April 16, 2002
Attn: Steven Babitsky, President
PO Box 729
Falmouth, MA 02541
RE: Medical Fiction Writing Competition
Mr. Gary Cuneo, EVP of the American Chiropractic Association, forwarded me your note about the 2nd Annual Medical Fiction Writing Competition for physicians.
The enclosure is a sample reading from my self-published novel, “Poisoned Love: When a Chiropractor and an Orthopedist fall in love.” In order to condense it to fewer than 2,500 words, I had to edit this first chapter considerably, but I hope it works well.
I have enclosed a copy of my novel for your review.
JC Smith, MA, DC
Sample Reading from “Poisoned Love”
For the Love of Money
Riverside, South Carolina, 1968
“That damn chiropractor cost the hospital forty grand this week alone,” shouted Dr. Earl “Bull” Stevens in the private lounge for doctors at the local hospital. “I had five back surgeries scheduled and four got canceled. Apparently that quack Marlow did some of his chiropractic voodoo on ‘em and they fell for that crap. We’ve got to do something about this ‘chiropractic problem’ before we all go broke, ya’ll hear?”
As the head of the local medical society, chief of staff at the local hospital and the leading orthopedic surgeon in the county, Dr. Earl Stevens was a force to be reckoned with. During World War II, Marine Captain Bull Stevens was a legend, having survived every Pacific battle from Guam to Iwo Jima to Okinawa. Those who opposed Stevens often met with disaster—whether it was losing hospital privileges, having medical licenses revoked, or just being cut out of the loop of referrals. Few questioned his opinion about anything for fear of retaliation, especially about chiropractic, his latest rival and archenemy.
His prejudicial attitude about chiropractic was well known in town, and he arrogantly referred to himself as the “Jim Crow” of the medical world. It was said that he alone kept chiropractors out of town for years by persecuting any chiropractor foolish enough to try and eke out a living in his small town. After decades of failed attempts by others, one bold chiropractor, Dr. Jackson Marlow, a local boy from a good family, finally laid claim to a small grubstake practice shortly after the end of the war, the first practice by a chiropractor that wasn’t eventually ruined by the local medical society and, specifically, by its leader, Dr. Bull Stevens.
It took a person of strong character like Jackson Marlow to make a go of it in this small town run by the “good ol’ boys” network. While Bull Stevens spent the war fighting the Japs on Pacific islands, Marlow spent his military career working in a POW camp, captured early on when Corregidor fell. He spent 41 months incarcerated in a coal mining camp across the bay from Nagasaki. Never considered a war hero like Stevens, but in a different way, his war experience taught him other virtues, such as patience, long-suffering, prayer and hope. Keeping hope alive was a lesson he would carry with him throughout his personal and professional lives.
Dr. Marlow’s professional survival rested upon these virtues, his deep love of chiropractic care and his commitment to bring this healing art back to his own community. His strong devotion was based on his personal experience as a patient himself. It was chiropractic that proved to be the only treatment that cured him of asthma. Unfortunately, he had to travel to another town for his chiropractic care because of the effective medical boycott that had kept early chiropractors out of his hometown of Riverside, a small rural town on the piedmont of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In the first half of the twentieth century, medical prejudice against chiropractors was not only intense, but it would soon become institutionalized in the medical industry with their Principle III of the Medical Code of Ethics that officially banned physicians from working with chiropractors. Also, slanderous allegations of malpractice started by medical doctors and fueled by the press, as well as their biased statements about the supposedly unscientific basis of chiropractic care, dominated the public’s mind.
To fight against this ill will and mischaracterization was not a job for the weak of mind or body. In fact, to be a chiropractor in the early to mid-twentieth century demanded men and women of unusually strong character to withstand the medical political machine, and to have the professional persistence to bring a new idea of healing to the world.
Since Dr. Stevens was always looking for a good fight, he certainly wasn’t going to let his professional rival rest well if he had anything to say about it. Just as Captain “Bull” Stevens had waged war against the Japanese, now Dr. Bull Stevens was waging war against his newest enemy, that damn chiropractor who had taken money out of his pocket.
“I’m sorry, Doc, but I’ve got to take you downtown again,” said Sgt. Todd. “The medical society is upset again and has filed another charge that you’re practicing medicine without a license.”
