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How do chiropractors convince parents to rely on chiropractic? To find out, I contacted about 100 Canadian practitioners over a two-year period -- sometimes making it plain that I was a physician, and sometimes posing as a parent. From these encounters and an analysis of several chiropractic textbooks and other materials, I have identified ten points that chiropractors often make in talking with parents. The first five are used to help parents overcome their doubts about trying an unorthodox treatment. The next four extol the benefits of chiropractic, often at the expense of medicine. The last statement helps ensure that patients will stick around for a while.
1. Cooperation with medical doctors. "We want to get along with the medical profession. They have their role and we have ours." [Chiropractors knows that many pediatricians do not think chiropractors should treat children. They counter this by expressing their willingness to cooperate. However, no study has ever demonstrated that chiropractic care is generally useful during childhood.]
2. Parental freedom of choice. "You have the right and the obligation to decide which medical therapies will give your child the chance to get better." [To choose appropriately, it is necessary to have accurate information.]
3. Personal testimony. "I believe that you're the best judge of what works best for your child. if you're pleased and find that your child is better, what greater proof do you need?" [This bypasses whether improvement results from chiropractic care or merely the passage of time.]
4. Quality of education. "My education was as long as that of your child's medical doctor. My school has been fully recognized by the Government, and I'm legally called a doctor." [What counts is not the length of someone's training but the quality.]
5. The Louis Pasteur argument. "You may hear some medical doctors question whether chiropractic works. Many discoveries that were initially rejected by medicine have eventually been proven true. Even Louis Pasteur, the great French doctor, was rejected in his time." [To my knowledge, although chiropractic is over 100 years old, it has contributed nothing to our understanding of childhood diseases or their treatment.]
6. Finding a cause. "Your child's illness is caused by a subluxation. The treatment I offer is called an "adjustment." This will correct any nervous imbalances that exist in your child's body." [No chiropractor has ever demonstrated any ability to detect or correct "nervous imbalances" or even that they exist.]
7. Prevention. "Chiropractic is concerned with prevention and with helping the body to heal itself. We are a drugless healing profession." [No study has ever demonstrated that chiropractors can do anything to generally help the body heal heal itself.]
8. Medical shortcomings. "I believe that antibiotics may interfere with the natural healing of your child. I believe that by treating any underlying resistance problem your child may have, the need for antibiotics may decrease or stop completely. It may also be possible to avoid the operation the specialist said may be necessary." [The chiropractor stimulates and reinforces parents' concerns about too many antibiotics and unnecessary surgical procedures, thus positioning chiropractic as a safer, more natural alternative.]
9. Nothing to lose. "Your child may be facing the need for stronger antibiotics or even an operation. I'd suggest that a few weeks of your time invested in trying to find another answer may be worthwhile." [Chiropractors have insufficient training to determine whether antibiotic treatment is necessary or appropriate.]
10. No cures, no guarantees. "Chiropractic cannot cure anything. We can only help to correct any problems that may exist in your child's spinal column, thus helping his body heal itself as best it can." [The chiropractor downplays any spectacular results and asks the parents to look for long-term improvement. This helps retain patients over a longer period of time.]
Dr. Katz is a staff physician at the Tiny Tots Medical Center, in suburban Montreal, one of Canada's largest pediatric facilities. From 1985 through 1997, he served as the center's medical director. He has investigated the chiropractic marketplace for more than 20 years.
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This article was posted on November 2, 1998