gervais, Martin Amis, James Randi, Professor Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller and Professor Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government.

Please help us with this campaign, sign the statement and ask everyone you know to sign it. With every additional 1000 names we will be sending the statement again to Government until there is a commitment and a timetable from the parties for the necessary legislation.

Click here to read more details of the background and the campaign to Keep Libel Laws out of Science.

Richard Burnham

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