Harvard Health Letter Sends Incorrect Signal to Consumers
Promotes a Double Standard in Health Care Liability
By Stuart E. Hoffman, DC
As a doctor of chiropractic with decades of experience in every aspect of chiropractic clinical practice, and now as president of a chiropractic professional liability program, I was simply outraged by a statement published in a recent issue of the Harvard Health Letter incorrectly reporting that half of all chiropractic patients are injured by our care. In a widely circulated promotional mailing, a page was included that was entitled “26 Health Revelations You Need To Know…from the doctors at Harvard Medical School .” Number 17 of these hot health tips reads: “Did you know that about half the people who seek spinal manipulation from a chiropractor experience problems caused by the treatment.”
The context of this claim, in the midst of a list of so-called “revelations” and mater-of fact manner in which this statement was made are clearly designed to alarm consumers. This is not only offensive to the chiropractic practitioner, it is also simply wrong.
What is a “problem?” There are a couple of studies that indicate that first time patients report a feeling of temporary discomfort. How does this compare to a surgical error or a serious drug reaction? The difference is profound, yet the “doctors at Harvard Medical School ” seem to think that misleading consumers on what to expect from chiropractic is important. The double standard that allows medicine to inflict massive injury at the cost of billions on our population, and then have the audacity to publish something like this is itself a revelation. It reveals the cynicism and careful calculation that still characterizes much of the medical community’s attitude towards chiropractic.
This is part of a trend in which scare tactics are routinely applied to drive consumers away from our care. Fortunately, our patients are smarter than that; but what about a non-patient considering seeking the care of a chiropractor? There is serious work to be done on this public relations front, and ChiroSecure is proud to be an active partner with the ICA in confronting such media distortions of chiropractic’s reality.
As the president of a longstanding chiropractic professional liability insurance program, I know the chiropractic profession’s safety record better than most people. With a practitioner’s background, I also know how effective our care is for patients of all ages. Just look at the massive difference between chiropractic and medical malpractice rates. If the public needs a warning, or a revelation about any profession’s safety, it ought to be medicine that gets the attention.
Along with ICA ‘s leaders, ChiroSecure submitted a strong letter of protest to the editors of the newsletter. I am curious to see what kind of response we receive, if any, because this is one of those cases where we can be pretty sure they knew what they were doing, and meant to have a chilling effect on consumers’ interest in chiropractic care as a possible care pathway. It’s one thing to print a controversial thesis. It is another to print something known to be questionable for purposes of injuring a competitor.
The use of the media for anti-competitive purposes is nothing new. In 1807, Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his friend Thomas Seymour wrote, “The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood.” Let’s hope that the credibility of such publications indeed does suffer because the circulation of shamefully false and misleading information is becoming the stock-in-trade of many so-called health news publications, and far too often at chiropractic’s expense.
ICA and ChiroSecure are on the front lines of this struggle, ready to respond and ready to confront every instance of false or misleading media messages about chiropractic. The truth about chiropractic deserves to be told, because of the powerful healing choice we offer consumers; drugless, non-surgical and proven to be the safest form of care available.
Stuart Hoffman, DC is president of ChiroSecure, ICA ‘s Porfessional Liability Risk Purchasing Group. To get information about your professional liability insurance contact Dr. Hoffman at 480-657-8500.