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Dynamic Chiropractic – April 22, 1994, Vol. 12, Issue 09

Refusing to Make the Same Mistakes

By Chester Wilk, DC
Have you ever wondered why people seems to make the same old mistakes over and over again and don't seem to learn from them? One of the best teachers of all is history. Those who look to history can learn from the mistakes of the past and move into the future with greater wisdom and knowledge. Those who take the attitude, "let's leave it lay" or "let's not talk about that," will undoubtedly repeat the same old mistakes. For them, it will always be the "first" mistake, since the past ones will be buried or ignored.

Winston Churchill, certainly one of the greatest leaders and communicators of his time, observed the same thing when he said that man trips over truth and moves on as though nothing has happened. Patrick Henry, who fought for American freedom and is best known for his pronouncement, "Give me liberty or give me death," has also been credited for making another statement in the fight for freedom. Facing the obstacle of those who could not see past their noses when he cried out for freedom, he once remarked, "I know no way of judging the future but by the past."

Recently on television President Clinton stated: "Health care cannot be good unless it is universal." I will be kind and simply say he is ignorant of the obvious truth. When he says "universal" he is talking about more of the same old health care that has been driving costs up, has been plainly anticompetitive, and has based its treatments upon its own vested interests. The same old health care that:

  • a blue ribbon hospital study years ago found kills 48,000 people a year from unnecessary surgery;1


  • committed 80,000 unnecessary back surgeries in 1991, according to the "CBS Morning Show;"


  • holds patients in hospitals 7-9 days longer, according to a study done by Chicago's leading medical orthopedists;2


  • wanted to do disc surgery on 12 well-documented patients, which was avoided after a chiropractor eliminated the need for surgery;3


  • is 1,000 percent more expensive than chiropractic, according to the Utah workers' compensation records;


  • kept feeding a group of patients drugs for seven years without results until 87 percent got their problems corrected within two to three weeks by chiropractic adjustments (documented by leading MDs and PhDs within a major medical center of a university);4


  • causes between 2,000-4,000 deaths every week and hospitalization from iatrogenic reactions1 and a half million people a year, half the population of the city of Chicago.5


  • the U.S. Office of Public Health found that two-thirds of the OTC drugs do not do what their promoters claim.


  • when the medics went on strike in Los Angeles County in 1976, the death rate dropped by 153 percent as a result of the amount of elective surgery that was not performed.6


  • shows gross discrepancies in the ratio of surgeries from state to state, and 25 times more surgeries than in England;


  • a Harvard study showed that medical negligence in New York state alone caused 7,000 deaths and an additional 99,000 injuries causing an economic loss to patients of $894 million within one year.7

Part of the answer and solution would be if our legislators could see past their noses and recognize that while reform is necessary, they are not correctly addressing the real problem. This country needs to demand that health care be honestly and intelligently utilized, using all state licensed health care providers based upon proven merit and at time outright superiority. It must be objective and rational and not based upon biases on prejudices of providers. If you think our health care is properly utilized then I'll gladly sell you this lovely bridge on Michigan Boulevard in Chicago, cheap! The simple truth is that our government can send satellites to the moon yet cannot see the obvious truth that any average, intelligent fifth grade grammar school child should be able to understand and comprehend. It boggles my mind to think that they can be so incredibly ignorant of the obvious truth. This is not an issue of chiropractic versus medicine, it is a case of plain common sense.

Most of us have heard of the Manga report which found that some medical approaches to back problems are "dangerous" and "unproven" and that the government should tell patients that they had better go to chiropractors who provide more scientific and "superior" health care, and further suggested that chiropractors be gatekeepers in hospitals. What did the media do about this honest study? USA Today insulted Dr. Manga by asking him if he had friends or family who are chiropractors. The immediate suggestion is of some bias or impropriety since they made him into a "champion" for chiropractic. How absolutely vulgar. The professor is trained to make decisions based on solid facts and not emotions or biases. His response to the press was beautiful. He said he does not know any chiropractors, and in fact, he has many medical doctors in his family and no chiropractors. Furthermore, he added, that the chiropractors had no knowledge that the study was even being done.

