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Dynamic Chiropractic – December 19, 1990, Vol. 08, Issue 26

Chiropractors Strike American Medical Association Out in Supreme Court

By Editorial Staff

The Supreme Court today announced that it would decline to review a Trial Court and a Court of Appeals finding that the American Medical Association (AMA) had been guilty of a "lengthy, systematic, successful, and unlawful boycott" of doctors of chiropractic and their patients.

The denial of review came after the four chiropractors, plaintiffs in the Wilk et al. vs. AMA et al. suit, had argued that the "AMA had no justification whatsoever for its direct but private challenge to the 50 state legislatures that licensed chiropractic. ... Millions have suffered and continue to suffer because of the AMA's arrogant abuse of power."

The lawsuit was filed on October 13, 1976. During the ensuing 14 years of litigation the AMA had attempted to justify its boycott, while the chiropractors argued that the AMA knew at an early date that chiropractic was licensed, effective, desired by many millions of consumers, and a competitive threat to medical physicians.

The chiropractors, in their opposition to the AMA's request to have the Supreme Court review the case, were aided by numerous scientific studies that have found that chiropractic care is up to twice as effective as medical physician care for non-surgical, neuromechanical correction of problems related to the musculoskeletal system. As recently as June 1990, a lengthy, prospective, scientific study of chiropractic care in Great Britain, when measured against corresponding medical care at ten hospital outpatient centers, concluded that "chiropractic almost certainly confers worthwhile, long-term benefit in comparison with hospital outpatient management," particularly for those suffering with "chronic or severe pain."

The chiropractors argued that the study in England, combined with earlier state workers' compensation studies in the United States for industrial accident victims, which indicated that chiropractic was twice as effective as traditional medical care in returning injured workers to their job, made a mockery of any argument of the AMA to have acted in "good faith."

In fact, the Trial Court had found that the AMA's position, in view of the existing scientific evidence, was "objectively unreasonable."

The case must now go back for implementation of the Trial Court's injunction order and for a determination of the claim of the chiropractors for more than 14 million dollars in legal fees and costs associates with the suit. In 1987, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Getzendanner, following an eight-week trial, found the AMA guilty of violating the antitrust laws and ordered the AMA to publish her injunction order to all 280,000 members of the AMA; to print and permanently index her injunction order in the Journal of the American Medical Association; to amend all rules of the association to allow its members to fully cooperate with chiropractic physicians; and to pay reasonable attorneys fees and costs to the plaintiff-chiropractors.

Said plaintiff-chiropractors' Attorney George P. McAndrews:

"This makes the third time that the AMA has lost in the Supreme Court. In fact, it has never won at that level. Time has been running out on the AMA's ability to bully other health care providers in the increasingly competitive health care market. The studies, from reputable medical and governmental sources, have been increasingly pointing to the fact that members of the AMA have been deprived of access to more effective health care procedures by a boycott that denied them and their patients access to the documented skills of doctors of chiropractic. The AMA has been tripped up by the very scientific studies that it demanded and which now have been used in court to confirm the finding of guilty in the antitrust case. It is certainly hoped that medical and chiropractic physicians, recognizing the scientific proof of the efficacy of chiropractic care, will now cooperate for the benefit of patients everywhere."

Further proceedings in the case will take place before United States District Judge John A. Nordberg, in Chicago.


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