Chiropractors Angry about Bus Ad

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA), an organization dedicated to "preserving and strengthening subluxation-based chiropractic around the world," is upset about a conspicuous ad appearing on the outside of a bus in Bridgeport and Waterbury, Connecticut. In 2006, a lawyer acting on its behalf notified the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority (GBTA) that if the ad was not immediately removed, the WCA and several local chiropractors would file suit and ask state and federal authorities to investigate The ad was placed by the Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group. No suit was filed.

It appears to me that the GBTA did nothing wrong and was not intimidated. Its official position was that:

The advertising space on our fleet of buses is considered “public forum” as is any advertising billboard, therefore protected by the first amendment of the US Constitution of “free speech.”  This amendment therefore limits advertisers that can be rejected regardless of the concerns of any one body in the community. The GBTA could not and will not engage in any form whatsoever that could be construed as prejudicial or bias. GBTA does not condone or support any of our advertiser’s claims. The advertisement in question defames no one; it merely sets forth a rhetorical question common in lawyer and professional mass media advertising, which asks whether the reader was injured by a chiropractor. We thank you for your correspondence.

Because the ad pointed to the Neck911 Web site, many chiropractors assume the Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group owns the site. That was not true, however. Neck911 was a network of professionals who provide consultations on complications due to neck manipulation [2]. Its Web site was operated by John W. Kinsinger, M.D., an anesthesiologist who has investigated many chiropractors [3]. Dr. Kinsinger told me that neither he nor Neck911 had anything to do with the content or placing of the ads. [Note: In 2011, the domian expired and was taken over by chiropractors who immediately changed the contents to promote neck manipulation.]

Last year, the Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group placed other ads that angered chiropractors. One used the billboard pictured to the right. The other advertised in the Hartford Courant that:

Our mission is to warn people of the risks involved with chiropractic adjustments and to help victims, like us, their families try to get back some degree of normalcy in their lives. Unfortunately, chiropractic adjustments are not completely safe and without risk. We are the proof. If you or a loved one have been affected, We Want to Hear from You."

 

The Connecticut Chiropractic Association complained to the billboard company and the newspaper and published a newspaper counter-ad which claimed that chiropractors' "proven safety record" and "focus on education and patient improvement, as research now shows, are important factors in the success of chiropractic management. . . " [4]

Stroke from chiropractic neck manipulation occurs when an artery to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked as a result of being stretched. Speculations exist that the odds of a serious complication due to neck manipulation are somewhere between one in 5,000 and one in 10 million manipulations. No one really knows, however, because there has been little systematic study of its frequency [5]. Neck911 has summed up the situation this way:

The chiropractic profession has attempted to ignore, or minimize the realities of this devastating consequence. They often state that it occurs in only one out of a million cervical manipulations, or that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning. Recently an administrator at a prominent chiropractic college in the midwest was asked about stroke following chiropractic upper cervical manipulation. He responded that this phenomenon has NEVER happened. Of course this is totally false as prestigious medical journals from around the world have documented these cases for the past sixty years.

The real concern should not focus on the frequency of this occurrence but rather on risk/benefit ratio. No matter how infrequent the complication, if there is little or no benefit to the procedure, then a complication as severe as death can not be risked. This is the case with regard to chiropractic manipulation of the highest part of the neck. It is a procedure that is used to treat everything from ear infections in babies to high blood pressure and epilepsy in adults. There is no evidence of any benefit for the majority of the ailments that this procedure is utilized for [6].

Shortly after the GBTA was threatened, WTNH-TV aired a program about the bus ad which described the Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group as "victims, family members and friends who have been traumatized" by chiropractic treatment and "whose lives have been destroyed." [7] Two members appeared on the program. The first, identified as "Britt," said she had reached an out-of-court settlement after having a stroke about three years ago in her chiropractor's office. Britt requires a feeding tube because she' has lost the ability to swallow. The other member is Linda Solsbury, a former nurse who won a jury award after suffering a stroke during an adjustment 20 years ago. She is partially paralyzed, can't speak, and must use a keyboard to communicate. The book Chiropractic: The Greatest Hoax of the Century? has a chapter about her case [8].

In 2008, chiropractor Stephen Pisherchia was prosecuted and placed on probation for harassing Britt by telephone [9].

References

  1. Letter to Vincent J. Biondi and Ronald Kilcoyne, May 8, 2006.
  2. About Neck911. Neck911 Web page, accessed May 19, 2006.
  3. Kinsinger JW. My experiences with nine chiropractors. Chirobase, Dec 25, 2003.
  4. Connecticut State News. Dynamic Chiropractic Web site, accessed May 20, 2006.
  5. Barrett S. Chiropractic's dirty secret: Neck manipulation and strokes. Quackwatch, Jan 27, 2004.
  6. What chiropractors are saying. Neck911 Web site, accessed May 20, 2006.
  7. Injured by a chiropractor? WTNH-TV, May 24, 2006.
  8. The crippling of Linda Solsbury. In Chotkowski LA. Chiropractic: The Greatest Hoax of the Century? Kensington, CT: New England Books, 2005.
  9. Healthcare provider harasses stroke victims. Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group Web site, accessed March 3, 2009.

This page was revised on September 4, 2010.

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