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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 15, 2002, Vol. 20, Issue 15
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(Editor's note: The following are responses to the airing of "A Different Way to Heal?", part of the Scientific American Frontiers series airing on PBS and hosted by Alan Alda. The segment on chiropractic ("Adjusting the Spine") was a major disappointment. (See "PBS Airs Flawed Program on Chiropractic".)

"... a fringe cult of 'magical thinkers' applying dangerous methods to a misguided population of idiots..."

Dear Editor,

I was saddened to learn that the program focused its energies on discouraging consumers from utilizing chiropractic care, and it did so in such an underhanded way. There was no attempt to show a few of the millions of satisfied patients that our profession serves each year, outside of a female student going to Life West, who could be regarded by the audience as "brainwashed." While there are a number of brilliant alumni and faculty that are connected with Life West, such as Dr. Dan Murphy, their alumni-turned-pharmacist has become such a rabid critic of chiropractic.

No interviews of Drs. Haldeman; Triano; Liebenson; Hammer; Meeker; Croft; to name a few, were done, of course, because those gentlemen have credibility. The public is again left with the notion that chiropractic is a fringe cult of "magical thinkers" applying dangerous methods to a misguided population of idiots who have strayed from a flock tended by kindly, well-trained, clear-thinking medical providers. When chiropractic helps, it is because of the placebo effect. There has never been a study, apparently, to support anything our profession does, but there have been studies to show it can be detrimental to our well-being.

Les Peterson,DC
Arlington, Washington


"... it saddens me to see the same old BS served to the public..."

Dear Editor,

I was saddened to see that Scientific American Frontiers used the same old falsehoods to deny chiropractic validity. The show didn't refer to the many great scientific articles published in recent years on chiropractic success. It didn't use the AHCPR's Acute Low Back Problems in Adults guidelines, and it didn't use the Manga report, or the RAND report, or any others. Instead, it used MDs who don't believe in chiropractic or our basic teaching of innate; it used a disgruntled ex-chiropractor whose opinion, it would seem, is worth more than all the science in the world.

Our profession was not well served by the show. As I said, it saddens me to see the same old BS served to the public as "science." I wonder if we'll ever get a truly unbiased presentation of chiropractic in the American media.

Christian Mathisen,DC
Medford, Oregon


"The writers/directors/producers were decidedly anti-chiropractic..."

Dear Editor,

I feel we should launch a campaign to deluge the PBS show, "Frontiers: A Different Way To Heal?" with complaints for the hatchet job it did on chiropractic.

The writers/directors/producers were decidedly anti-chiropractic (as opposed to the very favorable light shown on acupuncture). They used a disillusioned DC who has left the profession, and a professional chiro-basher (Robert Baratz) as resources. While they did interview Gerald Clum and a clinician from Life West, they did not go back to either of them to allow them to rebut the patently false claims by both naysayers that there was no research to support chiropractic or the premises it is based on. They did not utilize Arlan Fuhr, a meticulous researcher and head of the Activator technique. And they didn't contact the Gonstead Clinical Studies Society or any other research arm of the mainstream chiropractic techniques. I don't think they contacted ChiroWeb.com for information on research. They did not mention the measured and proven physiological effects from chiropractic adjustments, such as lowered blood pressure and endorphin release.

The production staff did promote the myth of stroke risk from chiropractic adjustments by quoting a Canadian study, but did not mention the Canadian study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) in October, 2001, that put the risk at one in 5.85 million. They didn't mention the risk of stroke by those so predisposed from daily activities, such as bending the head back at the hairdresser to have one's hair washed, or turning one's head while driving. They didn't mention the fact that chiropractic malpractice insurance rates are less than many people's car insurance. Since these rates are actuarial and based on claims, if we were hurting people, the rates would be through the roof!

I was particularly disappointed and outraged with the content of this program because I had hoped for a more balanced approach from PBS. I have just completed six years on the board of directors of my local PBS television and radio stations, including one year as board president. Our annual budget was over three million dollars. Based on that experience, and as a long-time PBS supporter, I had expected more from a PBS show.

I feel we should direct our ire at the "Frontiers" content producers at the Chedd-Angier production company, and at the underwriter of the show, Agilent Technologies, as well as Connecticut Public Television. The contact info is at www.pbs.org/saf/email.htm.

Samuel Rose,DC
Anchorage, Alaska



Dear Editor,

I was horrified! As a chiropractor, I was deciding if I should even be one! If I were a patient, I sure would be questioning my chiropractor. If I were a potential patient, I think I would not give chiropractic another thought!

I have checked the PBS website and I have found that no other comments were made. I would like to see if other chiropractors have made any comments, positive or negative. (Editor's note: There are more than a dozen comments on the PBS website as we go to press, including those of the producer.)

Julie Jarvis,DC
Sun City, Arizona


"How do these quasi-religious ideologues gain opportunities to speak for the rest of us...?"

Dear Editor,

I found nothing to refute the opinions expressed by the (program's) antichiropractic faction. The specific criticisms expounded by Dr. Robert Baratz and others aligned with the National Council Against Health Care Fraud, were, in fact, strongly supported by the anachronistic "subluxation-based" chiropractors who gave voice to unsubstantiated 19th-century chiropractic religious dogma as if it had basis in reality. All one had to do was listen to the chiropractors. They proved the point effortlessly, the fact notwithstanding, that these ideas have long since gone by the wayside in mainstream chiropractic, and those who champion the subluxation-based, "kink-in-the-firehose" version of chiropractic are in the minority.

Why do we allow these intellectually substandard doctors to publicly proclaim their faith-based opinions as representative of a majority of the profession, rather than the fringe they actually represent? How do these quasi-religious ideologues gain opportunities to speak for the rest of us who most certainly disagree with their preposterous assumptions?

There has to be a shaking out. I view it as absolutely necessary that the two factions be severed irrevocably.

The progressive doctors must publicly denounce the belief-based faction and make it clear to the public that these people are not representative of modern chiropractic. If we allow the "subluxation-based" to assume authority to speak for the profession at large, chiropractic will become nothing more than a curious footnote in the history of health care.

To PBS, Alan Alda, et al., I say, "You spoke the truth about the chiropractors who presented themselves to you as spokespersons for the profession. The problem is that those to whom you spoke represent not the chiropractic profession, but the fringe with whose broad brush you have sought to tar and feather the entire profession. It would be nice to give the other side of chiropractic a voice for a change."

Clifton Kirton,DC,DACBR
Sylvania, Ohio

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