“Not again! What did I do now to piss off Stevens? Put a dent in his cash flow by saving a few patients from his scalpel?” Dr. Marlow answered himself, knowing full well the reason for his arrest. It wasn’t the first time he had been arrested and jailed for the same phony reason. Whenever he had saved a few patients from the knife of Dr. Stevens, he would feel the retribution and be forced to deal with the power of the medical monopoly. Then, after a few weeks in jail and public protesting from his loyal patients, Dr. Marlow would quietly be released and continue giving chiropractic care to the hundreds of satisfied patients who stood behind him. It was an act that would be played out many times during his long career, just as it had for thousands of chiropractors.
Being a long-time patient himself, Sgt. Todd was sympathetic to his chiropractor’s plight, but was powerless to help him. “And before we go, Doc, can you give me a quick adjustment? I think my old sacroiliac has gone out again. It’s sore as a ‘risin in my butt all the way down my leg to my toes, which feel kinda numb.” He stomped his foot on the ground to show how there was no feeling there anymore.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to refer you to Dr. Stevens? He would love to get his hands on you, let some blood fly and make thousands of dollars with another back surgery. Besides, I don’t need you to testify against me too,” he said sarcastically. “After all, I don’t want you telling the judge about my so-called medical practice here.”
Through the years, Dr. Marlow had saved hundreds of people from unnecessary back surgeries, plus he had seen many failed back surgeries come to his office seeking some relief after Stevens’ handiwork made their back pain worse. If going to jail was the price he had to pay in order to save patients from the scalpel of this professional predator, he was willing to make that commitment and endure an occasional incarceration, as did over 15,000 chiropractors in the first half of the 20th century.
“Doc, you know I don’t need no damn surgery. A few pops by you and I always feel as good as new. And I certainly won’t let Stevens get his bloody hands on me. I saw what he did to my daddy. He still can’t work or even sit for too long without pain. I don’t think he should’ve ever had that damn back surgery, but there was no convincing him otherwise. Dr. Stevens even told him that if a chiropractor was to crack him, he would be paralyzed for life! That was enough to scare him into that damn surgery.”
“Well, Sergeant, you’re damn right,” Dr. Marlow said with a slight grin, teasing Todd about his language. “You know you’re only preaching to the choir when you say things like that about your daddy’s experience. Say, since you’re giving me your testimonial, would you be willing to testify for me? You’ve been a patient of mine and you know that chiropractic works. Would you be willing to tell the judge that?”
“Hey now, Doc. Don’t get me involved in this case any more than I have to be. If I was to testify for you, I might lose my job. You know how powerful Dr. Stevens is, and if he gets mad at you, there’s no place to hide in Riverside. I could lose everything if I did that.”
“So could I,” answered Dr. Marlow. The tone of their conversation quickly changed from agreement to the sad reality of the moment. The sergeant wasn’t there to make small talk or to get an adjustment. He was there to make an arrest.
“I think it’s time we go down to the station. I hate to do this Doc, but I was told to handcuff you, too.”
Just as thousands of other chiropractors who were arrested for practicing chiropractic in a medical world, Jackson would let this humiliation fuel his resolve to fight these hate crimes of this medical holy war.
The judge, the prosecutor and the medical society were all part of the good ol’ boy network that controlled everything in this town. Whenever Dr. Stevens wanted to harass his competition, it was a simple phone call to the district attorney’s office. Stevens was a wealthy man with all the right connections.
“Judge Harrison, you and everyone here knows I make no pretense of being a medical doctor. If I were selling snake oil, performing unnecessary surgeries like some M.D.s or even performing ungodly abortions, I could see the sense of this lawsuit. But I’m not performing any of those unethical acts,” Jackson told the court. “I’m only using time-proven chiropractic care. While you may once again convict me of these trumped-up charges, the fact remains that chiropractic care is not medical care. How can I be convicted of practicing medicine when, in fact, I don’t dispense drugs or perform surgery?”
“I’m not here to debate the merits of chiropractic care with you,” responded the judge. “The prosecution has proven that you have ‘treated’ patients with the intent of getting them well. According to the law, that’s proof enough that you’re practicing medicine, and without a medical license, it’s obvious that you’re guilty of the charges against you.”
