"It could paralyze the infant." Medical doctor Lonnie Zeltzer's response to a question posed by ABC News correspondent David Wright during the March 3 Nightline segment on the topic of "Baby Adjustments" likely caused chiropractors, their patients and untold millions of potential – or potential no longer– chiropractic parents to take a collective sharp breath.But was Dr. Zeltzer's chilling response taken out of context by Wright to paint pediatric chiropractic in a negative light?
After releasing an initial statement in response to the segment, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) contacted Dr. Zeltzer for clarification regarding her comments – in particular, her statement regarding paralysis, which was in response to (at least in the segment that aired) the following out-of-left-field question from Wright: "What kind of effect could that have on an infant?" The preceding discussion (as seen by viewers) had nothing to do with the safety of pediatric chiropractic; only an observation by Zeltzer that there have not been enough studies done (yet) to prove its effectiveness.
Following a phone conversation between ICPA Executive Director Dr. Jeanne Ohm and Dr. Zeltzer, the ICPA released the following statement suggesting Zeltzer's comments were edited by Wright to help advance the negative tone of the segment:
"In regards to the recent ABC News Nightline special ‘Crack! Kids Head to the Chiropractor,' newscaster David Wright included a brief interview with Lonnie Zeltzer, MD, to represent the medical perspective. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that Dr. Zeltzer's comments were edited, taken out of context and made to appear adversarial towards chiropractic.
"In an exclusive piece, soon to be made available in ICPA's magazine, Pathways, Dr. Zeltzer candidly admitted that the ABC interviewer edited her comments, making her appear to be [opposed to] chiropractic for children ... and repeatedly stated her interest and support of chiropractic care in all populations. In referring to children under chiropractic care, Dr. Zeltzer stated that ABC interviewer David Wright was aggressive to disclose adverse effects associated with chiropractic. Dr. Zeltzer reported to Dr. Ohm that in the ABC interview, she mentioned to [Wright] a study out of Edmonton that reviewed the literature on spinal manipulation of children. Although she specifically told Wright that this study referred to spinal manipulation, not specific chiropractic care, Wright took the liberty to rearrange her response to intentionally imply chiropractic care of children causes paralysis [and to edit out discussion of the study, mention of which would have put Dr. Zeltzer's paralysis comment into appropriate context].
"In strong contrast, a recent piece also reported by ABC's Wright titled ‘Acupuncture for Kids: Parents Turning to Holistic Medicine When Traditional Treatments Aren't Enough' was presented by Wright without his sarcastic commentary, forced voice tones and the sensationalized background music shown in the chiropractic piece. Additionally, ABC Good Morning America added significant airtime for the integrative MD [featured in the acupuncture piece]to discuss the importance of ‘bridging the gap.'
"The chiropractic profession has experienced this type of biased reporting repeatedly, where interviewers seem to thrive by creating adversity between medical doctors and chiropractors. One can only wonder, what is the source of this prejudiced agenda? Regardless, such irresponsible conduct creates diversity, animosity, and insults the intelligence of the informed American parent."
The ICPA encourages chiropractors and parents to watch the Nightline piece on the ABC News Web site, "paying particular attention to Wright's sensational tone and the question he asks Dr. Zeltzer prior to her paralysis remark. It implied, but did not say chiropractic." The pediatric acupuncture segment (ABC News, April 5), also narrated by David Wright, is also available on the Web for viewing. Says the ICPA: "Notice the difference in tone of voice, the lack of sensationalism and the fact that he offered unbiased and unedited support from a medical doctor."
Other resources referenced by the ICPA in its follow-up release include a response to the Edmonton study authored by Dr. Joel Alcantara, ICPA research director; and an April 4, 2009 NBC News segment on pediatric chiropractic that included what the ICPA characterizes as an "unsubstantiated opinion" from a medical doctor.
For background information, read "Nightline in the Dark About Pediatric Chiropractic?" in the May 22 issue of DC. That article included excerpts from the ICPA's original response, as well as a response authored by the American Chiropractic Association. The ICPA encourages chiropractors to contact ABC/Nightline regarding its "poor reporting, biased editing and outdated agendas" and to participate in the ICPA's ongoing Children's Safety Research Projects to help ensure children are able to receive chiropractic care.