Institute of Science in Medicine
The Medical GoodFellas
Just like the GoodFellas, an illicit element in the AMA resembles a “medical mob” that bullies its foes with public trash talk, Chicken Little journalism, and political skullduggery. These GoodFellas are not the “flowers in the desert”—those ethical MDs who George McAndrews applauded during the Wilk trial for working with chiropractors.
The medical GoodFellas constitute the backstabbers.
As far back as 1925, Morris Fishbein, MD, former AMA Executive Director, and longtime medical godfather said it best, “Scientific medicine absorbs from them that which is good [theft], if there is any good [fear], and then they die [“contain and eliminate”].” [i]
Fishbein ran the AMA in the same fashion of a Mafioso crime boss and he was duly dubbed the Medical Mussolini for his tyrannical powers. He even donned the appearance of a mobster sporting an iconic double-breasted white gangster suit. His intolerant quasi-KKK attitude about all non-allopathic CAM professions set the tone for the Jim Crow, MD, bias we see in many members in the medical profession today.
Without question, the medical bigotry fomented by Fishbein’s medical mob mindset remains steadfast in some
Both at the Wilk v. AMA antitrust trial that began in 1976 and in depositions during the New Zealand Royal Inquiry into Chiropractic in 1978-79, the attorneys asked the medical political elite to prove their trash talk accusations that chiropractic care was “unscientific cult,” “absurd quackery,” and “dangerous.”
In both instances, none of these charges were proven in the final judgment and all were disregarded as biased and unfounded opinions of men who apparently had obviously believed their own propaganda. Indeed, the Power of Prejudice has been a violent tool used by the AMA to bully its agenda upon the public and CAM professionals.
The NZ Commission was quite frank in its analysis that the specious medical trash talk is unproven:
In the first place no evidence was placed before us which suggested that medical science has proved current chiropractic theory to be in error, or the practice ineffective. We have no doubt at all that if such evidence had been available, it would have been produced. It is all very well to assert—as some of the medical witnesses did—that some chiropractic hypotheses are absurd. But if there is no proof that chiropractic hypotheses are unsound, an assertion by a medical expert that the hypotheses are absurd can logically amount to no more than an assertion that the chiropractic hypotheses do not fit into the framework of concepts within which that medical expert is for the time being working. Hypotheses which do not fit into accepted frameworks have often in the past been derided as absurd.
We therefore cannot be confident that the medical profession is always the best judge of concepts which do not for the time being relate to the pattern of established medical thinking.[ii]
When chiropractic could not be proven to be ineffective, absurd, or dangerous, the AMA resorted to propaganda to spread lies and foment discord. It’s as if the Medical Mussolini back in the 1930s took a lesson from the leading German Nazis propagandist himself, Adolf Hitler , who said in 1924: “Propaganda is a truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert.” [iii]
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, propaganda is biased information spread to shape public opinion and behavior. It is characterized as such:
Uses truths, half-truth, or lies (“chiropractic is an unscientific cult”)
Omits information selectively (ignores studies, guidelines, or medical experts that endorses chiropractic care)
Simplifies complex issues or ideas (“chiropractic neurophysiology and spinal mechanics are quackery”)
Plays on emotions (“chiropractors are dangerous”)
Advertises a cause (“to protect public safety”)
Attacks opponents (chiropractors are “killers” and “rabid dogs”)
Targets desired audiences (physicians, students, politicians, media, and just about anyone)
Without question the Medical Mussolini was an expert propagandist. He was a frequent contributor to popular magazines such as the American Mercury, Collier’s, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, Reader’s Digest, and the Saturday Evening Post, and he was able to spread his demagoguery through articles they published. Fishbein authored twenty-two books between 1924 and 1947, three of which—The Medical Follies, The New Medical Follies (specifically, osteopathy, homeopathy, and chiropractic) and Fads and Quackery in Healing—sold three million copies.[iv]
As a result, his anti-chiropractic message reached millions. Fishbein’s ability to finance this massive propaganda campaign was due to the shocking fact he was in bed with the greatest killer of Americans ever known—the tobacco industry—from 1930 until 1986 when its HOD voted to divest itself from the tobacco industry.