I wonder how many of us still believe that modern medicine helped raise life expectancy in the United States. If you buy that then I'll sell you the same bridge twice. First of all, our current life expectancy is 70 years of age. In the Bible, the life expectancy was "three score and ten." That's 70 years of age. The fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarians, and the plummeting of all accumulated knowledge into the dark ages, resulted in a dramatic drop in life expectancy. Sanitation, personal hygiene, cleanliness all took a major nose dive and with it the life expectancy. The streets contained human excrement, drainage and sewer systems ceased to exist, epidemics occurred, and with it the lowering of life expectancy. The medical physicians of that era were causing massive deaths by simply not washing their hands. They killed our first president by bleeding him to death.

Dr. Semmelweis advocated that physicians wash before putting their dirty, blood-stained and infected hands into the pelvises of healthy women. They didn't listen to him and for his enlightenment to reasonable health care, he was chastised and fired from his job. Even though he originally lowered the death rate by 16 times, and upon his removal the deaths returned to the original high level, physicians refused to believe what we know today to be painfully true. All the doctors needed to do was read the Bible which mentions the vital importance of hygiene and sanitation over 200 times, but they ignored the obvious facts. Common sense and simple cleanliness brought the life expectancy up -- not drugs.

There is no denying that some of the modern drugs have helped save lives but they also are known for taking lives through iatrogenic reactions. They are a double-edged sword and need to be utilized with respect and more conservative measures should be always considered before resorting to some of these heavy artillery drugs. One of the Canadian's best known medical physicians, Sir William Osler, observed how quick man is ready to pop a pill at any sign of a symptom when he remarked: "The desire to take medications is perhaps the greatest feature which distinguishes man from animal."

There is a lot of truth to what he said. We have two dogs at home that are two of the biggest chow hounds I have ever seen. But if you throw anything in their dish other than something that will nourish their bodies, they will back off. They seem to instinctively know the difference. Even the common pigeon knows the difference. When we were on a vacation we stopped at an overview of a mountain which was full of pigeons. They gathered around us looking for food. I threw them a chocolate covered peanut and as soon as they picked it up, they spit it out again. When I threw some peanuts without the chocolate coating, they eagerly ate them. Animals have profound instincts, while man has been given common sense. Unfortunately, it has been clouded by expert programmers who have done a marvelous job. Once people are programmed they cease to be their own person. They become subjects to the programmer who has ulterior motives which are generally not consistent with the person being programmed.

Chiropractors have a chance to become "physicians" in the finest sense of the word. They need to become more vocal and assertive with their message and "deprogram" this programmed society on rational health care. This does not mean being aggressive. A person who is assertive responds to issues; those who are aggressive react to them. There lies the major difference.

We can reflect back on another era around the turn of the century and say to ourselves, "Man, were they ever stupid in those days." But wait a minute, let's ask ourselves if we are any smarter today. The specific circumstances may be different but we aren't any smarter today if we don't take a look at our past mistakes, admit to them, and commit ourselves to being better. Chiropractors have an opportunity to become the true shining beacons of the health delivery system in the world. Are we ready to shine the light? It is up to us.


  1. Dr. Virgil Slee, Commission on Professional and Hospital Activities, 1959.


  2. Per Freitag, MD, PhD. US Federal Court Testimony, May 1987.


  3. Herbert Davis, MD, AV MED Health Maintenance Organization, Miami, FL, 1982.


  4. David Cassidy, DC, Kirkaldy Willis, MD, University of Saskatchewan, 1985.


  5. Elihu Schimmell, MD, Yale New Haven Hospital Study, 1964.


  6. Los Angeles County medical physicians strike, January, 1976.


  7. Brennan TA, Leape LL, Laird NM, et al. Incidence of adverse events and negligence in hospitalized patients -- results of the Harvard Medical Practice, Study I. N. Engl J Med 1991;324:370-6.

Chester Wilk, DC
Chicago, Illinois

Click here for previous articles by Chester Wilk, DC.

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