Painful Memories


Painful Memories
JC Smith, MA, DC

While doing research for my latest book, The Medical War Against Chiropractors, initially I did not realize the pain and harassment involved by those early chiropractors who lived through this medical holocaust.

In my Preface entitled “The Unknown War,” I tell the true story of the Juice Man who terrorized chiropractors with extortion, assault, and imprisonment before state scope laws were passed. The sting inflicted in this medical war by public ridicule and medical defamation is as prevalent today as when 12,000 chiropractors were arrested over 15,000 times during the first half of the 20th century. While bogus arrests are over, the sad fact that we see only 10% of the public bears this truth that we are still at war against medical bigotry and public prejudice.

This is an unknown war that needs to be told to the public as well as to many in our own profession who are ignorant of their predecessors’ sacrifices. Like young baseball players who have forgotten the courage of Jackie Robinson to break the racial barrier, many younger DCs and chiropractic students today fail to understand the struggle of their forefathers, nor do they appreciate the flame of discrimination that hardened the mettle of these early chiropractic warriors.

For veteran chiropractors, their resentment may have dissipated over the years, but the battle wounds remain fresh for many. Whereas racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism have been condemned by society, medical bigotry is very much alive today. Many MDs still regard chiropractors with contempt, such as Harriet Hall, a retired Air Force flight surgeon, who said during the Obama healthcare debate that she worried that “ill-informed members of Congress will elevate practitioners of alternative medicine to the same level as medical doctors.”[1] As well, the mastermind behind the FSU upheaval, Raymond Bellamy, MD, associate professor, revealed the shocking depths of his medical bigotry when he claimed that chiropractic is “pseudoscience” that “has not one shred of science.”[2]

Where was the chiropractic response to these bigots? We heard their insults yet we said nothing. Is the public to assume without a chiropractic counterpoint that these medical critics were correct? Obviously the AMA still pursues the goal of the Committee on Quackery: “The ultimate objective of the AMA, theoretically, is the complete elimination of the chiropractic profession.”[3]

Although the overt war against chiropractors ended after the Wilk v. AMA trail began in 1976, it now has evolved into a covert cold war where the AMA’s goal is to have chiropractors “wither on the vine.” We see this daily in Medicare and MCOs like Trigon with unfair limitations and under-valued fees for our superior services; now we see the DoD’s military health services and the DVA that refuse to implement chiropractic care throughout their systems as ordered by Congress.

At every turn, the covert medical boycott attempts to keep chiropractors “ghettoized” as George McAndrews declared during the Wilk trial.[4] Without successful legislation and litigation, today we would be a conquered profession similar to homeopathy or naturopathy. Despite our few victories, we remain the mystery science profession marginalized to a small part of the role we should play in the epidemic of back pain and as an alternative to drugs and surgery.

Sadly, too many DCs have turned a blind eye to this cold war. For senior chiropractors, it may harbor painful memories best forgotten. For active practitioners, they struggle wondering why we’re seeing a small fraction of the spine market share. For chiropractic students, they have little idea the roles played by Tom Morris, Joe Janse, Morris Fishbein, H. Doyl Taylor, or brothers George and Jerry McAndrews, to name but a few. Indeed, there are many more characters than DD, BJ, or Harvey in chiropractic’s history that every DC should be aware.

Moreover, most DCs are clueless about important political-legal events that have shaped our profession, such as Dent v. State of West Virginia, the Flexner Report, the England case in Louisiana, the New Zealand Inquiry on Chiropractic, the Goldfarb decision, or the important role the Church of Scientology played in the Wilk trial. There is a fascinating web in this chapter of the medical war that too few DCs understand.

Despite these landmark events, as a profession we still have a dilemma: we have a great service to offer the public, yet we remain mired in medical slander that has never been refuted. As the Wilk trial judge opined: “The AMA has never made any attempt publicly repair the damage the boycott did to chiropractors’ reputations.”[5]

Like the Nazis defaming the Jews, the AMA’s tactics left the chiropractic profession in tatters with a soiled reputation—“killers” and “rabid dogs.”[6] Recently, our associations have skirted this issue hoping it will simply go away, now desiring to “make love, not war,” as I was told. Instead of making love, we are still getting screwed.

I believe the comparative research on our clinical and cost effectiveness, and all the newspaper and magazine ads featuring celebrities will be fruitless until we address this underlying medical bigotry. As a 1984 poll in Oklahoma revealed, “chiropractors are seen as being fine for many people in the community, but ‘I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one.’”[7] I daresay nearly 30 years later, we face the same dilemma as evident, again, by the fact that we see less than 10% of the public.

My goal is to stop this downward trend by addressing the underlying cause of public misperception. Like Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring or Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe, my book reframes the chiropractic narrative devoid of the bias and slander that has befallen our profession. My exposé will reveal the facts behind the myths that keep chiropractors enslaved by the medical imagery. It is past time to break these shackles and to take our rightful place as the leaders to help many musculoskeletal and neurophysiologic disorders.

Our profession has yet to address this fundamental PR problem. We may try to skirt the issue with studies and celebrities, we may pass legislation and win important litigation, but until we confront, defend, and explain ourselves in the court of public opinion, people will continue to believe the medical propaganda and minimize our stellar clinical results. After all, the public has been taught for nearly 100 years that “everybody knows that chiropractic is an unscientific cult.”[8] Yet have we ever disproved that contention? Indeed, our silence is not golden, it is consent.

This is the untold story of chiropractic over the past century from medical persecution to scientific vindication. This book will inform you of issues, players, and events that you may have never known. It will enlighten your patients, empower your staff, and embolden every chiropractor. It may change the entire chiropractic culture just as other historical exposés have changed our society. If are to exit the medical ghetto, we need to do it with a bang, not a whimper.

[1] M Kranish, “Senators Seek Coverage for Alternative Therapies,” Boston Globe, (July 24, 2009)
[2] M Yeager, “Question of Science,” Tallahassee Democrat, (12/12/2004)

[3] Memo from Robert Youngerman to Robert Throckmorton, 24 September 1963, PX 173, Wilk v.AMA.

[4] G McAndrews, closing arguments, Wilk v. AMA, (June 26, 1987):3093-97.

[5] Wilk et al v AMA et al., US District Court Northern District of Illinois, No. 76C3777, Susan Getzendanner, presiding judge; Judgment dated August 27, 1987: 10

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

[7] “Attitudes toward chiropractic health care in Oklahoma,” Welling & Company and Oklahoma Chiropractic Research Foundation in cooperation with the Chiropractic Association of Oklahoma (1984)

[8] W Trever, “in the Public Interest,” Scriptures Unlimited, Los Angeles, Calif., (1972):11