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Chiropractic News Digest #03-06

July 10, 2003

Chiropractic News Digest, edited by Christopher J. Erickson, M.D. and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch, summarizes scientific and political developments; enforcement actions; and other news relevant to the chiropractic marketplace.

ACA seeking expanded scope for chiropractors. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has persuaded the U.S. Senate to approve a pilot project in a new Medicare bill that would reimburse chiropractors "for all covered Medicare services that are within their state scope of practice." [Medicare full scope issue: Immediate grassroots action required. ACA Action Bulletin, accessed 07/03/03]. Because state laws define chiropractic's scope very loosely, this language could enable chiropractors to bill for nearly everything they feel like doing, including many irrational services. In Texas, for example, the state chiropractic board has issued a series of "technical standards" to advise on what the law permits. The documents state that acupuncture, Nasal Specific Technique, hypnotherapy, magnetic devices, pulmonary function testing, videofluoroscopy, and low-level laser therapy could be within chiropractic's scope if they are used to analyze or improve "the subluxation complex or the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system."

Nasal Specific Technique is a bizarre treatment in which a finger cot is inflated inside the patient's nose with the intention of moving a bone inside the head. But the Texas board states that it "appears to be a correction of the cranial bones and, as such, appears to meet the criteria of being within the scope of practice of a Texas licensed chiropractor," provided that the licensee is "properly trained" to do it. Scope of practice regarding Nasal Specific and Nasal Lavage. Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Jan 15, 2001]

Coalition formed to defend subluxation concept. The Chiropractic Coalition -- founded in November 2002 by the International Chiropractors Association, the World Chiropractic Alliance, and the Federation of Straight Chiropractors and Organizations -- has issued a press release stating:

Several rogue groups are trying to position chiropractors as quasi-medical doctors, unnecessarily and irresponsibly blurring the boundary lines between the professions and confusing the public. . . .

These groups, which are by no means representative of the tens of thousands of doctors of chiropractic active in the United States, are trying to change educational requirements and state licensing statutes to allow, and even require, chiropractors to diagnose and treat diseases and medical conditions, at the expense of the focus on chiropractic's unique procedures.

The press release identified the Council on Chiropractic Education and the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards as two of the groups that were "overstepping their authority in an attempt to control the direction of the profession." [New coalition organized to defend chiropractic independence. Chiropractic Coalition Web site, accessed July 10, 2003]

The coalition's member organizations represent practitioners who espouse chiropractic's original premise that subluxated spinal bones are the primary cause of ill health. About 10% of chiropractors belong to one or more of them.

Chiropractic leader dies. Fred H. Barge DC, a former president of the International Chiropractors Association, died on July 2 following a sudden heart attack. He was 70 years old. A second generation chiropractor, he wrote "One Cause, One Cure" and several other books lauding the theories of chiropractic's founders and expressing antagonism to science-based medical care. With respect to vaccinations, he wrote:

I am a firm opponent of artificial immunization and the antiquated germ theory on which it is based. . . . I, myself, my three daughters and my six grandchildren have never been vaccinated for anything. I even try to avoid having my dogs vaccinated.

Chiropractic philosophy states that natural immunity is to be favored over any attempt to artificially immunize the body, and chiropractic's approach to health augments the body's innate immunological capacity. [Barge FH. Final thoughts: possibly true? Today's Chiropractic 22(4):105, 1993]

An obituary in his local paper states that altogether a dozen Barges became chiropractors and that he had fought against fluoridation for more than 40 years, helping to defeat three referenda, until the community voted for it in 1988. [Rindfleisch T. Barge made mark as chiropractor, writer, father. La Crosse Tribune, July 8, 2003] Many chiropractors claim that the best way to protect health and prolong life is to correct spinal subluxations. It would be interesting to know whether Barge's life was shortened by failure to correcxt any cardiovascular risk factors.

Chiropractor who killed patient facing prison for insurance fraud. Joanne M. Gallagher, D.C., who practiced for close to 20 years in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, was convicted of insurance fraud in connection with the death of a 30-year-old epileptic woman whom she treated with cranial therapy. Court documents indicated that the patient died of severe seizures after she followed Gallagher's advice to stop taking her anticonvulsive medication. The fraud involved submitting insurance claims falsely describing "meningeal balancing" as spinal manipulation. After learning that her fatal advice had been tape-recorded, Gallagher pled guilty to one count of mail fraud under an agreement that she surrender her chiropractic license in 45 days and agree not to resume practice unless cleared to do so by a federal court judge. Sentencing is expected to take place in September. The crime carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Chirobase has posted a detailed report.

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This page was posted on July 11, 2003.