Doctor resists lawyer's attack on stroke theory

Lewis inquest

Shannon Kari - Southam News

April 27, 2002

TORONTO - Lana Lewis had numerous health problems when she died of a stroke, but her death was probably caused by a neck manipulation from a chiropractor, a neuropathologist testified yesterday.

"I am prepared to believe this was a rare event," Dr. John Deck told a coroner's inquest into the September, 1996, death of Ms. Lewis.

However, he strongly disagreed with suggestions by Tim Danson, lawyer for the Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, that the 45-year-old Toronto woman died of natural causes.

In testimony this week, Dr. Deck said he believed with 90% certainty that two strokes suffered by Ms. Lewis were caused by trauma to her neck as a result of a chiropractic manipulation.

The inquest has heard that Ms. Lewis received a chiropractic neck manipulation on Aug. 26, 1996, and complained about the pain she was suffering, in a call to her sister the next night.

She was taken to hospital on Sept. 1, where it was determined she had suffered a stroke. She was discharged on Sept. 6, but suffered another stroke and was declared dead six days later.

Ms. Lewis was a smoker who suffered from migraines, had high blood pressure and a history of heart disease.

In a lengthy cross-examination, Mr. Danson attempted to highlight these problems as the likely cause of death. He made frequent reference to "controllable factors" that may lead to a stroke, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Dr. Deck conceded Ms. Lewis had health problems, including atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries), but said it was questionable whether they led to her strokes.

"Migraines are not relevant to this case, nor whether she took her high-blood-pressure medication," he said. "I don't believe [Lewis's health problems] put her at greater risk at any one moment, but it put her more at risk over her life."

Dr. Deck agreed the Lewis case is the only time in his 31 years as a neuropathologist he has encountered this type of injury as a possible result of a chiropractic neck manipulation.