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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 26, 2008, Vol. 26, Issue 05

The Power of 300

By Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher

In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans took on a massive invading Persian army in an effort to defend their country.

Facing insurmountable odds, the Spartans' valor and sacrifice inspired all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy.

And while this small band ultimately was defeated, the epic battle has remained as one of the most well-known in history.

In 1990, 300 valiant doctors of chiropractic took on the political muscle of 400,000 medical doctors in an effort to establish chiropractic in Italy. The struggle lasted 17 years. They finally prevailed late last year. These doctors won the right to serve their communities on the standard primary-contact basis adopted internationally. They won the right to diagnose and the right to use the title "Doctor of Chiropractic."

There were less than 20 chiropractors in Italy when the Associazione Italiana Chiropratici (AIC) was formed in 1974. The profession grew quickly in the 1980s following a Health Ministry report that concluded chiropractic should be accepted as a legitimate occupation, and following a regulation authorizing chiropractic practice on medical referral.

In the 1990s, the National Federation for the Orders of Medical Doctors and Dentists (the Medical Federation), which represents organized medicine in Italy, tried unsuccessfully to encourage prosecution of chiropractors. At that time, the courts ruled that the practice of chiropractic, though not defined under Italian law, was not the practice of medicine and was not prohibited. This allowed duly qualified chiropractors to practice without fear of prosecution, and the numbers in practice in the country continued to rise.

But in 2002, following a national survey reporting that 9 million Italians were using alternative health care annually, the Medical Federation proclaimed all such alternative care, including chiropractic, as "acts of medicine." This provided the basis for further prosecution of chiropractors. One case went to the Italian Supreme Court, which overruled earlier decisions and found that the independent practice of chiropractic was a medical act.

This decision sparked a new wave of federal police investigations, arrests and trials of chiropractors, much like those that took place in the chiropractic's early days in the United States. These events fueled a renewed legislative campaign by the AIC, supported by the European Chiropractors' Union and the World Federation of Chiropractic.

That chapter in chiropractic's history was closed on Dec. 21, 2007. It was then that the Italian Senate passed legislation finally making the practice of chiropractic legal and regulated. This legislation was secured by a round-the-clock campaign in the final days.

As we celebrate chiropractic's victory in Italy, it is important to note that it was the undying effort of a few hundred of our colleagues that made it happen. Their efforts and sacrifices need to be remembered. Just as importantly, they have set an example for the rest of the chiropractic profession: Victory is not necessarily awarded to the many. It is many times awarded to the few who have the tenacity and will to see it through.

Congratulations to AIC President Dr. John Williams, the other leaders of the AIC and every doctor of chiropractic who worked to establish chiropractic in Italy. We salute you!


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