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Dynamic Chiropractic – May 6, 2008, Vol. 26, Issue 10

The World According to Chiropractic

By John Hanks, DC

I read recently that the last remaining U.S. World War I veteran was honored at the White House. He's more than 100 years old. How officials determined that he is the last one is unknown. Perhaps they polled all the old men in all the nursing homes in the country, until this guy raised his hand.

So bless his heart. He represents the best and the bravest of his generation. He joins the likes of the dodo, the saber-toothed tiger and the last of the Mohicans. It got me thinking: How many chiropractors do we have left who spent time in jail for the simple crime of practicing chiropractic?

Students of chiropractic history will remember the many stories of DCs who practiced in states that branded such behavior as the "practice of medicine," and thus illegal. According to Walter Wardwell in Chiropractic: History and Evolution of a New Profession, about 1920, around 450 DCs were imprisoned in California. Many took their portable adjusting tables with them and treated other prisoners while they were there. My favorite story of chiropractic "jailbirds" is that of Charles C. Lemly of Waco, Texas, who went to jail 66 times. Wardell describes the scene after his last arrest: "A parade with a band, many chiropractors, patients, friends, and local celebrities arranged in honor of his release, so impressed the authorities that he was never bothered again."

Persecution of chiropractors seemed to lead to a stronger will to survive. Years ago, practically every DC in any given state would attend their annual state association convention. That's where one could hear the latest gossip concerning abuse of chiropractors by organized medicine. That's also where a DC could get pumped up again, with stirring speeches and affirmations of the "good fight," to spread the word about the value of what we do.

Most DCs in the "old days" were themselves chiropractic patients, or sons or daughters of chiropractors. When adverse legislation or AMA wolves were at the door, sounding the call-to-arms usually resulted in a strong gathering of the clans. That means DCs started calling legislators, sending money and telling patients all about it. The right of a DC to make a living was not the only motivation; the healing essence of chiropractic itself was in danger.

What about these days? With the noted exception of reimbursement, the profession may be a victim of its own success. We have DCs in hospitals, including the VA hospitals, military bases, HMO- and university-affiliated clinics, the White House medical staff, etc. I thought I might be dead before I would see this kind of integration, but we might be too socially accepted. I could easily be wrong, but I think the profession is suffering from some sort of chronic fatigue syndrome. Perhaps what we need to spark up some political gumption is a new wave of persecution.

I sense a new opportunity growing for the persecution of chiropractic by the federal government. National health insurance is coming, in my opinion, and chiropractic may or may not be included. Why? There won't be enough money. In an editorial on, March 4, 2008, Geoff Colvin made a compelling statement: "If Medicare had to be accounted for like a company pension fund, it would be underfunded by $34 trillion." That does not bode well for any medical provider, but especially not for "ancillary" types such as us.

If the brave new world of national health insurance cancels us out, much like the provincial government of Ontario did in Canada, our strategy should be to win the hearts and minds of the public. Let's become real underdogs again! Peaceful pickets in front of a state department of health would be a good start. Then, escalation to a human chain around the Capitol. We could educate the public about the "chiropractic apartheid." A Million Chiropractic Patient March in Washington, D.C., could sober up the Beltway. Famous personalities who support chiropractic, like Jimmy Dean of sausage fame, could give their testimonials.

Maybe actually chaining ourselves to the front door of a major insurance company would get some press. The headlines might read, "Chiropractors Say Insurance Laws Are Misaligned." Such assertive behavior would surely result in arrests. So, I am asking my colleagues: What slogan do you want on your T-shirt when you go to jail for chiropractic?

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