Articles by JCS

JFK's Bad Back

Word count: 2688

Kennedy & Chiropractic:

Which Conspiracy?

The 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy rekindles shocking memories of those indelible four days in November 1963 when the world first heard the unbelievable news of the assassination that cut him down in the prime of his life.

“Jack” Kennedy has become an iconic figure for many historic reasons, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis with the Soviet Union, creating the Peace Corps, and his challenge to put a man on the moon, to name but a few issues in his short career.

 JFK had “Hollywood good looks” and charisma, married a beautiful wife, Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Bouvier, as well he was allegedly known to have many extramarital affairs that included Marilyn Monroe, who sang in a sultry voice "Happy Birthday, Mr. President” on his 45th birthday at a large party in Madison Square Garden in an unforgettable dress that had to be sown onto her.

JFK’s Bad Back

There are other stories about JFK that many Americans were unaware, such as his poor health, mainly his chronic back pain, and the medical treatments that failed to help him and may have even impaired his judgment while president.

Although JFK appeared to be athletic, he was actually a sickly man with a very bad back, colitis, prostatitis, and Addison's disease. His back pain was so severe that Kennedy couldn't put socks or shoes on without help.[1]

To fight the pain, he took pills and received epidural steroid injections regularly to numb the pain according to a biography by Robert Dallek. Some believe Kennedy's condition may have had diplomatic repercussions since he was taking a combination of drugs to treat his severe back pain during the 1961 Vienna Summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.[2]

Kennedy suffered from severe back pain years before his presidency. His aides attributed his back problems to injuries suffered when his Navy patrol boat, PT-109, was sunk in World War II. Actually, his three fractured vertebrae may have begun degenerating as a result of the steroids he had taken for intestinal problems in the late 1930's.[3]

Due to his chronic low back pain JFK made famous the so-called “Kennedy rocker” that he kept in the Oval Office at the White House, on Air Force One, and he accumulated over fourteen in his lifetime.  

In August 1961, White House records showed Mrs. Kennedy rushed in from another room when he screamed in pain as the White House physician, Dr. Janet G. Travell, injected procaine deep into his back muscles to numb them. Kennedy received ''seven to eight injections of procaine in his back in the same sitting,” before news conferences and other events; needless to say, this amount was a dangerous overdose by today’s standards.

X-rays at his autopsy showed the spinal fractures and metal screws in the vertebrae. This is especially intriguing because Kennedy's autopsy report found ''no significant gross skeletal abnormalities,'' aside from the bullet wounds in the skull.

In his book, Dallek speculates that the corset Kennedy wore for his back trouble may have made him an easy target for his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy's back was ramrod straight, making his head and neck perfect targets when the bullet struck.[4] If he had not been wearing it, he might have lived, according to the doctor who tended to the president in the emergency room at Dallas' Parkland Hospital.

The Kennedy Connection with Chiropractic

November of 1963 has become another historic date like December 7th and 9-11 in American history and controversy still abounds among the “conspiracy theorists” who believe JFK’s assassination was not that of a lone gunman.

Coincidentally, another conspiracy and assassination attempt occurred in the same month of the same year when the American Medical Association (AMA) officially declared a genocidal war on the chiropractic profession.

On November 2-3, 1963, the AMA voted to establish a Committee on Quackery that stated its “prime mission to be, first, the containment of chiropractic and, ultimately, the elimination of chiropractic.” [5]

This coincidence is more than merely the same time frame. Given the prevailing attitude in the early 1960s, JFK very possibly could have been helped by chiropractic care if the AMA had not blackballed this effective treatment in a massive defamation campaign in the media.

Compounding that media bias, JFK was already fighting the AMA over his 1961 Medicaid and Medicare legislation. Undoubtedly if the nation were told he had used chiropractic care, he would have further alienated the powerful medical community along with its massive political influence on Capitol Hill.

Actually, the AMA and Republican Party, along with their celebrity spokesman, Ronald Reagan, were able to kill President Kennedy’s original Medicare legislation in a covert campaign that came to be known as “Operation Coffee Cup.”

Actor Reagan used Red-baiting fear tactics to scare Americans into thinking these national health programs for seniors and the poor were a “slippery slope to Communism.” Apparently this scare tactic worked since the initial legislation was defeated.

