Want your DNA fixed? Does your immune system need a boost? Are you worried about those nasty vaccinations? Maybe your baby’s sick? Why not try the new doctor’s in town? — after all, they offer a fabulous contribution, with drug and surgery free treatments that can “fix everything”. Or can they?
Chiropractors are moving in on the turf of the general practitioners by convincing new parents that they are a safe and effective alternative choice for their family’s primary health care.
The exploding market for complementary and alternative medicine has encouraged them to diversify away from just doing back and neck pain to promoting treatments to the lucrative market of young families.
Parents want to protect their children from the dangers of over-prescribed drugs, such as antibiotics, and they understandably worry about any suggestions that vaccines contain toxic compounds, have a high risk of serious side effects and can cause Autism.
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Claiming that they can treat children of colds, ear infections, colic, bed-wetting, hyperactivity, asthma, autism and can even repair their DNA, chiropractic clinics are mimicking medical centres by using their own untested diagnostic devices that brandish automatically generated government approval numbers. In reality these machines are little more than high-tech wizardry, with computerised bells and whistles designed to generate screen images that convince parents that their children are sick.
Called “fundamentalist” chiropractors, they believe that most health conditions may be caused by the Vertebral Subluxation Complex (VSC), a term made up in the 19th century by Daniel Palmer, chiropractic’s founder and religious leader.
The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (CAA), the peak body for chiropractors, lists the VSC theory among its “core beliefs” and its vision statement includes plans to ensure that university courses teach it.
After 10 years political lobbying, the CAA also recently announced that legislation had been passed so that all chiropractors can “use the title doctor”.
The CAA does not support vaccination and its board is closely associated with the controversial Australian Vaccine Network (AVN) with some of the clinics run by CAA senior figures listed as professional members including the CAA’s president, treasurer and a board member.
The CAA is also working hard to brand chiropractic as the “most effective and cost-efficient health regime of first choice”.
In 2007 they hired MacGregor Public Relations, a firm that specialises in government lobbying and media relations, to “promote the chiropractic profession as primary health care practitioners” and to advance their aim to have “Chiropractic integrated into Public Hospitals and Public Health initiatives”.
Central to the CAA strategy is to influence health policy. Since 2005, they have spent more than $500,000 in “government/political liaison” and they boast that they now know nearly every health minister and policy maker, including the opposition, on a first name basis.
Even the Wiggles entertainer Anthony Fields, with a clear link to children, is an ambassador to their publicity arm, the Australian Spinal Research Foundation as (ASRF), an organisation that only conducts VSC research. The ASRF is also associated with the AVN and actively promotes anti-vaccination propaganda.
Chiropractors, themselves not required to be vaccinated, are running clinics that encourage poorly informed parents to congregate together, increasing the exposure of their newborns to highly contagious diseases from other sick patients.
There is nothing to stop an unvaccinated chiropractor with a seriously sick child at home, who has a highly contagious disease, from treating other people’s babies at their clinics at the same time.
Midwives, graduating from “health science” courses at universities, perhaps believing that chiropractic students are taught evidence-based medicine, are also referring new parents to the chiropractors who may have studied alongside them.
New parents are a particularly vulnerable group and are understandably susceptible to suggestions of any natural intervention that may improve their family’s health and they are now inviting chiropractors, who may have been recently exposed to contagious diseases, into maternity wards to check their newborns.
While Australia’s regulatory authority for therapeutic goods, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, can address any medical claims made for therapeutic goods, there is no equivalent mechanism to challenge claims made for therapeutic services.
Complaints submitted up to 12 months ago, relating to claims made on chiropractic websites for medical conditions, including a wide range of childhood conditions, vaccine preventable diseases and multiple sclerosis, remain unanswered. The partnership of the national boards and the newly formed Australian Health Practitioners Agency (AHPRA), which supposedly regulates their respective members, is proving to be ineffective, and so for fundamentalist chiropractors, it remains “business as usual”.
It’s not just chiropractors who are promoting some bogus services.
Anyone who has a website can make claims relating to magical cures for major illnesses and, unless someone comes forward who is seriously harmed, individual state-based health complaints systems will not take them on — so it remains a free for all.
The self-regulation system in place for alternative therapists, including some registered practitioners, has no external accountability.
Medically trained doctors who speak out are vilified and accused of protecting their own turf. Conspiracy theories abound against proven treatments, spread by these smooth talking faith healers, who offer little more than expensive placebos and mis-information.
If you are a new parent, or someone recently diagnosed with a serious health conditions, my advice is to be wary of anyone who makes claims that are too good to be true unless they can provide some credible peer-reviewed research to support their claims. Your health, or that of your children, may depend upon it.