Before the individual states passed scope of practice legislation to protect chiropractors, any treatment to the human body was considered the practice of medicine, making chiropractors vulnerable to prosecution. The first Medical Practice Act in part read:
“Any person shall be deemed as practicing medicine . . . who shall publicly profess to cure or heal, by any means whatsoever . . . Any person who shall practice medicine within this state without having complied with the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction be fined three hundred dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars, and court costs, and shall be committed to the county jail until such fine is paid.”
Until Minnesota passed the first chiropractic scope bill in 1905, chiropractors were not protected from the bogus charges by the AMA’s dirty tricks conspirators, and thousands of chiropractors spent many nights in jail. And it would still be many years before the chiropractic profession could overcome the money and influence of the medical lobby to have a state law passed in South Carolina to protect the scope of chiropractic practice.
“But, Your Honor, I repeat that I have not dispensed any drugs or done any surgeries. I have practiced only chiropractic care, which is not medical practice. Even Dr. Stevens has told you that he would have nothing to do with this treatment method. He testified that chiropractic is ‘quackery, dangerous, and a bunch of bunk.’ How, then, can I be accused of practicing medicine when he has told the Court that chiropractic is definitely not medicine?”
Judge Harrison seemed agitated by Marlow’s remarks because they were making too much sense. But, without a license to protect his scope of practice, any healing method could be construed to be the practice of medicine since the medical monopoly was the only profession with a state license to treat the human body. Harrison understood Marlow’s point, but without a license, the law simply didn’t support Marlow, yet.
“My real crime, Your Honor, is the fact that I have gotten patients well without drugs or surgery, and have taken some money out of the physicians’ pockets. It’s all about money, and that’s what upsets the medical profession the most,” Jackson told the Court, although he was actually speaking to Dr. Stevens, who sat in the last row of the gallery, enjoying Jackson’s obvious frustration.
“Guilty of all charges,” said the judge. It was a foregone conclusion that Dr. Marlow’s trial would render another guilty verdict. “Unless you have something else to add, I sentence you to a $500 fine and court costs, and commit you to the county jail for three months until the fine is paid.”
Reluctantly, Jackson could only shake his head in response to the judge’s question, saying in a subdued voice, “No, Your Honor, I have nothing more to say other than I refuse to pay this fine.” Just as the courts mistreated early civil rights protesters, thousands of dedicated chiropractors suffered as well to bring a new idea to the healthcare world.
Harrison slammed his gavel on his desk and ordered, “Bailiff, take the prisoner into custody.”
As the bailiff approached, Marlow turned to find Stevens in the courtroom. When their eyes met, Stevens smiled broadly over his latest kangaroo court victory. Marlow, fighting to restrain his rage, nodded back but held his chin up high. He knew medical bigotry could not prevail forever, but being the butt of medical politics was a scar that would last a lifetime. As he was led out of the courtroom, his appearance of proud resistance quickly turned to humility as the bailiff handcuffed him again and took him to jail.
Stevens walked over to the judge as Marlow was led away by the bailiff. He shook the judge’s hand, thanking him for his verdict. “Let the bastard rot in jail. Maybe he’ll learn his lesson not to harm my patients anymore.”
Judge Harrison looked at Stevens with bewilderment, knowing that Marlow hadn’t harmed any of Stevens’ patients. Harrison admitted to himself that Marlow was right about one thing: His real crime was getting patients well without drugs or surgery.
“It seems to me, Bull, that Dr. Marlow wasn’t harming your patients. Not one patient came forth to testify against him. And you and I both know he wasn’t practicing medicine at all, just like he said. I think the real issue here is the love of money, not your concern for patients’ welfare from any supposed quackery.”
Judge Harrison turned and walked toward his chambers as Dr. Stevens stood in disbelief. He wouldn’t argue the judge’s point because it was true. The smokescreen was finally clearing in the courtroom, and everyone there knew this trial was a sham. Political medicine had won another hollow victory, and the hypocrisy of this case had fooled no one.
As he watched the judge walk toward his chamber, Harrison’s words rang loudly in Dr. Stevens’ ears. Finally Bull yelled to the judge, “For the love of money, you say? Isn’t that reason enough?”
Word Count: 2,478