Reagan’s efforts against Medicare were revealed in a scoop by Drew Pearson in his Washington Merry-Go-Round column of June 17, 1961. Pearson titled his item on Reagan, “Star vs. JFK,” and he told his readers:

Ronald Reagan of Hollywood has pitted his mellifluous voice against President Kennedy in the battle for medical aid for the elderly. As a result it looks as if the old folks would lose out. He has caused such a deluge of mail to swamp Congress that Congressmen want to postpone action on the medical bill until 1962. What they don’t know, of course, is that Ron Reagan is behind the mail; also that the American Medical Association is paying for it.

Reagan is the handsome TV star for General Electric…Just how this background qualifies him as an expert on medical care for the elderly remains a mystery. Nevertheless, thanks to a deal with the AMA, and the acquiescence of General Electric, Ronald may be able to out-influence the President of the United States with Congress.[6]

In hindsight, it is regrettable JFK didn’t follow the advice of his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who allegedly was a chiropractic patient under the care of Katherine “Kitty” Scallon and her husband, Mack Scallon, who were chiropractors in Manhattan.

Drs. Kitty and Mack Scallon gained fame as “jailhouse martyrs” in New York in 1949. They were jailed simultaneously when they refused to desist in the hoax of practicing of medicine without a license. Their crime was using chiropractic care before New York had a scope of practice law to protect chiropractors from medical persecution.

Kitty Scallon said from the Women’s House of Detention in 1949. “Being here [in jail] is sometimes like a bad dream…but I’d throw my shoulders back and be ready and willing to make any sacrifice to help free our beloved science.”[7]

Undoubtedly JFK’s back pain was a combination of  old war wounds, spinal fractures, unsuccessful spine surgery, and osteoporosis, but like many patients with similar ailments, the likelihood of undiagnosed joint dysfunction as a cause of his back pain could have been helped to some degree via spine treatments by chiropractors as we witness daily in our offices.

Chiropractic Must Die’ 

Few Americans today are aware that the AMA organized a formal assassination of the chiropractic profession unashamedly referring to chiropractors as “killers” and “rabid dogs.”[8] Even ethical MDs who referred to DCs were threatened with the loss of licensure and hospital privileges for consulting with “cultists and quacks.”[9]

The history of civil rights in healthcare has ignored the fact that in the first half of the twentieth century over 12,000 chiropractors were prosecuted over 15,000 times and 3,300 were sent to prison for allegedly practicing medicine without a license although chiropractors never used drugs and surgery.[10] Ironically, the chiropractic crime was getting people well without drugs or surgery.

Certainly by the early 1960s, the chiropractic profession had been branded politically-incorrect by the AMA’s massive propaganda campaign. Previous medical attacks upon chiropractors had begun as early as 1906. The AMA used its Department of Investigation to “hunt out quackery” from 1906 until 1975--specifically chiropractic that had become its largest rival profession after the influx of WW II veterans flooded chiropractic colleges on the GI Bill.

Early on the AMA made its goal perfectly clear according to historian Walter Wardwell:

“Eight years ago [in 1932] officials of the American Medical Association met in secret conclave in Chicago and adopted the slogan ‘Chiropractic must die.’  They gave themselves ten years in which to exterminate it.”[11]

This lethal policy was the brainchild of Morris Fishbein, dubbed the Medical Mussolini by his contemporaries, who was the AMA’s executive director from 1924 to 1949. In 1925 he gave his war cry when he wrote, “Scientific medicine absorbs from them that which is good, if there is any good, and then they die.”[12]

To fund his war chest, in 1930 this Medical Mussolini had the AMA inexplicably jump in bed with the tobacco industry, making millions to influence the public, buy media coverage, persuade politicians, and lobby government health officials.

For the next 56 years, the AMA endorsed cigarette smoking in magazine ads ostensibly leading to the worst pandemic in this country of lung and heart diseases.

Plus, the medical boycott of a “proven treatment”[13] for back pain—chiropractic care—has led to another epidemic of back pain that has now become the #1 disabling condition in the nation.[14]

The Medical Conspiracy

After the Medical Mussolini retired from the AMA in 1949, the conspiracy had slowed until another assassination plan was developed. The medical assassination conspiracy began took new form in 1962 when the Iowa Medical Society, through its General Counsel Robert B. Throckmorton, devised a plan to contain chiropractic in the state of Iowa, the home of Palmer School of Chiropractic and considered the Fountainhead of chiropractic. If the growth of chiropractic could be contained in Iowa, his plan would work elsewhere.

