By Steve Shirley DC.
In 1963 the American Medical Association hired Robert Throckmorton as its general counsel. Throckmorton was the author of a plan by the Iowa Medical Society with the overt goal of destroying the chiropractic profession. The Iowa Plan, as revealed in later court documents, contained a section entitled “What medicine should do about the Chiropractic menace.” In essence, the intent of this secretive plan was to “contain” the Chiropractic profession resulting in the “decline of Chiropractic.”
The AMA adopted the Iowa plan that Throckmorton devised in what was later shown to be a highly organized and systematic campaign to eliminate Chiropractic as a profession. These policies included action steps to encourage medical doctors to file “ethics complaints against doctors of chiropractic,” to “encourage chiropractic disunity,” to “oppose chiropractic inroads in health insurance” and to “contain chiropractic schools.”
Evidence of this remarkable campaign would never have come to light had it not been for the lawsuit of Wilk vs AMA. In 1976, Chester Wilk and four other chiropractors filed a lawsuit against the American Medical Association under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. After numerous appeals over an 11 year period and many thousands of dollars spent on legal fees, Wilk won his case as it was shown that the AMA engaged in a “lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott” designed to restrict cooperation between MD’s and chiropractors in order to eliminate the profession of chiropractic.”
The extent of the damage to the reputation of the chiropractic profession from the AMA’s program can only be appreciated when you recognize the lengths they went to in order to disparage chiropractors. During the Wilk trial it was revealed that the AMA ghostwrote television and movie scripts tarnishing the chiropractic profession. Even though you would assume that inter-professional relations would be in the patient’s best interest, the AMA made it unethical for a medical physician to associate with chiropractors (AMA Principle 3 adopted in 1966). And even more shockingly, this included forbidding medical doctors from ACCEPTING referrals from chiropractors. An example might be a patient with low back and flank pain with nausea and a fever who presents to a chiropractor. After an evaluation by the chiropractor, this patient would be referred to an MD for medical management to rule out a kidney infection. And according to the AMA, the MD should and did refuse to see these patients solely because they were referred by their chiropractors! This ban also extended to not allowing Chiropractors to order imaging (such as CT scans). Numerous other medical facilities also refused to accept referrals for medically necessary laboratory tests. So much for the concerned patient care that the AMA preached to the public.
The AMA policy went so far as to influence Ann Landers’ column and even encouraged the distribution of anti-chiropractic material to high school guidance counselors. Plain and simple, the AMA used its considerable influence to eliminate the chiropractic profession by smearing their reputation and calling them quacks and it was because Chiropractic was a source of competition for patient care. As they say, it was all about the money and the medical professions’s concern for individual patient’s health was secondary.
One has to wonder how many thousands of patients were scared away from trying chiropractic for their chronic back or neck pain as a result of these programs? And how many of these folks were harmed from the medical treatment they received? When you have one of the most powerful lobbies in the world spending substantial resources to frighten people, the effects of the AMA’s policy were considerable. Because of the bias against chiropractic, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of patients were told to avoid seeing chiropractors as they were witch doctors. And these same patients were placed on harmful drugs, or even worse, had potentially unnecessary spine surgery.
The chiropractic model of healthcare is a direct challenge to the pharmacological, drug based model of healthcare. Unfortunately, the side effects from pain medications are rarely emphasized in our drug-based culture. For instance, lets look at Tylenol, so safe that supposedly babies can take it. In 2005, consumers purchased more than 28 billion doses of products containing acetaminophen, the active drug in Tylenol. And the effects on patients’ health are equally staggering. According to the FDA, there were an estimated 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations and 458 deaths related to acetaminophen-associated overdoses per year during the 1990-1998 period. In regards to acetaminophen being prescribed for children’s fevers, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the theory that children are at an increased risk of asthma with its use. According to the New York times, there are over 20 studies supporting this theory. The evidence suggests that even small doses of acetaminophen given to children have caused them to become asthmatic.
The side effects from other various pain killers is also staggering. There were over 14,800 overdoses from opioid pain relievers alone in 2008. In the UK, as many as 2500 people a year die from gastric bleeding caused by NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen. Long – term intake of acetaminophen is now the number one cause of liver failure.
Chiropractors routinely help hundreds of thousands of patients get rid of their pain, get back to their normal lifestyle and, most importantly, get off prescription pain medications. Imagine how many patients would have been referred to Chiropractors had it not been for the decade-long campaign by the AMA to discredit and smear the reputation of the chiropractic profession. Without question, many of the people who had serious side effects from drugs and surgery could have been helped by seeing a Chiropractor. Fortunately, many progressive physicians now work more closely with Chiropractors.
However, actions such as those committed by the AMA led to several generations of pain patients who rely on drugs to manage their symptoms rather than fixing their underlying problems. Many of these patients have now become chronic pain patients. In addition to being vulnerable to the many side-effects of drugs, they have faced lives of depression, and sadly, sometimes even suicide.
The complications of spine surgery can be even more profound. A recently published story showed that complications following spine surgery “may have a substantial impact on the quality of life of patients.” Complications can include serious infection, neurological damage and even death. No doubt Chiropractic treatment will not keep everyone out of surgery, but how many thousands of patients still get spine surgery prior to a clinical trial of Chiropractic, particularly decompression and traction-type therapies?
The compelling question is this: how many thousands, if not millions, of people could have been helped with their back pain, neck pain or headaches if they had been given the opportunity to see Chiropractors? How may pain patients would still be alive if they hadn’t been persuaded to go down the road of drugs and surgery? How many people did the AMA kill?