When asked to write this article on the most important events that faced the chiropractic profession in the past 25 years, my mind just didn't know where to start. Certainly one of, if not the most, important events to affect the profession was the antitrust lawsuit against the AMA and 13 other medical associations and individuals. As a plaintiff in that lawsuit, many things stand out, but certain ones had a major impact on me and caused me to work hard to change them over the years.
On Oct. 12, 1976, I and four other doctors of chiropractic filed the lawsuit. Discovery of evidence took four years, depositions were taken in 34 states, and millions of documents were subpoenaed. The lawsuit from beginning to end took 15 years. The first trial began on Dec. 9, 1980, and lasted eight weeks. The jury came back with a "not guilty" verdict. I could not believe that had happened; the evidence was overwhelming. I slept on it in disbelief and woke up fighting mad the next morning. I called our attorney, George McAndrews, and told him we must appeal the verdict. He agreed, as did the other plaintiffs. We appealed and fought for another nine years through another trial (which we won) and all the appeals by the AMA, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
We learned an important and historic lesson from losing the first trial. We learned not to give up. If we had, the AMA would have been emboldened to increase their attacks against our profession. This quote from George McAndrews is a brief paragraph that so clearly states what the lawsuit was about that I could not improve on it:
"Evidence at the trial showed that the defendants took active steps, often covert, to undermine chiropractic educational institutions, conceal evidence of the usefulness of chiropractic care, undercut insurance programs for patients of chiropractors, subvert government inquires into the efficacy of chiropractic, engage in a massive disinformation campaign to discredit and destabilize the chiropractic profession and engaged in numerous other activities to maintain a medical physician monopoly over health care in this country."
To get an idea why this lawsuit was necessary, read the following quote from one of the AMA documents we found during the discovery process. Don't just skim over it. Really reflect on what it states. As I read it again after all these years, I still get angry.
Jan. 4, 1971: "Since the AMA Board of Trustees' decision at its meeting on Nov. 23, 1963, to establish a Committee on Quackery, your Committee has considered its prime mission to be, first the containment of chiropractic and, ultimately the elimination of chiropractic.
"During this period, also, extensive negotiations were carried on in an attempt to obtain a national study of chiropractic with the pre-determined knowledge that if such a study were done objectively, it could only find that chiropractic is an unscientific cult whose practitioners are not qualified to diagnose and treat human illness.
"One of the more surprising items brought to the attention of the committee is reported to be the professional cooperation and association between Doctors of Medicine and these Cult practitioners."
So what did they do? They made it unethical for MDs to associate with DCs in any manner. They were not allowed to make or accept a referral from a chiropractor. Can you believe that an association that claimed to care for the health of people did not allow its members to accept a referral from a chiropractor? The AMA didn't just talk about destroying our profession; they made plans about how they were going to accomplish that goal. Read the following quote carefully and give special attention to the third bulleted point:
Sept. 21, 1967: "Basically, the Committee's short-range objectives for containing the cult of chiropractic and any additional recognition it might achieve revolves about four points:
- Doing everything within our power to see that chiropractic coverage under title 18 of Medicare Law is not obtained.
- Doing everything within our power to see that recognition or listing by the U.S. Office of Education of a chiropractic accrediting agency is not achieved.
- To encourage continued separation of the two national chiropractic associations.
- To encourage state medical societies to take the initiative in their state legislatures in regard to legislation that might affect the practice of chiropractic."
The AMA has been forced to stop their illegal boycott, but they still are working to harm our profession. Just this year they passed a resolution to try to stop us from using the term doctor. They are using the legislature to continue their fight against us.
Research has been, and is increasing to be, even more important in advancing the profession. I am proud to serve on the NCMIC Board of Directors. The NCMIC is a major funder of research in the chiropractic profession. If I am not mistaken, it is the single largest group in the profession to fund research projects. One recent example is the interprofessional research by the Neck Pain Task Force that took six years to complete. Not only was the research done interprofessionally, but the funding of the project was done by a cross-section of professional groups including DCs, MDs, educational institutions, auto insurance companies and malpractice insurance companies, to name just a few.
This research project was the very kind of interprofessional association the AMA made unethical. Were it not for the antitrust lawsuit, this collaboration would not have been possible. The AMA made such cooperation unethical because of their fear it would bring credibility to the chiropractic profession, not because of their claimed concern for the health and welfare of patients! It was the AMA's actions that were unethical and illegal. Lifting the AMA's unethical ban against interprofessional cooperation not only made it possible for this research project to happen, but the entire issue of Spine, Feb. 15, 2008, was devoted to the neck pain research.
In closing, I'd like to pay special tribute to a few individuals who have played major roles in advancing our profession. Chester Wilk, DC: Were it not for Chet being a bulldog to get the antitrust lawsuit going, it never would have occurred. George McAndrews (our attorney in the Wilk case): I just can't say enough about George; the man has a brilliant legal mind. Lou Sportelli, DC: Lou has done many things for the profession, but I single him out here for his leadership as president of NCMIC in funding research. Last but not least is Scott Halderman, DC, MD, PhD: Scott is Mr. Research in the profession. Without him, there would not have been a Task Force on Neck Pain or the interprofessional research that resulted in the publication of the Spine issue that has and will prove to be of greater value to our profession as time goes on.
The committee also was of the opinion "that if the two national chiropractic associations merge, a more effective effort on the part of the chiropractors both on a statewide and a national basis would be exerted, and possibility of a more successful, overall program might be achieved."
They go on the state that the likelihood of the two associations getting together is remote. I was so troubled by this when I was elected president of ICA that I worked as hard as I knew how to bring about merger. A merger still has not occurred, and I don't have much hope it will happen any time soon. All the reasons for a merger continued to exist, so I joined the ACA and was eventually elected president. We worked hard to address the continuing problems facing the profession.
I graduated from Palmer College in 1969. The changes that have occurred in those 39 years are remarkable. When I think about what could've and should've been in the last 25 years, if the profession had united to work together to serve patients ... well, I will let you, the reader, answer that. Only time will tell what the next 25 years will hold.
I have been honored to serve this great profession!
Dr. Michael D. Pedigo is a past president of the American Chiropractic Association and the International Chiropractors Association, and the only doctor to receive the Chiropractor of the Year Award from both organizations. He practices in San Leandro, Calif., and can be contacted with questions and comments via his Web site: www.drpedigo.com.