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Chiropractic Patients Should Know Risks

Posted in News by Skepdude on December 31, 2009


Fit and 48 years old, Janet Levy went to a chiropractor to try to relieve a sore shoulder back in 2002. She nearly lost her life. A manipulation of her neck led to a stroke, then brain surgery, paralysis and years of therapy for the Woodbridge woman.

But that personal battle seems small compared with the struggle that Levy has undertaken to try to bring a basic reform to chiropractic care in Connecticut. Levy — who leads Victims of Chiropractic Abuse and is behind those ads on the sides of Connecticut Transit buses warning about chiropractors — and a handful of others have for years waged a failing effort to persuade the state legislature to enact legislation to force chiropractors to be a little more frank about what they do.

Now, the two sides will dramatically face off again Jan. 5 at 10 a.m. at a hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford before the obscure state Board of Chiropractic Examiners, which has been asked to make a “declaratory ruling” on whether chiropractors should be required to inform their patients about the risks of neck manipulation. The outcome could affect chiropractors, and their patients, throughout the country.

No state currently requires that patients be warned of a stroke risk from cervical manipulation. I’ve written about this strange conflict surrounding “informed consent” a few times before, mostly because I can’t understand why chiropractors — who are in the business of relieving pain — are trying to block something that would help their patients make educated decisions.

“I, unfortunately, was not given that information, which would have saved me two years out of my life,” Levy says in testimony she has filed with the chiropractic board in advance of the hearing. “Chiropractors need to give their patients informed consent to tell them about the possibility of a stroke. … The controversy about how often it occurs should not be the primary concern. The severity of the outcome is what should matter.”

The reality is, the risk of stroke is remote. But shouldn’t patients at least know? Shouldn’t they be told how to recognize a stroke in case a problem develops after a visit to the chiropractor? Not according to the various trade groups fighting Levy and another woman, Britt Harwe, who leads the Connecticut-based Chiropractic Stroke Awareness Group. The International Chiropractic Association says — remarkably — that informed consent wouldn’t “best serve the public interest.”


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