Chiropractic & A.M.A.

Throughout its history, chiropractic & A.M.A. (American Medical Association) has often found itself at odds with one another. Perhaps the most famous confrontation in recent years began in 1976 when four doctors of chiropractic, later to be called the Chicago Four, filed suit against the American Medical Association and numerous medical co-conspirators for restricting cooperation between individual MDs and doctors of chiropractic. The four courageous doctors who took on the A.M.A. head-to-head were Chester Wilk, D.C., Patricia B. Arthur, D.C., James W. Bryden, D.C., and Michael D. Pedigo, D.C. Their case proved to be one of the biggest victories in the history of the chiropractic profession.

Judge Susan Getzendanner heard the evidence in U.S. District Court and issued her opinion on August 27, 1987. She ruled over the previous 25 years the actions of the A.M.A. and its coconspirators, the American College of Radiology and the American College of Surgeons, had resulted in serious damage to the cooperative process in health care, to the profession of chiropractic as a whole, to individual doctors of chiropractic, and to the patients they served.

The effectiveness of chiropractic was questioned at this trial, but the evidence was in its favor. Studies introduced at the trial showed that doctors of chiropractic were twice as effective as medical doctors in returning injured workers to their jobs. Further evidence regarding orthopedic patients showed that those under the care of doctors of chiropractic in hospital settings were discharged from the hospital in five to seven days, compared with an average of 14 days in a comparable hospital without doctors of chiropractic.

But the central question brought to court revolved around organized medicine’s attempt to eliminate chiropractic as a competitor in the U.S. health care system. Judge Getzendanner’s landmark finding was that the A.M.A. was guilty of engaging in a conspiracy “to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession,” and was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

As far back as 1963, the court declared the A.M.A. had been working aggressively to “overtly and covertly” eliminate the profession of chiropractic. Judge Getzendanner issued a permanent court injunction against the A.M.A. to prevent such future behavior. The A.M.A. was required to send copies of the injunction order to each of its 275,000 members, as well as publish the injunction order in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although the decision is still being appealed, the way has now been cleared for a cooperative relationship between doctors of both professions for chiropractic & A.M.A., as has been sought by chiropractic for many years. The end result of this landmark decision will ultimately be to the advantage of the patient. Now more than ever, doctors of different specialties can work together and share their expertise for the benefit of the patient.