For over a half century the so-called “guardians of health” were lying to the public about both chiropractic and tobacco. While Fishbein and his followers told the public chiropractic was dangerous, the AMA willfully lied to millions of Americans that tobacco was safe to gain millions of dollars in advertisements from Joe Camel that fueled the war coffers of the AMA to defame its competition and to influence the media and legislators.
Considering this huge breach in public trust, the AMA is asking a lot of the public to believe them now in the role of “guardians of health.” Instead of presumed guardians of the public’s health, the AMA is foremost the guardian of its own wealth.
As far back as 1949, Milton Mayer wrote in Harper’s magazine that the AMA via tobacco money had become “the most terrifying trade association on earth”[v] and it remains so to this day in terms of political power now with the huge advertisement revenues from the pharmaceutical industry.
Either way—tobacco or drugs—the AMA remains in bed with the biggest killers of all.
After Fishbein’s forced departure from the AMA in 1949, the medical mafia’s methods to rub out chiropractic were reorganized in 1962 by the Committee on Quackery whose stated goal did not mince words to “contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.”[vi]
Media conspirators like Ann Landers were hired to smear the image of chiropractic in the press, thugs were hired to assault chiropractors who stood their ground, 12,000 chiros were arrested when they refused to capitulate to these threats, national political plans were developed by the AMA to “wither on the vine” chiropractic’s inclusion in the mainstream healthcare programs like Medicare.
Further proof of the duplicity of the AMA came when the Wilk plaintiff’s attorney George McAndrews showed at trial the AMA never investigated the benefits chiropractic care brought to patients. The AMA’s board even ignored a positive study by one of its own members, Irwin Hendryson, MD, who spoke highly of spinal manipulation during his duty in a hospital at Guadalcanal during WW II.[vii]
Its goal was not “evidence-based medicine” or the truth about the effectiveness of SMT for patients. The AMA’s goal was to “whack” chiropractors with the largest character assassination campaign and boycott ever conducted by one trade association upon another. It was estimated this boycott cost the chiropractic profession $700 million in lost revenues during this time span.
The AMA’s Waterloo finally occurred with the Wilk v. AMA antitrust trial in 1976. The CoQ quickly disbanded for the obvious legal reason after its leadership was indicted for antitrust conspiracy, but its files were then allegedly handed over to Stephen Barrett, MD, of the National Council Against Health Fraud who carried forward the torch as “quack buster.”
After legal setbacks against Barrett won by the victims of his medical hate speech, Barrett’s role as quack buster now has been taken over by another group of medical mobsters biting at the bit to bash chiropractors. It just never seems to end.
Indeed, the NZ Commission commented on the “remorseless and unrelenting opposition” of chiropractic by the ardent members in the medical society:
Chiropractors have for years been claiming that chiropractic treatment may be and in some cases is beneficial for the type of [visceral/organic] disorder we have mentioned. Yet it is astonishing to find that little if any constructive effort has been made by the medical profession to investigate these claims. In the face of that neglect it would appear unreasonable that organized medicine should be so bitterly and adamantly opposed to chiropractic. The approach of organized medicine to chiropractic is not one of detached scientific interest and curiosity about a form of treatment that appears to have helped a large number of patients. This is an approach which might have been expected; but instead it has been one of remorseless and unrelenting opposition.[viii]
For example, in the spring of 2005, the medical media attacked chiropractic with another drive-by, hit-and-run media ploy—a billboard in New Haven, Conn., that contained a disturbing message in large red and black letters: “Warning: Chiropractic Adjustments Can Kill or Permanently Disable You.”
This sign referred passersby to Neck911.com, an anti-chiropractic website run by an allegedly “international” group of volunteers concerned about manipulation of the neck by doctors of chiropractic. [ix]
In defense of chiropractic, two brave DCs, Ronald Farabaugh and Robert Sheely, developed the website, www.neck911usa.com, that refuted the Chicken Little scare tactics. Of course, this came after the damage was done again to the reputations of thousands of DCs.
New Quack Busters
The “remorseless and unrelenting opposition” continues to this day despite the new research vindicating chiropractic care as the best solution to most “mechanical low back” problems. “Don’t confuse us with the facts” remains their motto. Science has nothing to do with market share.