On November 11, 1962, at the North Central Medical Conference, the AMA issued its equivalent to the Final Solution to organize political medicine against the “menace of chiropractic.” [15]

After fomenting anti-chiropractic attitudes among its members to garner support for its inevitable assassination attempt, on September 24, 1963, the AMA’s officially announced its goal—“the complete elimination of the chiropractic profession.” [16]

The new medical conspirators continued to twist arms by suggesting cooperation by ethical MDs with chiropractors was adverse to patient safety:

Chiropractors present a clear and present danger to the health and welfare of the public, and it would seem that as guardians of our nation’s health, doctors of medicine should be dedicated to the total elimination of any such unscientific cult. [17]

The main problem with his argument was the complete lack of scientific or legal proof that chiropractors were a danger, a fact that came out later at trial.

Nonetheless in November of 1963, the AMA Board of Trustees authorized the “Committee on Quackery (COQ).”[18] For more than twelve years, the AMA’s executive officers hired as its trigger man, H. Doyl Taylor, who paid the salaries and expenses for its conspiratorial team of more than a dozen medical doctors, lawyers, and support staff with the expressed purpose to “destroy the profession of chiropractic” in the United States and elsewhere.

Justice Strikes Back

Just as the Warren Commission searched for the truth in the Kennedy assassination, an equivalent group of four brave chiropractors led by a resolute attorney began their quest to expose the medical conspiracy to assassinate the chiropractic profession.

In October 1976, led by attorney George McAndrews, plaintiffs Chester A. Wilk, James W. Bryden, Patricia A. Arthur, and Michael D. Pedigo, all licensed chiropractors, filed suit against the AMA in the Northern District Court of Illinois. Other defendants in the suit included the American Hospital Association, the American College of Radiology, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American College of Physicians, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals; in all 16 groups or individuals were named.

The suit claimed that the defendants had participated for years in an illegal conspiracy to destroy chiropractic. After eleven years of litigation in three federal courts, on September 25, 1987, Judge Susan Getzendanner issued her opinion that the AMA had violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act (Wilk v. American Medical Ass'n, 671 F. Supp. 1465, N.D. Ill. 1987).

Judge Getzendanner ruled that the AMA and its officials were guilty, as charged, of attempting to eliminate the chiropractic profession with a “lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott” designed to restrict cooperation between MDs and chiropractors in order to eliminate the profession of chiropractic as a competitor in the United States health care system.

The Court ordered a permanent injunction order against the AMA and stated in part:

“…Although the conspiracy ended in 1980, there are lingering effects of the illegal boycott and conspiracy which require an injunction…The injury to chiropractors’ reputations which resulted from the boycott have not been repaired.  Chiropractors suffer current economic injury as a result of the boycott... ” [19]

Judge Getzendanner also admitted in her Opinion that “The AMA has never made any attempt to publicly repair the damage the boycott did to chiropractors’ reputations.”[20]

Indeed, the AMA’s character-assassination of chiropractors continues to this day, especially in the biased media that boycotts positive stories about chiropractic that has now grown to become the third-largest physician-level profession in the world fighting the #1 disabling condition in the world today.

Conclusion to a Conspiracy

The Warren Commission investigation eventually concluded a single assassin killed JFK although the ‘conspiracy theorists’ contend it could have been a combination of the CIA, DoD, LBJ, the Mob and Russians in cahoots with Castro. We will never know and it doesn’t really matter at this point because it killed a president and his American Camelot, too.

Although JFK may or may not have been assassinated as a result of a conspiracy (please enjoy JACKIE AND THE CHIEF written by my college teammate at Cal and the grandson of Chief Justice Earl Warren), we know for certain a medical conspiracy consisting of many medical co-conspirators attempted to kill the chiropractic profession as the Wilk v. AMA antitrust trial proved convincingly.

