As mentioned in earlier posts on advertising by CAM therapists and Homeopathy Awareness Week, compliance with the ASA regulations is still an issue and there is also a problem with CAM therapists adhering to their own professional codes.
More to the point, there is a widespread failure of CAM regulators (voluntary & statutory) and CAM trade associations to get members to adhere to these ‘professional’ codes. The aim of these CAM Codes is to promote ‘professionalism‘ and ‘protect the public‘, if they are not enforced then they are worthless !
Most of these organisations have at some point issued advertising guidance, encouraging members to ensure their websites comply with the ASA/CAP codes, and yet breaches of their own codes are often ignored. It is probably easier for these bodies to point to the CAP codes and say “we’ve issue guidance to our members” than it is for them to actively enforce their own code and risk a back lash from unhappy members!
This brings me on to some related activity on twitter…
On 23 June 2012 (@TheAgadaClinic) The Agada Clinic in Loughton Essex tweeted about a special offer they were running for reflexology sessions.
On this page was a list of conditions that it was claimed that might benefit from reflexology. The list included some serious medical conditions, that need more than just a foot massage as treatment.
Hayfever, Asthma, Heart Problems, Diabetes, IBS, Constipation, Back Problems, PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome), Menstrual and Hormonal Problems, Depression, Arthritis, Migraine, Stress and Anxiety, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), Endometriosis, Pregnancy, Fertility Issues, IVF Support, Pre-conceptual care, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntingdon’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Migraine and Headaches, Fatigue, Anxiety, Difficulties Sleeping, Muscle Aches/Pains and Joint Stiffness, Vulnerability to infections such as Colds and Flu
At the bottom of the page they proudly displayed the logo of the Association of Reflexologists (AoR).
As you may expect the AoR have a professional code and this code states “The AoR Code of Practice and Ethics demands careful observations by all members of the Association of Reflexologists (AoR)” (AoR Code of Practice and Ethics) PDF.
Section 6 of this code covers Publicity and items 2 & 3 are quite clear on the requirements regarding the ASA/CAP codes and medical conditions:
2. Advertisements in the press should be accurate and discreet in accordance with the British Code of Advertising practice.
3. Advertisements should not contain any claim to diagnose or cure a medical condition through reflexology.
I asked @TheAgadaClinic if they could justify the claims, pointing out that they were breaching the AoR code, they did not reply. So as the AoR are on twitter (@AoR_Reflexology) I approached them directly and a little while later I got a very positive response.
@skepticbarista We will look into this straight away.—
AoR (@AoR_Reflexology) June 25, 2012
Even better was to come ….. shortly after this all the medical conditions listed the Agada Clinic’s reflexology page were removed and the page now focuses more on feelings of relaxation and well being. The ‘before and after’ pages can be seen below.
Original reflexology page: http://www.freezepage.com/1340441091CZDDQCHSBL (freezepage)
Current reflexology page: http://www.theagadaclinic.co.uk/reflexology.html
It has to be said that I class reflexology as just another form of quackery and other than any transient, fleeting feelings of relaxation that may come from a foot massage there is no evidence to suggest that it is of benefit it the treatment of any condition.
However, this was a good result and it is worth acknowledging that the AoR went out of their way to ensure compliance with their professional code and in the process they prevented one of their members joining the list of ASA reflexology complaints …….. for that was the next step!
However, there are still many reflexology websites out there making numerous claims, many of which constitute a breach of the AoR code of Practice and Ethics. What the AoR should now do is to send out some advice to all their members. Not just repeating the advice to comply with the ASA regulations, but emphasising the requirement to comply with their own professional code.
It might be best if the AoR and reflexologists in general, spent some time over the next few weeks ensuring websites comply with both the ASA and AoR codes. That way when they start to promote World Reflexology Week between 23 – 29 Sept 2012, they can be fairly sure that the increased attention does not have the unfortunate effect of attracting unwanted and unnecessary complaints!
World Reflexology Week:
Association of Reflexologists: http://www.aor.org.uk/world-reflexology-week-2012
International Council of Reflexologists: http://www.icr-reflexology.org/wrw.htm
A final thought ……. Once the Association of Reflexologists had been made aware that there was a breach of their code, they did exactly what they should have done and got the claims taken down, other regulators and trade associations should be doing the same. But what they should all be doing is taking the initiative, issuing advice about Code compliance and seeking out members who break those codes.