Are chiropractors allowed to call themselves "doctor"?

This is my first post - I don’t know why I haven’t been here before. :-[

As you might be aware, the English science writer Simon Singh is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association. He called their claims “bogus” which was deemed by the court to mean deliberate dishonesty on the part of chiropractors - a claim impossible to defend. Btw, this case brought home to me how dangerous the English libel laws are to anyone - not just the English. I blogged about this here:

This has caused quite a kerfuffle amongst English science bloggers, resulting in some close scrutiny of chiropractors’ claims. This has caused some panic in the chiropractic ranks (see: ), particularly their use of the title “doctor” to describe themselves, which I understand is not allowed in Britain. So I did some digging locally and found that all (so far) chiropractors in SA call themselves “doctor”.

I have discovered that chiropractors are controlled by the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa, who have a non-functioning website ( I have trolled though the entire Health Professions Act as well as a number of other notices and publications put out by the various health bodies but have not been able to answer the question: are chiropractors allowed to call themselves “doctor” in SA? All I could find out is that you’re not allowed to call yourself anything if you’re not registered.

This might sound a bit pernickety but it’s a starting point in a series I want to do on woo medicine in SA, and I would like to cause a bit of a nuisance.

So I would appreciate any help in this regard. I must say I find it hard to believe that these quacks - including homoeopaths, aroma therapists and the like - are allowed to fob themselves off as “doctors”.


I can answer my own question. I eventually got hold of someone at the AHPSA who gave me this info:

Registered homoeopaths and chiropractors ARE allowed to call themselves “doctor”, having completed their masters degree in their respective disciplines plus a year of internship. Institutions that offer these courses are Durban University of Technology and University of Johannesburg. These are six year courses!

No other “allied health” woo merchants may call themselves “doctor”.

Welcome ReasonCheck!

This kind of thing grates me as well; the fact that the government has to spend money on a controlling body to manage practices that in many cases is nothing more than wishful thinking! I wonder why they get special treatment? I can understand that you can call yourself doctor if you complete a doctorate in a certain discipline at university. The problem with homeopaths and chiropractors is that they can abuse that title in the context of being a “healer”.

Can you imagine that they took over and started running our hospitals and clinics - it would probably end up like Homeopathic A&E? (I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of the topic but this is really funny!)

Thanks - looks like my kinda people hang out here.

Excellent find!

Good Day,

It seems that the claims of the Chiropractors are continually expanding, at least it seems so in the area where I find myself. I have in the last week heard via my mother of three friends claiming to have had their symptoms “healed”.

Can any one assist with a short well written reprieve to these claims. I have been able to find some relevant information to share, but I want something a little “believer” friendly that has a toned down science content as not to frighten the older ladies.



Welcome to the forum Tim. If you are looking for skeptical South African’s you are definitely in the right place!

I recently quit a job where my boss (amongst other things) would go for regular treatments t her chiropractor. I had a strange experience, I never mentioned my distrust of the spine-adjusting buggers. If you are feeling brave, have a look at some of the video’o on, they make my stomach turn!

I think that we, as the active SA skeptics should be doing more speaking out about these kinds of people. Chiropractic cannot cure an ear infection. Does anyone know what the libel laws are in SA? Before I go and get myself sued!

Anyway, Tim, if you are interested we publish a skeptical blogroll and have a facebook group as well as monthly get together’s in Gauteng, we also publish a monthly blog carnival. Our FB group is “South African Skeptics”, you can e-mail me on [email protected] and check out our latest blog carnival at Amanuensis: Carnival of the Africans 8


Thanks for your welcome, Angela. I will certainly be certainly using these resources.

I think the Simon Sigh case does illustrate that we have to be careful of what we allege. It’s no so much the facts that are the problem (almost always on our side), it’s the words used to present them. I can’t imagine SA’s libel laws being nearly as oppressive as England’s, but yes, more guidance is needed from our legal colleagues.

Having said that, I think using strictly legal processes, like making complaints to the ASA or - the much more difficult - making complaints to the AHPCSA, is a far safer route than making public comments. Our counterparts in the UK have been making a huge impact using this approach.

I’ve just read this document:, from the site mentioned by skepticdetective. It is probably the most dense collection of pseudo-science, anti-science, conspiracy theory and lies I have ever read. They actually quote David Icke - that paranoid, illuminati-cabal-believing grandaddy of conspiracy theorists - to support their new-age woo. For good measure they seem to embrace the deadly anti-vax campaign.

These people need to be exposed for what they are.

My understanding (which I will attempt to verify anon) is that in SA, cases of libel and slander are subject to what seems at first a curious reversal of evidentiary responsibility: if you bring charges of libel or slander against someone, you – as the plaintiff – have the burden of proving that what the defendant said or wrote is false or incorrect, and also if it was done maliciously and/or with forethought. Legally, the defendant is not required to show just cause for having expressed a contentious view even though doing so is a good idea in practice for avoiding a guilty verdict.

There are two reasons for this apparent reversal. First, as with all other legal disputes, the plaintiff has the primary responsibility of showing why a court should even entertain his or her allegations. Second, the country’s constitution enshrines freedom of expression as a basic right but there is no constitutional right not to be offended, and so freedom of expression overrides common law concerning defamation of character because it is more fundamental.


Hi everyone, if you haven’t been following the Simon Singh case you can catchup here. He lost his appeal but has decided to fight on. At the end of the article there is a link to a statement that you can sign to show your support, please sign?!

At my place of work, the company pays to have a Chiro visit the premises and see to various employees on a regular basis.

This is part of the “employee wellness” program. Haven’t tried it myself of course.

Far be it from me to start a little war of opinions with my superiors.