The most notorious successors of the CoQ today have formed under the subtle moniker of the Institute of Science in Medicine (ISM). They are the newest version of the medical GoodFellas who ought to be renamed the Institute of Demagoguery in Medicine (IDM).
Here is the online mission statement of the ISM:
In the Summer of 2009, a number of health professionals, scientists, and others came together to discuss the need for public policies which promote a scientific standard for safe and effective medical treatments, and which protect the public from the predations of anti-, non-, and pseudo-scientific practices and beliefs in all aspects of health care. These participants became the 27 Founding Fellows of the Institute for Science in Medicine. They have since been joined by another 32 accomplished Fellows.
The Institute relies on the qualifications, expertise, and understanding of medicine and science of all our Fellows to reliably inform public policy with objective facts and sound judgment.
This mission statement is troubling on many levels. First of all, it is not the role of any medical mob to police other healthcare professions. Keep in mind there are no federal or state agencies working in conjunction with ISM. It alone acts like a bully who brandishes this war of words to defame all CAM professions by fear-mongering and slander.
Hiding behind its mantle, the ISM’s not-so-hidden agenda is to continue the Committee on Quackery’s goal to eliminate chiropractic or anyone who does not preach the allopathic model of healthcare of drugs, shots, or surgery. These Goodfellas want no freedom of choice in healthcare for patients and no fair competition among other practitioners to let the best mousetrap prevail in an open marketplace.
The Medical Mussolini taught them well—we want it all—“and then they die.”
These ISM Goodfellas are simply medical thugs who trash talk chiropractors from their bully pulpit. In reality, they are by definition demagogues who gain power by misrepresenting the facts and mischaracterizing their foes thereby creating an unjust prejudice about chiropractors to the public in a way to incite fear, ridicule, and suspicion.
Indeed, this Goodfellas tactic must be deemed effective when a respondent to a 1984 poll on chiropractors once said, “I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one.” [x]
Meet the Medical GoodFellas
To understand the medical GoodFellas, a few bios will help the public understand the mainstay of the ISM. Harriett Hall is one of the Founding GoodFellas that includes other infamous medical notables like Stephen Barrett, Edzard Ernst, Jann and Raymond Bellamy, and Steven Salzberg, PhD, a virtual Who’s Who of chiro critics.
Here’s a partial list of ignoble ISM GoodFellas:
Harriett Hall called the study of CAM “quackademia” on NPR on Feb. 15, 2012, Military Pokes Holes In Acupuncture Skeptics’ Theory; and she was the spokesperson on Capitol Hill during the Obamacare debate demanding only MDs be called doctors.
Edzard Ernst of the Medical School at the University of Exeter wrote his infamous 2010 study from England, “Deaths After Chiropractic: A Review Of Published Cases,” that once again raised the level of fear over chiropractic care when he noted that “Twenty-six fatalities were published since 1934 in 23 articles.”[xi] Considering this covers 76 years and equates to 0.34 deaths per year, instead of sounding an alarm to scare people as Ernst attempted, he should have praised chiropractic care for its obvious safety since this is an extremely low rate in comparison with equivalent medical methods for the same diagnostic condition
Jann J. Bellamy is a Florida attorney and wife of Raymond Bellamy, MD, who spear-headed the fight against the chiro program at FSU.
“During this process, Jann became intrigued that scientifically implausible and unproven healthcare claims could be presented as fact to the public, even to the point of being codified into law….She left the active practice of law in 2006 to form a non-profit, the Campaign for Science-Based Healthcare, which educates the public about “alternative” healthcare claims and advocates for a state law requiring that all healthcare offered in Florida meet a basic scientific standard. She is also a columnist for Health News Florida.”
“I’m delighted. I’m ready for the champagne,” Raymond Bellamy said about the FSU chiro program being axed. He and others have said chiropractic medicine lacks needed scientific evidence and will hurt FSU’s hard-earned academic reputation.
Steven Salzberg, PhD, is a Professor of Medicine in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Don’t let his credentials fool you—he is still a bully who loves to talk trash.
He also writes a column for Forbes on pseudoscience and recently published his article, Why does the government subsidize chiropractic colleges? (Forbes, Jun. 10 2012). What is quite obvious is his lack of articles on the pseudoscience of allopathic medicine.
