To people outside the chiropractic profession, it may sound like conspiracy paranoia, but to any chiropractor who has been paying attention, it begins to look as though history is repeating itself.
Unfounded attacks, closed-minded denouncements, and even outright untruths have been on the rise.
Take 20 minutes to watch an incisive historical overview of the organized attempts to destroy chiropractic through legal assaults and harassment. Why? Because you will be more prepared to recognize what these same kinds of efforts to destroy and delegitimize chiropractic look like today.
In the video below, Dr. Guy Riekeman, Life University Chancellor, interviews Life U philosophy professor, Dr. David Koch, one of the elders of today’s chiropractic educational leadership.
Or, for a full transcript, please scroll down below the 21-minure video.
Dr. Riekeman: David, I’ve asked you to do this commentary on the challenges that we face as a profession. We’re talking to a number of people around the world because this is not just a U. S. issue, but there are three reasons why I’ve selected you to do this one, is because of your position at Life, as the main Philosophy Instructor. Secondly, I know that you’ve taught this stuff for a long time and a lot of your students are even known for their history expertise today, like Simon Senzon and others. Of course, perhaps, the most relevant is that you actually look like D. D. Palmer, so we think that you’re probably transmitting him somehow to contemporary times, but obviously, every chiropractor in the world knows that there’s been sort of an organized, a I use that word very clearly, because I know that people would challenge that outside the profession, but an organized attempt to not only limit chiropractic, but in many cases, get rid of chiropractic.
It goes back literally to the very, very beginning of the profession. I’d like you to if you can sort of bring us along and talk to us about some of those early court cases, and how they shaped the profession, and what we are facing today.
Dr. Koch: I would love to and it’s just a very interesting story, too. Probably there’s actually two trials that we need to be aware of to understand the legal relationship between medicine and chiropractic has been a challenge since the beginning. The first one was D. D. Palmer, was actually indicted and tried for practicing medicine without a license in Davenport, Iowa. He was, at that time, this would have been in 1906. He’d already sold the school to B. J., and wasn’t happy with how B. J. was doing at the school, but he came back and was there, and he was being outspoken as he was, and he sort of got the medical profession riled up in Davenport.
The Iowa Board of Medical Examiners brought charges against him for practicing medicine without a license. D. D. saw that as an opportunity to harangue the jury and make the case that chiropractic was the new medicine, and B. J. was put in the put in the position of having to defend his father against the people in the community where he, B. J., was establishing some good relationships finally. It came as no surprise to anybody, I think, but D. D. Palmer, that in fact, they found him guilty of practicing medicine without a license. Because he was saying, “He had found a cure for all disease.”
They gave him an interesting sentence. They said, “You can serve, pay a $135 fine or serve six months in jail, or both.” He said, “I’ll never pay the fine. I’ll serve the jail time.” He served about 21 days before he figured out that even if you serve the whole six months, he was still going to have to pay the fine, so he got his wife, and B. J. got the money together and got him out of jail. That really set the precedence that chiropractors could be tried for practicing medicine without a license, because they did it successful with the founder.
Chiropractic was spreading at the time. It was spreading out, and B. J. was very aware that that had been a very, very bad thing to happen, too. The profession he was trying to develop and loved so much, he had a [counselor] named Tom Morris, who was a very politically connected lawyer, and had become a friend of B. J. Palmer’s. They took it in stride and they dealt the best they could with this loss, with D. D. having been found guilty of practicing medicine without a licence, but they also started to plan what they were going to do the next that happened.
Things went along and the profession started to develop politically. Literally, they started practicing, passing practice acts until 1913. B. J. and Tom Morris saw a case coming up that they decided they could use to address this challenge. Japanese American gentleman named Shegataro Morikubo had been a student of B. J. Palmer’s and had gone through the program, and was practicing, and had been practicing since 1907. When in 1913, the medical profession up in Minnesota where he was practicing decided to bring charges against him for practicing medicine without a license. Well, B. J. was not going to let that stand. He and Tom Morris had figured out that the only way they were going to actually be able to defend that against that charge was to establish the fact that chiropractic was not medicine, and therefore, practicing chiropractic was not practicing medicine without a license, because chiropractic wasn’t medicine.