To add more salt to the medical conspiracy, new scientific studies and newspaper articles now have exposed the overall ineffectiveness of medical spine care that has been called the “poster child of inefficient spine care” by Mark Schoene, a leading spine journal editor.[21] He also suggests that “such an important area of medicine has fallen to this level of dysfunction should be a national scandal. In fact, this situation is bringing the United States disrespect internationally.”[22]

As chiropractors know only too well, political medicine has been a “national scandal” for nearly a century. Imagine if this medical conspiracy had not existed and JFK had been treated for his bad back by Drs. Scallon as was his father, perhaps he would have been able to govern without taking twelve medications daily that certainly impaired his judgment during his presidency.

          Maybe if he had not worn a back brace making him a sitting duck for an assassin’s bullet…

At this 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, it’s again time to mourn our loss of this martyred president. Imagine if he had two full terms to fulfill his dream of America instead of only 1000 days, many of his efforts would have flourished like the Peace Corps, such as expanding civil rights, implementing Medicare, pushing America into the space age, or ending the Vietnam War. Indeed, a lot of dreams went unfulfilled after three shots in Dallas.

Such programs would have given Americans a positive vision instead of the nightmare that followed his death with two more assassinations (RFK and MLK, Jr.), as well as LBJ’s expansion of the Vietnam war that left 58,000+ troops dead or missing in action, and the subsequent student protests in the 1960s that I experienced at Berkeley that also left an indelible image in my mind of Camelot lost.

It’s also time for many Americans like JFK crippled by back pain to realize they too were victimized by the AMA’s assassination attempt of chiropractic whose image remains wounded in the minds of many still today. Indeed, the medical war against chiropractor lingers on insidiously today to deny people equal access to a proven and effective healing art. Just as American learned to move on from that tragic day in Dallas, it's past time for Americans to move past the attempted medical assassination of chiropractic.



[1] Doctor: Back brace may have cost JFK his life by Jay Hart @ Yahoo News, November 18, 2013

[3] In J.F.K. File, Hidden Illness, Pain and Pills by Lawrence K. Altman and Todd S. Purdum, NY Times, Published: November 17, 2002

[5] G McAndrews, “Plaintiffs’ Summary of Proofs as an Aid to the Court,” Civil Action No. 76 C 3777, Wilk, (June 25, 1987):21.

[6] D Pearson, “Attorney General Gets Scolding, The Washington Merry-Go-Round,” The Washington Post, (June 17, 1961):C15.

[7] Russell W Gibbons, “Go to Jail for Chiro,” Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 4 (1994): pp. 27.

[8] Minutes from the “Chiropractic Workshop,” Michigan State Medical Society, held in Lansing on 10 May 1973, exhibit 1283, Wilk.

[9] G McAndrews closing argument, ibid. p. 3387

[10] Russell W Gibbons, “Go to Jail for Chiro,” Journal of Chiropractic Humanities 4 (1994): 61–71.

[11] Wardwell WI. Alternative medicine in the United States. Soc Sci Med 1994;38:1061-1068. (Citing Reed L. The healing cults. Chap 3, Publ No.16 of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, p 5. University Press, Chicago, 1932.

[12] M Fishbein,  Medical Follies, New York, Boni & Liveright, (1925): 43.

[13] Bigos et al. US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Clinical Practice Guideline, Number 14: Acute Low Back Problems in Adults AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642, (December 1994)

[13] Ibid. p. 90.

[14]The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States Bone and Joint Decade, Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. ISBN 978-0-89203-533-5, pp. 21. 

[15] RB Throckmorton, legal counsel, Iowa Medical Society, “The Menace of Chiropractic,” an outline of remarks given to the North central Medical Conference, Minneapolis, , plaintiff’s exhibit 172, Wilk, 6: (November 11, 1962):126.

[16] Memo from Robert Youngerman to Robert Throckmorton, 24 September 1963, plaintiff’s exhibit 173, Wilk.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Memo from Robert Youngerman to Robert Throckmorton, 24 September 1963, plaintiff’s exhibit 173, Wilk.

[19] Chester A. Wilk, James W. Bryden, Patricia A. Arthur, Michael D. Pedigo v. American Medical Association, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, United States District Court Northern District of Illinois, No. 76C3777, Susan Getzendanner, Judge, Judgment dated August 27, 1987.

[20]  Opinion pp. 10

[21] The BACKPage editorial vol. 27, No. 11, November 2012.

[22] US Spine Care System in a State of Continuing Decline?, The BACKLetter, vol. 28, #10, 2012, pp.1

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