Chiropractors come under fire

Calgary SUN

June 13, 2002

Dr. Ronald Grainger is described by his family and colleagues as "an extremely gifted diagnostician."

Sadly, in what seems common among physicians, he wasn't too good at diagnosing himself.

As such, shortly after receiving a neck manipulation by a chiropractor, the Calgary father of six and grandfather of 18 became nauseous and suffered extreme pain in his neck.

A few days later, he visited his chiropractor again to seek pain relief and had his neck manipulated again. A few days after that, the otherwise healthy 69-year-old physician suffered a massive stroke and died on Nov. 16.

"We believe his death was caused by chiropractic neck manipulations," said his still-distraught widow, Madeline, who was joined by son Glen, daughter Mary, granddaughter Emily and Dr. Marvin Levant, a Calgary radiologist.

"The autopsy revealed considerable bleeding at the base of my husband's skull," she added.

Meanwhile, another son, Dr. Mark Grainger, held a simultaneous press conference in Toronto.

He was joined by the sister of Lana Lewis, whose death following a neck manipulation is being examined by a Toronto inquest, and also by Flo Limage, the wife of a Waterloo, Ont., man who has been in a chronic-care hospital since a November neck manipulation.

Despite their distance, their aim was identical: They are calling on all provincial ministers of health to ban chiropractic upper-neck manipulations, ban spinal manipulations of infants and children, and urge all Canadians to report any strokes that occurred shortly after a loved one had their neck manipulated.

It's important to note that no one is saying chiropractors do not play an important medical role in Canada, especially when it comes to providing relief for lower and mid-back pain.

But as Madeline said in the small conference room at the Carriage House Inn, "the temporary relief my husband obtained was not worth his early departure from his family."

Shortly after the Graingers dispersed, three members of the Canadian Chiropractic Association and College of Chiropractors of Alberta held their own press conference in a downtown hotel to respond to the Grainger allegations.

"There's absolutely a double standard here," protested Les Shaw, president of the Chiropractic College of Alberta.

"We acknowledge there's a risk, but it's three or four (problems) in over 22 million adjustments per year."

He then stated that anti-inflamatories cause far more deaths every year, and no one is calling to have them banned.

Even though there have been cases of young people suffering strokes right on their chiropractor's table, and despite numerous scientific studies, the chiropractors present dismissed the claims as a "political agenda by the established medical profession."

Meanwhile, even as studies and anecdotal evidence critical of chiropractic weren't accepted by these chiropractors, one went on to try to defend unsubstantiated claims and anecdotes that manipulations of a toddler's spine can cure colic, bed wetting, rashes and asthma.

Talk about a double standard!

A recent study by the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario indicates that patients under the age of 45 who suffer a stroke are five times more likely to do so if they had visited a chiropractor within one week of the event.

As for the Graingers, Shaw wondered repeatedly, why they waited eight months to come forward.

Mrs. Grainger says grief, shock and the fact they are profoundly private people delayed them, but after hearing about other cases they felt they had "a moral obligation" to warn others of the risk.

Dr. Lloyd Denmark, Alberta's deputy chief medical examiner, said, "we have been contacted by the family, and a review of this case is being conducted."

Howard May, a spokesman for Alberta Health, said the ministry will await that review before proceeding in any way.

At one point, Madeline Grainger articulated what many of us wondered: "If my husband -- even with his medical knowledge -- was so permissive, how can others, who are not as well informed be protected?"

By doing what you're doing, Madeline.

By speaking out.