Stretching the Profession’s Vision



Last issue (April), we discussed the unfortunate situation of the chiropractor arrested for practicing medicine without a license in Spain. Recently in California, there was a case involving a chiropractor who was arrested on felony charges for using vitamins to treat a baby who had a digestive disorder. The California Chiropractic Association (CCA), of course, defended him but a more important aspect was the position of the CCA. The District Attorney took the position of the Spanish court, stating that a digestive disorder is a medical condition therefore, no matter how you treat it, drugs or vitamins, you are practicing medicine. Interestingly, the CCA’s Council maintained that there is no such thing as a medical condition. Apparently the thinking of this group is that chiropractors are licensed and free to treat any condition of the body in any manner they choose (except those strictly forbidden in the law such as certain STD’s and the use of prescription drugs). Perhaps these two cases demonstrated that we are clarifying the conflict between medicine and chiropractic. The 100-year battle between the two professions comes down to how you define medicine.

Medicine defines its profession by its objective. The treatment of disease and its cause is the practice of medicine. Methods, procedures, techniques and modalities are not the issue. The issue to them is what you are trying to accomplish. This position has historically caused the rift between medicine and chiropractic as well as any alternative health-care system. The medical community saw D.D. Palmer’s treatment of disease (or its cause) as practicing medicine, granted with a very unorthodox method, but medicine nevertheless. Medicine continues to hold the position that disease is their domain and only reluctantly relents in the case of religion (faith healing) because of the constitutional protection afforded religion and in the case of professions which historically did not treat diseases but only performed mechanical procedures. For example, dentists basically just pulled out teeth and optometrists just fitted glasses. Physicians considered both to be technicians. There were a few others that the medical community simply allowed to exist, not because they recognized their right to practice medicine but because either it was not worth the trouble to prosecute them or it was not politically expedient. Remember, medicine is a political entity as well as a so-called healing art. Chiropractic was and is a different matter. Apparently, chiropractic posed a real threat to medicine as an alternative approach to treating disease and so they opposed chiropractic almost from its beginning. Given medicine’s relatively crude procedures at the turn of the century, chiropractic was an effective treatment of disease. However, for all its present failings, medicine has become more effective than chiropractic as a disease treatment. Conversely, chiropractic was as good at treating disease at its inception as it was ever going to be.

Chiropractors define themselves in many different ways, which has led to much confusion within the profession. The following is not a complete list of how chiropractors define their profession but probably represents the major ways.

1. Drugless treatment of disease. This approach clearly incorporates a multitude of modalities and offers a very diverse approach to the practice of chiropractic. It also is the approach that draws the ire of the medical profession because as they incorporate more non-drug, non-surgical procedures into their practice, there is more and more overlap between the professions.

2. By hand only. Correcting subluxations by hand only to correct the cause of disease is the traditional approach of chiropractic. This group has historically been attacked by medicine for its failure to refer and hence, delay life-saving medical care.

3. Disease treatment. This small but vocal group of chiropractors sees no difference between medicine and chiropractic. They would like to be absorbed into the medical community and be free to choose what disease to treat and have at their disposal whatever tools they deem appropriate for that treatment, including drugs and surgery.

4. Objective straight (non therapeutic) chiropractic. This group defines chiropractic by its objective, which is to correct vertebral subluxations to enable the innate intelligence of the body to be better expressed. This objective does not address disease nor does it in any way impinge upon the medical objective. This, of course, is the modern-day, straight chiropractic approach. It acknowledges the medical approach to defining itself (also by objective) and has chosen an objective that does not duplicate or conflict with medicine.

Of the four approaches, only objective straight chiropractic does not conflict with the practice of medicine because it does not address disease. It seems that for chiropractic to survive as a separate and distinct profession, the fourth approach must be taken. I am not sure whether most chiropractors care if the profession survives as separate and distinct. Those of us who want it to survive must begin to define ourselves by our objective. We cannot survive otherwise. We condemn those chiropractors who are moving toward medicine, but that is only half the danger that faces our profession. The other half is the fact that medicine is moving toward us so quickly that the lines that divide us are disappearing. Medicine is looking at alternative drugless procedures. It is incorporating nutrition, something scorned by them only a generation ago. They are incorporating manipulation. Many physicians are trying to be more conservative in their care. Medicine and those in the chiropractic profession who are addressing disease are getting closer and closer. It is very simple. It is not a spiritual awakening by the medics. They are looking for the best way to treat disease and will do anything to accomplish that objective. As medical doctors and chiropractors both search for the best way to treat disease and its cause, they will naturally become closer and closer in their approach. Until one day we will have a hybrid physician who will incorporate the best of medical, drugless, alternative and chiropractic procedures to treat disease. What will happen to the adjustment? Well, it will be used in treating those conditions for which it is deemed the most effective. And we all know what they are, with few exceptions they are bad backs and stiff necks.

Some in our profession long for that day. Some of us are already preparing to do something else should it occur and without question, it will occur. It will happen as sure as night follows day unless the great majority of chiropractors, those who claim to hold to traditional, B.J. chiropractic, who have the largest schools, and who are the most influential chiropractors in the country, wake up and realize that they are part of the problem and they need to be part of the solution. Objective straight chiropractic and its philosophy are now well established. Objective straight chiropractic is the only means by which we can insure that people can have their spines checked and adjusted a generation from now, not to treat a disease or its cause but to enable the innate intelligence of the body to express itself as fully as possible and to allow individuals to reach their potential in every aspect of life. The time is now, for those who truly love chiropractic, to begin to put aside differences and unite behind an objective approach to the practice of chiropractic, the objective that truly represents what D.D. and B.J. were all about, not disease and not its cause, but removing interference to the expression of life. v14n4

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