Of course, Tom Morris crafted the legal end of it. B. J. Palmer crafted the philosophic end of that argument, and that case was very much responsible for B. J. bringing in philosophy to the program at Palmer, so that he could use chiropractic’s philosophy of, “We’re removing an interference to let the body do the healing,” as his defense that chiropractic was not the practice of medicine. They mounted that exact defense… and they won. That case probably illustrates both, the ongoing challenge that medicine was absolutely appalled at the thought that anybody would take the power away from them and say that something that was so powerful as chiropractic wouldn’t be the practice of medicine, but the fact is, the courts recognized that argument and said, “Okay, we accept that.” When they found Morikubo not guilty of practicing medicine without a license on the basis that the practice of chiropractic was not the practice of medicine, that literally set the tone, which protected chiropractic for the next 60 or 70 years, while it went through the difficult struggle of trying to become licensed, independent from medicine.
Dr. Riekeman: It’s my understanding and I don’t know if this is just rumor or not, but not only did it, as you point out, B. J. brought philosophy into into the curriculum and used that as a basis for the argument, but also, it brought in the notion of neurology into the profession as a basis of why it was not medicine or osteopathy. Is that true?
Dr. Koch: He acknowledged that. Absolutely.
Dr. Riekeman: Okay.
Dr. Koch: I wouldn’t say that the trial bought it in, that was more of the work of B. J.’s faculty who were trying to move him past the limits of the Merrick System, but when the court recognized that, that’s the basis on which chiropractic wasn’t the practice of medicine. Was that it was an attempt to create normal function within the nervous system. Absolutely, very important.
Dr. Riekeman: They won the case, yes?
Dr. Koch: They won the case.
Dr. Riekeman: Yeah, and so how did that then get applied to other cases over the next few decades? I mean, did it hold up in other courts?
Dr. Koch: In every case that they tried, from Morikubo forward, they had the precedent. They literally had the precedent, because that court had said, “No. It’s not the practice of medicine,” so they did that over, and over, and over again. We were successful, but they couldn’t stop the charges from being brought, and they also got, things got complex because the chiropractic profession, in some states, was under the medical profession. For instance, in Illinois, it was. Where the National College was, it was being supervised by a medical board, which didn’t help the situation. In other states, they switched from charging people with practicing medicine without a license, to practicing chiropractic without a license in states where there hadn’t even been an opportunity to have a license. It shifted it a little bit, but basically that distinction held, I would argue, until the chiropractors have broken it down recently by wanting to be more closely associated with medicine, which then breaks down that defense and questions why we need to have a separate and distinct profession. Something that I find very near and dear to my heart, is the fact that I’m a Chiropractor, not a Medical Doctor.
Dr. Riekeman: I saw a figure recently that, and I believe it was in the ’30s, they had looked at the number of arrests during that decade, and it was something like 15,000 arrests, which I think actually were more arrests than there were actual chiropractors at the time.
Dr. Koch: They did multiple arresting, too, of course, as you know.
Dr. Riekeman: Yeah, I know that the Bell Tower, there’s a few hundred names in the Bell Tower of people that went to jail, but that doesn’t even begin to talk about the scope of the number of people that were being arrested during those times.
Dr. Koch: Absolutely, and what it illustrates, really the ugly side of it is, once the medical profession realized that they really couldn’t necessarily… get a conviction, they actually turned to just harassing people by arresting them. You see what I’m saying? They weren’t even, had much of a chance of getting anything out of them, but they could arrest a chiropractor over and over again, just to keep him having to bail out. Of course, B. J.’s resources were spent sending the lawyers over to defend those people.
Dr. Riekeman: Sure.
Dr. Koch: It was a huge drain on the profession. It set the tone, it created the perception that chiropractic was not a healthcare, because it wasn’t medicine.
Dr. Riekeman: Getting back to like the intent of it. What do you think was the motivation of the medical community? Was it, they wanted it? Was it philosophical for them? Of contrast, was it that when the Flexner Report came out in the early 1900s, the chiropractors wouldn’t come and play and jump on board with the medical community? What do you think sort of stimulated the whole notion of them coming after chiropractors in the first place?
