Recently, I attended a chiropractic conference in a state in which I do not hold a license to practice chiropractic. While there, many people I did not know came up to me and asked if I would adjust them.Much to my surprise, most of those who asked looked at me as if there were something wrong with me when I said, "No, I'm not licensed here." They seemed shocked that I would not adjust them because I was not licensed. One would have thought that I was speaking a foreign language when I said I couldn't adjust them.
Many tried to convince me it was OK to treat them without a license because they didn't care. They had no idea who I was, but were insistent upon having me treat them. The only argument that seemed to work to stop them from trying to convince me to violate state regulations was to tell them I taught risk-management postgraduate courses, and that the organization I taught for was around the corner in the exhibit area and would fire me if they saw me adjusting.
There were other chiropractors adjusting people who were also strangers to them (I knew this because I often heard their introductions). In fact, I saw people lined up to be adjusted by these doctors. In a couple of cases, the doctors doing the treating were familiar to me – they teach postgraduate courses that have been well-publicized or they are prominent within the profession in some other way. Still, for some of their new "patients," it was obvious that they were getting treated not because of the doctor's reputation, but because they had a line of people waiting to get treated.
Now, I cannot be sure, but it I believe that most of these doctors were not licensed in the conference state, either; however, I know at least a few of them weren't, as they told me they weren't during conversations I had with them.
The people who asked me to treat them were either doctors of chiropractic or chiropractic office staff. These were people who, in theory, know about the importance of licensure. For anyone who is not sure about the value to the profession of licensure, talk to the doctors in countries that do not have licensure. In some jurisdictions, doctors of chiropractic are still subject to arrest and official harassment,1 as once happened here in the U.S.2 Lack of licensing also means that anyone can call themselves a chiropractor, doctor of chiropractic or chiropractic physician, as the terms are not protected. The World Health Organization has guidelines on chiropractic education, which one hopes will eventually reduce this problem.3
There are "colleges" that certify people to be chiropractors without having the training appropriate to the title. There are chiropractors who have had their license revoked in one country, only to go to another country that has no licensure so they can continue to do the actions that caused their license to be revoked in the first jurisdiction.4 There are even chiropractors who, after losing their license, continue to practice, but claim they aren't doing chiropractic.5
A chiropractic license is intended to protect the citizens of a jurisdiction from people who claim to be chiropractors, but lack the credential; and from doctors who fail to follow state law, regulations or case law, or practice below the standard of care. Licensure protects the public and the profession. We should not so cavalierly violate the public's trust just because we are in a different jurisdiction than our own, or because the "patient" is another chiropractor or their employee. Licensure is something that was fought long and hard for; it deserves to be protected.
- World Federation of Chiropractic. "Prosecutions in South Korea – Appeal for Support and Donations." June 30, 2011.
- Smith JC. The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story From Persecution to Vindication. www.createspace.com/3474589
- World Health Organization. WHO Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Chiropractic, 2005.
- "Chiropractor Drops Ads, Gives Up License." StarTribune (Minneapolis / St. Paul), updated Sept. 22, 2010.
- Kaylin J. "Unlicensed Chiropractor Ordered to Stop Practicing." New Haven Independent (Connecticut), Nov. 1, 2011.
Click here for previous articles by Stephen M. Perle, DC, MS.