ASA Adjudication on Mirjam Wigman
136 Balmacaan Road
15 April 2009
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A regional press ad, for a therapy, stated "BI-AURA THERAPY Practitioner … This non-invasive therapy works on the body's energy field by correcting imbalances. With the energy flow restored, the body can start healing itself. Some of the conditions that have responded favourably: allergies, arthritis, asthma, back problems, depression, fatigue, insomnia, ME and stress-related conditions".
1. The complainant challenged whether the Mirjam Wigman could substantiate the efficacy claims for the treatment.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad was likely to discourage readers from seeking suitably qualified medical treatment for serious medical conditions such as depression and ME.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
The Bi-Aura Foundation, who represented Bi-Aura therapy practitioners, responded on behalf of Mirjam Wigman. They stressed that they did not believe the ad was irresponsible or likely to discourage readers from seeking suitably qualified medical treatment. They said Bi-Aura was a complementary therapy and not an alternative therapy; complementary therapies were intended to work alongside conventional medicine. The Bi-Aura Foundation maintained that clients who attended Bi-Aura therapy sessions had often received conventional medical care over long periods, with limited or no success, and merely wished to explore other avenues. They said their practitioners were highly trained and responsible individuals who always ensured that clients sought the advice of their GP for all conditions serious or otherwise. They added that contact details of the relevant GP were taken at the initial interview as well as details of any prescribed medication, current medically diagnosed conditions, previous medical history and current lifestyle.
The Bi-Aura Foundation maintained that, with the exception of Bi-Aura practitioners who were also Doctors, no medical diagnosis would be offered at a Bi-Aura therapy session. They maintained that clients often reported relief of symptoms and asked practitioners whether they could reduce their conventional medication. The Bi-Aura Foundation stressed that, without exception, their practitioner advised the client not to make any changes before discussing them with the relevant conventional medical practitioner. They pointed out that any deviation would be a breach of ethics and constituted serious professional misconduct, which was likely to result in the withdrawal of the practitioner's licence to practice Bi-Aura therapy. The Bi-Aura Foundation said their practitioners did not claim to cure or heal anyone. They pointed out that Mirjam Wigman's ad stated only that "with the energy restored the body can start healing itself." They maintained that the conditions mentioned had been seen to respond favourably to Bi-Aura therapy.
The Bi-Aura Foundation said they had many testimonials to demonstrate their assertions and also sent several letters from conventional medical practitioners who supported the use of the therapy. They also sent details of the results of their self-assessment study of client's responses to the treatment and a clinical study into the treatment of 11 subjects with chronic musculo-skeletal back pain.
The ASA noted the ad stated "with the energy flow restored, the body can start healing itself ..." before it referred to the listed medical conditions. Although we noted the ad claimed only that the listed conditions merely "responded favourably" to Bi-Aura, we considered that readers were likely to infer that Bi-Aura therapy had a provable direct effect on the listed conditions. We noted the testimonials and studies sent by the Bi-Aura Foundation, but considered that they were insufficiently robust to substantiate the implied effect. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1 and 50.27 (Health & Beauty Products and Therapies).
We noted the list of conditions included several serious medical conditions, such as ME and depression. We noted the Bi-Aura therapy was a complimentary therapy intended to work alongside conventional medicine. However, we considered that some potentially vulnerable readers, in particularly those suffering from the listed conditions, might infer that Bi-Aura therapy could offer treatment for those conditions. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code because it potentially discouraged people from seeking essential medical treatment.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 50.3 (Health & Beauty Products and Therapies).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Mirjam Wigman to hold substantiation for their claims in future and not to refer to serious medical conditions.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)