Dr. Koch: I think you added the one factor we have to take into account to really understand the fullness of that, and that’s the Flexner Report. Because the Flexner Report was so successful for medicine to be able to shut down within itself what it considered to be controversial ways of practicing medicine. Osteopathy was almost run out of … Not osteopathy. Excuse me. Homeopathy was almost run out of business by the Flexner Report, but the medical profession felt cheated, because the Flexner Report didn’t have much affect on chiropractic, because chiropractors weren’t accredited by the medical profession. Same thing with osteopathy. Both of those professions survived the shut down that followed the Flexner Report, because they weren’t accepted by the medical profession. I think there was a big … Medicine, I think, took it personally. That they couldn’t shut us down when they shut everybody else down in 1910 and ’12.
Dr. Riekeman: Do-
Dr. Koch: They had 50 years of them having a vendetta against the chiropractic-
Dr. Riekeman: Exactly, and a lot of students immortalized people along the way. I know you’re a Family Chiropractor. Your chiropractor was Herbert Ross Reaver, who’s considered to be the most jailed chiropractor. Students love to talk about that as if it were some romantic time in the history of the profession, but it was tough on those people and their families.
Dr. Koch: Dr. Reaver was jailed, arrested 12 times, jailed 6 times. The last time for a year in the Cincinnati Work House, which broke him. It broke him financially, but it was even deeper than that, because when he finished that twelfth arrest and term, he actually left, went to Saint Petersburg, but he was still who he was. When he went down to Saint Petersburg, he opened up a practice, and he allowed the Cubans and the African Americans to come in his front door, and his office was firebombed. It wasn’t just the medical thing, it was also that chiropractic is ecumenical. It’s “catholic,” it’s for everybody. It recognizes every person’s right to thrive, so chiropractic was unacceptably inclusive. Even at the same time, it was unacceptably non-medical.
Dr. Riekeman: Right, I mean, B. J., there’s still, you can still see some remnants in the brick. I mean, he brought radio and television west of the Mississippi. Not because he was an entrepreneur in the film industry, or the TV industry, it was his way of transmitting chiropractic and using that technology. I remember on the Bell Tower, Palmer where he would broadcast in the evenings. You can still see the faded images of political comments about women’s suffrage and things of those, that nature.
Dr. Koch: It’s amazing. It’s one of the things I liked the best about chiropractic, is it’s intrinsically inclusive nature.
Dr. Riekeman: However, that being said, our good friend, mutual friend, Fred Barge, always said, “He was the last director of the African-American clinic, the Black Clinic at [Palmer]” because it was … segregated all the way up, because some of the Southern chiropractors said they’d stop support B. J., as I understand it, if you ever integrated the clinics. Yes? No?
Dr. Koch: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny to have a philosophy, which is so inclusive in a culture, which has still got active discrimination going on. Probably the only other side of that that I’d also want to bring up, because it’s significant to note. That the other issue, which is sexism, chiropractic kind of dodged the bullet on that one, because early chiropractors, 30% of them, 40% of them, were women. Women were in the chiropractic profession before medicine was even admitting women in. It’s just a huge amalgam of social influences that, overall, really kept chiropractic in a turmoil for the first 80 years of its existence.
Dr. Riekeman: Yeah, and I picked up on something you said earlier. You said, “These court cases sort of set the stage for the next 50 years.” If I’m doing my math right, that takes us up to the early 1960s. It’s around that time that Medicare was coming into politics.
Dr. Koch: 1966.
Dr. Riekeman: Yeah, can you talk a little bit about that, because, obviously, the harassment then shifted to the AMA and seemed to be even a more organized, rather than state by state, more organized national campaign?
Dr. Koch: Well, and also, we know for a fact, because of the Wilk trial, and the book that was published about the Committee on Quackery, which was specifically and explicitly an anti-chiropractic conspiracy within the AMA. Their goal was to put chiropractic out of business. Of course, that extended … That battle extended the challenge that we faced right up to about 1990. When, in fact, the Supreme Court finally said, “Medicine, quit trying to put chiropractic out of business. It’s un-American and it’s illegal.” What we have left over from that is a bunch of things that remain as challenges. Medicine’s attempt to put chiropractic out of business, medicine told researchers that they could not share chiropractic research, or they would be blackmailed for doing medical research. The medical profusion told newspapers that they could not print advertisements for chiropractor, or articles about chiropractors, or the medical profession would no longer have any relationship with them.