The following are not known to be ISM Fellows, but still deserve equal recognition for their biased work against chiropractors:
Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and head medical reporter at CNN, exaggerated the allegation that chiropractic care has caused hundreds of strokes:
Stroke after chiropractic care updated Wed June 25, 2008, “Hundreds of people have had strokes after having their necks manipulated.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.
Gupta also has failed to report on the debate on unnecessary spine surgeries due to his conflict of interest as a neurosurgeon. Anyone viewing CNN would never know there was a spine surgery controversy due to his wily journalism to avoid the subject.
Nortin M. Hadler, MD, professor at UNC and author of Stabbed in the Back, has repeatedly taken cheap shots at chiropractic and admits to his elitist, bully attitude:
Medicine has achieved so much in the past fifty years that it merits and commands a perch atop the contemporary pecking order of healers…I admit to chauvinism; I value my profession above all others…I also write extensively on how its practitioners hear a higher calling.
On Deluding Patients
I have long been fascinated by the staying power of folk remedies such as back cracking. Clearly some, and perhaps nearly all, folk remedies are simply delusional idiosyncrasies of culture. But back cracking is sufficiently distinctive to foster entire schools of sectarian medicine. Are the practitioners self-deluding and their patients seduced by placebo events?
No Data on Chiropractic Care
There is no data that repeating the crack offers anything. Nonetheless, it is this data that led the AHCPR committee to recommend a single manipulation [this is not what AHCPR recommended; in fact, up to 4 weeks of care was suggested] in the treatment of acute low back pain. However, at best this is much ado about very little. Certainly, it is little reason to advocate a form of sectarian medicine.
Just Say No to Back Cracking
I have never felt comfortable performing manipulation, recommending manipulation, or letting anyone crack my back.
Medical Chauvinism with Higher Calling
I admit to chauvinism; I value my profession above all others to the extent that it tests the limits of certainty regarding the validity of its therapeutic offerings. I write extensively on how the institution of contemporary medicine has lost its way, but I also write extensively on how its practitioners hear a higher calling.
Subluxations are Imaginary
Subluxations are the chiropractic diagnosis that implies spinal malalignment. They are imaginary; no such specific skeletal changes correlate with symptoms…how anyone can imagine that such an event can salve asthma or diabetes or the like is a testimony to the tenacity of vitalistic theories, from The Last Well Person.
Physiotherapy lecturer Neil O’Connell, of Brunel University, Uxbridge, and main instigator of the recent fervor from the article, “Letting chiropractor ‘crack’ your neck to relieve pain could trigger stroke.”
He warned that cervical spine manipulation “may carry the potential for serious neurovascular complications,” but offered no evidence or proof.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal, he added that the technique is “unnecessary and inadvisable,” but again offered no proof, just his opinion.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series on Medical GoodFellas.
[i] M Fishbein, Medical Follies, New York, Boni & Liveright, (1925): 43.
[ii]Inglis, BD, Fraser, B, Penfold, BR, Chiropractic in New Zealand, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Chiropractic, PD Hasselberg, Government Printer, Wellington, New Zealand. 1979 p. 120
[iii] S Luckert and S Bachrach, “State of Deception: the Power of Nazi Propaganda,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum handout.
[iv] “The A.M.A. Voice,” Fortune, November 1938: 152+
[v] M Mayer, “The Rise and Fall of Dr. Fishbein,” Harper’s Magazine, 199/1194 (Nov. 1949): 76.
[vi]G McAndrews, “Plaintiffs’ Summary of Proofs as an Aid to the Court,” Civil Action No. 76 C 3777, Wilk, (June 25, 1987) Throckmorton, Howard, Taylor, and Monaghon Deps.
[vii] G McAndrews Aid to the Court, PX-1467, p. 42.
[viii] Ibid, p. 28.
[ix] Editorial Staff, “Another Anti-Chiropractic Campaign in Connecticut,” Dynamic Chiropractic – January 29, 2006, Vol. 24, Issue 03
[x] “Attitudes Toward Chiropractic Health Care in Oklahoma,” Welling & Company and Oklahoma Chiropractic Research Foundation in cooperation with the Chiropractic Association of Oklahoma (1984)
[xi] E Ernst “Deaths After Chiropractic: A Review Of Published Cases,” Int J Clin Pract, 64/8 (July 2010):1162–1165