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Not Just Back Talk by Crick and Crack: Medicine and Chiropractic, Part 4

This article is the 4th in a series about the relationship between organized medicine and chiropractic, leading up to the facts surrounding the lawsuit brought by Dr. Chester Wilk, and three chiropractic colleagues against the American Medical Association, known as Wilk v AMA. In the first article, we talked about the fact there has been a long-standing prejudice against chiropractors. In the second article, we addressed that there has been discourse between medicine and practitioners of manipulation that dates back to the Renaissance. Last week we talked about the educational standards of medical and chiropractic colleges, and that by the 1960’s they were both accredited by the Department of Education. In today’s article, we will discuss the Wilk suit in detail.

On August 27, 1987, the future of the chiropractic changed when federal court judge Susan Getzendanner found the American Medical Association (AMA) guilty of conspiring to destroy chiropractic. In her findings, the judge cited that the AMA’s plot dated back to 1962. In that year, the Iowa Medical Society adopted a resolution known as the Iowa Plan, which stated specifically “what medicine should do about the chiropractic menace”, which included a section titled “undertake a positive program of containment”, suggesting the ‘containment’ might be pursued along the following lines:

-encourage ethical complaints against doctors of chiropractic

-oppose chiropractic inroads in health insurance

-oppose chiropractic inroads in workers compensation

-oppose chiropractic inroads and labor unions

-oppose chiropractic inroads into hospitals

-contain chiropractic schools

The Iowa Plan, soon thereafter adopted by the AMA as well, stated that such actions taken by the medical profession should be persistent and behind the scenes whenever possible, and that the medical community should never give professional recognition to doctors of chiropractic, and thus a successful program of containment would result in the decline of chiropractic.

NOTE: Evidence of this conspiracy could be found even in our small state of Vermont, where in 1980 a resolution, promulgated by the AMA, was passed by the legislature which allowed for insurance companies to not reimburse for “manipulation of the spine”; the language approved by the Vermont legislature was the exact language given to them by the AMA. It was noted, however, that if a manipulation was performed by physical therapist it would be reimbursed. Through extensive lobbying by chiropractic advocates, this rule was eventually repealed by legislative action in 1998, allowing for a leveling of the reimbursement playing field. Governor Dean, a medical doctor, threatened to veto this legislation, but facing an overwhelming override by the legislature, signed it into law.

The judge further stated that “as early as September 1963, the AMA’s objective was the complete elimination of the chiropractic profession”. Two months later, the AMA formed the Committee on Quackery, and by 1964 its goal was to do away with chiropractic throughout the United States.

The committee was to achieve its goals by: distributing publications critical of chiropractic, assisting others in preparation of anti-chiropractic literature, warning that professional association between medical physicians and chiropractors was unethical, and discouraging colleges, universities and faculty from cooperating with chiropractic schools. In 1966 the AMA adopted a resolution calling chiropractic an “unscientific cult”. Since the AMA’s code of ethics prevented medical doctors from associating with unscientific practitioners, this specific label would prevent medical doctors from associating with chiropractors, including making referrals, accepting referrals, or providing diagnostic, laboratory or radiology services. The judge also stated that one of the AMA’s specific goals was to keep chiropractors out of hospitals, as a way of delegitimizing them. In 1973 the AMA’s lead attorney published an article titled “The Right and Duty of Hospitals to Exclude Chiropractors” in the Journal of the AMA, and warned every hospital attorney that their accreditation might be lost if hospitals dealt with chiropractors.

In a particularly outrageous fashion, the AMA went so far as to disseminate to every medical office in the United States an article from a medical journal disparaging chiropractic, and questioning its scientific basis and efficacy. It was discovered in the Wilk trial that the “medical journal” from whence the article came was nonexistent. As someone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, the Wilk suit and all that it exposed helped me to understand exactly where the unexplained bias I had against chiropractic in my youth had come from. I, like most of America, had fallen prey to the AMA conspiracy to discredit chiropractic.

In two weeks: The Wilk concludes (and Summer officially begins!)

Yours in Health,

Crick and Crack

Dr. Thomas Turek grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University and New York Chiropractic College. He has practiced in St. Johnsbury for over 35 years, and lives in Waterford with his wife Dorothy. Dr. Travis Howard grew up in Rantoul, Ill. He was a medic in the Air Force for eight years. He attended University of Maryland European Division, Illinois State University, and Logan College of Chiropractic. He lives with his wife and three sons in Littleton, N.H. To submit a question for the column, email