September 2, 2014
Dear Rev. Bobby Schuller:
As a TV parishioner of the Crystal Cathedral for over 45 years since 1968, I am a firm believer in your “possibility thinking” brand of Christianity. I still read your grandfather’s daily devotion, Tough-Minded Faith for Tender-Hearted People, every morning for motivation. And believe me, as a chiropractor for the past 35 years, I need all the faith I can get to stay positive, which is why I am writing to you today.
Let me add that you are doing a great job in your own right after following in the footsteps of a legend in television evangelism. Initially when you began, I let my ageism discriminate against you, thinking what can a young man like Bobby teach me? Then I recalled that Jesus was the same age as you!
However, let me comment as a chiropractor about the interview on Labor Day weekend with Kevin Sorbo who played Hercules on the television series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I realize these interviews are not scripted, but his tragic story about sustaining a stroke after being “cracked” by his chiropractor was upsetting to me in many ways.
First, the term “cracked” is offensive since it implies fracture, which is not the case. Secondly, it was a tragic accident, of course, that happens to only one in six million offices visits to chiropractors yet, unfortunately, I fear his accident will be exaggerated to throw the baby out with the bath water. In fact, you have a greater chance of a stroke in a beauty salon, in a dentist office, or being hit my lightning than in a chiropractic office.
While Kevin’s story represents one individual case, let’s put it into perspective since every procedure is fraught with some risk, but to make the “exception” in this case appear to be the “rule” does not serve to clarify the enormous value the chiropractic brings to alleviate pain and suffering.
It was pleasing to see that Kevin turned his tragedy into triumph with his book, True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal–and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life. While Kevin’s comeback story and his role in Christian films such as “God’s Not Dead,” are noteworthy, his chiropractic accident may be used inadvertently as another blanket condemnation of chiropractic care.
As the author of “The Medical War Against Chiropractors,” I firmly understand the war of words between chiropractic and medicine. Sadly, the persecution of chiropractors and the defamation they endured was mostly the result of propaganda, not facts, to create a medical monopoly that we have today.
BTW: Did you know that in the first half of the 20th century over 12,000 chiropractors were arrested for doing what every chiropractor does today—getting people well without drugs or surgery? Like early Christians, chiropractors were persecuted for their beliefs and, consequently, have learned to be long-suffering in order to keep the faith. Certainly chiropractors have had to embrace your grandfather’s slogan that “tough times never last but tough people do!”
While Kevin’s story is unfortunately true and his story is heart wrenching about overcoming adversity in life, I fear his testimony will do more harm than good in scaring people from seeking chiropractic care in a time when back/neck pain is the #1 disabling condition in the world and as researchers now suggest the medical methods of NSAIDs/aspirin, narcotic painkillers, epidural shots, and spine fusions are also fraught with serious adverse events; in fact, most are now considered placebo.
Certainly his story is justified, but let’s put it into perspective:
- According to research by Alan Terret et al., the rate of iatrogenic problems associated with spinal manipulative therapy as rendered by doctors of chiropractic is only 1 in 5.85 million cases, which is less than the chance of stroke in a hair salon, dentist chair, or being hit by lightning (one in 600,000). It equated to one occurrence in 48 chiropractic careers.
- A study by Anthony Rosner, PhD, comparing medical procedures to chiropractic care concerning strokes said patients need to be warned of the dangers of medical procedures rather than chiropractic care. As he suggests, “The statistics really begin to spin one’s head.” Using a baseline figure of one per one million as an estimate of stroke incidence attributed to cervical manipulations, one finds a
- two times greater risk of dying from transfusing one unit of blood;
- 100 times greater risk of dying from general anesthesia;
- 160-400 times greater risk of dying from use of NSAIDs;
- 700 times greater risk of dying from lumbar spinal surgery;
- 1000-10,000 times greater risk of dying from traditional gall bladder surgery;
- 10,000 times greater risk of serious harm from medical mistakes in hospitals.
- According to the Journal of Patient Safety, as many as 440,000 patients a year die from hospital errors. In all, some claim this figure is now over 1.5 million deaths due to medical mistakes.
- Recently on August 26, 2014, another article appeared warning of the dangers of medical care, “Doctor Errors Kill 500,000 Americans a Year” by Lynn Allison.
- Here is a quote from the book “Squandering Billions” by Gary Bannerman and Don Nixdorf DC. “Canadian figures indicate that there is a 1:200 mortality rate from spinal laminectomies and a 2:100 mortality rate associated with spinal fusions, as well as a 1:145 preventable incident rate for other surgical procedures of the neck.”
- A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology by Lanas et al. on aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) reveals shocking mortality rates, such as, “Death rate attributed to NSAID/aspirin use was between 21.0 and 24.8 cases/million people, respectively. Up to one-third of all NSAID/aspirin deaths can be attributed to low-dose aspirin use.”
Certainly a case can be made that medical care is much more dangerous than chiropractic care, but Kevin’s testimony failed to mention these lopsided facts, which would have been the ‘fair and balanced’ thing to do by you as the moderator of this interview.
Although it was unconscionable that his chiropractor disregarded Kevin’s request not to adjust his neck, the data shows neck manipulation is extremely safe. Since Kevin also mentioned he was an 8-year long chiropractic patient, undoubtedly he was well-served until his accident. If I remember correctly, in the past you have mentioned that you have a chiropractor, too.
What I’m suggesting is that it would be magnanimous if you were to mention to your global audience that you are a chiropractic patient and chiropractic care is generally safe, effective, and a “proven treatment” for back pain as the US Public Health Service mentioned as far back as 1994.
Sadly, if left as it is now, I doubt anyone in your audience would seek chiropractic care if Hercules himself is hurt by a chiropractor. And the fact that Kevin told his story to 1,600 neurologists will only inflame the antipathy toward chiropractors despite the rare chance of stroke or death caused by spinal manipulation and the statistics in our favor compared to medical care.
I hope to hear back from you on this matter.
JC Smith, MA, DC