Chiropractor in $12M suit

Wednesday, November 3, 1999

Son blames mother's death on neck manipulation

  The son of a Toronto woman who died of a stroke following a chiropractic neck manipulation has launched a $12-million lawsuit against the chiropractor, the college where he trained and others.

Lana Dale Lewis, 45, went to a chiropractor for the treatment of migraine headaches. Her youngest son, Adam Lewis, 19, claims his mother died of a stroke four days after her birthday on Sept. 12, 1996, after her final visit to her chiropractor, Dr. Philip Emanuele, on Aug. 26, 1996.

"When she came back home from the chiropractor she complained her neck was really sore and her migraines were bothering her and she couldn't see," Adam said.

"People should know what's going on and that (chiropractic neck manipulations are) dangerous," Adam said.

The lawsuit claims that the stroke was probably due to a chiropractic manipulation Emanuele performed on Lana without using a chiropractic table. The family claims Emanuele reached over his office desk to perform the manipulation.

The lawsuit also claims the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) is negligent because it failed to educate Emanuele properly and inform him and other students about the risks associated with neck manipulations.

Emanuele refused to comment after repeated calls. A copy of the statement of defence could not be obtained.

"The allegations have absolutely no basis in fact," said Jean Moss, president of the CMCC. "As with many procedures used by health professionals, there is some risk attached to manipulation and those risks are clearly outlined and very small," Moss said, adding that cervical spine manipulation has a risk of stroke at one per million treatments.

Dr. John Norris, a University of Toronto neurology professor who is part of the Stroke Consortium, a network of 100 Canadian medical researchers, said doctors should ask patients who suffer stroke whether they've had chiropractic adjustments.

Norris said pulling the neck to get the body in proper alignment can tear an artery, cause an obstruction and block blood flow to the brain and result in brain damage or death.

A two-year study by Norris reported 62 patients with torn neck arteries, and 35% of them could be attributed to chiropractic manipulation. Another study looked at data from neurologists located in 19 centres across Canada. They found that chiropractic adjustments have been linked to 20 strokes.

"Everyone would agree neck manipulations can be a dangerous procedure, but only a tiny minority of physicians ask if their patients have had chiropractic adjustments," Norris said.

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