Even the academic university, undergraduate and graduate college research faculty were told…not even medical, just regular researchers were told, that if they participated in chiropractic research, they would not be able to participate in medical research. Then the medical profession decided to accuse us of being an unscientific profession after they’ve systematically tried to shut every door they could to us gaining access into the full research community. That finally broke in the 1990s and in the 2000s, with the back research agendas and everything that have started up.
Dr. Riekeman: Yeah, I mean, the first U. S. dollar for chiropractic research flowed in in 1995. A lot of that had to do with Senator Tom Harkin, a good friend of chiropractic from Iowa, who is an advocate. Very much an advocate of chiropractic, and set up the Center for Alternative Medicine at NIH, which later, some of the names changed, but basically, I think, he put away $5 million the first year, knowing that a government program, once it started, never ends and keeps getting funded bigger and bigger every year. Yeah, it’s real interesting that this history isn’t long ago history. This is history that’s relatively new. I know when I was in school in 1972 in Louisiana, they had put the last two chiropractors in jail in Louisiana, while I was attending Palmer.
Dr. Koch: Isn’t that amazing? It’s been a ride for us, too, hasn’t it?
Dr. Riekeman: Yep, one of the questions that’s always bothered me is with the Wilk Case, I mean, we won. The question is, “What did we win?” I know that some of the stuff was sealed for like twenty years, but we passed that point at this time. To my understanding, it was supposed to give us access, equal access, to hospitals and all sorts of things. Yet, today, we just had a faculty member here at the university, whose daughter had a child up in Canada, and the child needed chiropractic care in order to survive, and did, because of chiropractic, but it all had to be done secretively. Quote, “Sneaking into the hospitals to provide this kind of care.” I mean, what did we win with the Wilk Case?
Dr. Koch: Well, technically what we won was the right to not have medicine continue in multi-person conspiracy to put down chiropractic, but the Wilk Case did not say that chiropractic was valid or invalid. It didn’t even address the nature of chiropractic at all. It was simply a business case that said, “It is definitely illegal for you to keep conspiring amongst two or more of you, to put chiropractic out of business.” That’s all, but it had a lot of fallout, because it also said that, “Medicine had to quit saying it was unethical for its members to talk to chiropractors.” That medicine had to quit saying that it would be unacceptable for research to participate in chiropractic. It took all those peripheral banishments out, that medicine had the power to make, because medicine is the big gorilla in town, but it’s still an ongoing battle. Because medicine won’t even consider us as an alternative way to help a person’s health be enhanced. They still insist that all we can fit into is their paradigm, which is we’re fancy low-back pain and headache treaters.
Dr. Riekeman: We’re right at the end of time. What I’d love to end with is your recollection of someone that was a common connector for us, and that was Mack and Kitty Scallon. I know that we both knew Kitty towards the end of her life. She and her husband both went to jail in New York, so how about if we wrap up with just your recollections of Kitty and what they went through?
Dr. Koch: Well, that was … That really pulled at your heartstrings, because they both went to jail for a year and were separated from each other. In separate jails, and the letters that Kitty wrote while she was in jail, really speak to the emotional cost of that kind of abuse of legality. When they came out, they were even stronger. They were even stronger in their conviction that chiropractic was just had to survive. I mean, they are such an inspiration. If you want to read something inspiring, read B. J., but read Kitty Scallon. Kitty Scallon’s letters are just beautiful.
Dr. Riekeman: Yeah, they were. Thank you. We have a fight still in front of us, and I hope that young people today that were involved in the fight in the past can understand that this is more than casual. That this is really about the future of the profession.
Dr. Koch: You and I have spent our whole lives on this and I plan to until I die.
Dr. Riekeman: Absolutely. Thanks, David.
Dr. Koch: Thank you.