SEVEN DIED AFTER TREATMENT
Brad Evenson - National Post
April 30, 2004 - page A2
Families of seven Canadians who died after chiropractic neck
are calling on politicians across the country to ban the practice,
cause fatal strokes, paralysis and crippling brain injuries.
Increasingly, doctors and coroners blame the sharp twist of the spine's
two joints for harm to a delicate artery at the base of the brain.
"In our cases, the result was death," said a statement released by the
families. "In many hundreds of others, it is the lifelong effect of
The families have sent 400 politicians across Canada a booklet and
with information from doctors and patients, including a plea from Diane
Rodrigue, an Ontario woman who won a $1-million settlement when she was
paralyzed after a chiropractic neck manipulation.
The Canadian Chiropractic Association says such cases are not common.
"There is a risk of complications associated with neck adjustment,
the published research indicates that serious complications are very
said Grayden Bridge, president of the Canadian Chiropractic
"This must be balanced by the fact that neck adjustment provides
for patients with neck pain, headaches and whiplash."
The families' campaign is the latest salvo in a running battle between
chiropractors and the medical profession.
Several years ago, more than 60 leading Canadian neurologists warned
the dangers of neck manipulation. Almost all of them have since
intimidating phone calls and e-mails.
In January, a Toronto coroner's jury found the death of Lana Dale
was the accidental result of an upper-neck adjustment by chiropractor
Phillip Emanuele. The inquest was a fierce struggle, as witnesses were
discredited, stolen information appeared in brown envelopes and Ms.
personal character and health were assailed.
"If we had known what we were going to incur, I don't think we would
tackled it," says Ms. Lewis's sister, Wendy Abrams.
"We expected a fact-finding mission; instead, the chiropractors circled
Another of Ms. Lewis's sisters, Judy Anne Ford, and her husband, Mike,
are involved in the campaign.
"For the chiropractors, this seemed to be a Gettysburg kind of thing,"
Ford says, referring to a U.S. Civil War battle.
"While we were interested in getting at the truth, they were interested
Opponents of neck manipulation say X-rays and other evidence prove the
technique can weaken or tear the artery at the bony protuberance where
neck bones join the skull. In 2001, a Canadian study of 582 patients
than 45, published in the journal Stroke, found they were five times
likely to have had a neck manipulation within a week of their strokes.
This is what happened to Laurie Mathiason, 20, who died after
treatment for pain in her tailbone. In 1998, a coroner's jury concluded
death resulted from traumatic rupture of the left vertebral artery.
"I vowed to my dying daughter that I was going to get to the bottom of
killed her," says her mother, Sharon Mathiason, who is part of the
"And I screamed and yelled and ranted and raved at all kinds of people
across this country ..."
Ms. Mathiason is also angry at the efforts of chiropractors to treat
infants, an increasingly common practice.
Chiropractors say upper-neck manipulation helps to release points of
they call "subluxations." However, there is little medical proof such
exist, or that twisting the upper vertebrae can relieve tension.
That could change. After the Lewis inquest, the Canadian Chiropractic
Association announced it is participating in three studies. These
research by Michael Hill, a University of Calgary neurologist and
epidemiologist, and Walter Herzog, the university's associate dean of
research in kinesiology.
In the meantime, the industry is defending itself against all comers,
including families. For example, in 2001, Ron Grainger, a retired
doctor who suffered a massive stroke and died within days of a neck
manipulation. At first, the family stayed quiet about the incident.
"But then, through my practice, a patient of mine came in and said her
cousin had just had a massive stroke on the table while seeing a
chiropractor, and she was only 21 years old," says Mark Grainger, a
doctor like his late father. Dr. Grainger said the College of
does not investigate such incidents. "They're mostly denying they
So the Graingers have joined the campaign.
But Maureen McCandless, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Chiropractic
Association, says the family has no proof the manipulation killed Ron
"When asked quite pointedly what physical, physiological evidence there
to make that association ... Dr. Grainger said no, they did not have
evidence," she said.
Even so, Ms. McCandless said, the family is stepping forward yet again
unsubstantiated claims. And she said the association would not ask
to stop doing neck manipulations.
"There is no evidence that would indicate that that is a necessary
E-mail Brad Evenson email@example.com
KEVIN VAN PAASSEN / NATIONAL POST
Caption of picture: Judy Anne Ford's sister died after
receiving a chiropractic neck manipulation. A coroner's jury ruled the
an accidental result of the procedure, a conclusion the chiropractic