Contain & Eliminate: Inside The AMA’s Conspiracy To Destroy Chiropractic
The American Medical Associations' Conspiracy To Destroy Chiropractic
The relationship between allopathic physicians and chiropractors has frequently been characterized by suspicion and misunderstanding. But according to a new book by medical journalist and author Howard Wolinsky, this adversarial relationship reached a level of intrigue rarely seen outside of Hollywood films. Wolinsky is no stranger to controversy within the conventional medical industry. In 1995 he co-authored The Serpent & The Staff: The Unhealthy Politics of the American Medical Association, a best-selling expose documenting the financial and ethical scandals in the American Medical Association, resulting in two CEO’s, several top executives, and the AMA’s general counsel being fired from their jobs. One chapter from that book examined the famous antitrust suit against the AMA brought by chiropractor Chester A. Wilk, DC in the 1980’s that culminated in a ruling forcing the AMA to strike language from its principles that ostensibly forbade MD’s from referring patients for chiropractic treatment. While writing about the trial, both for his book and during his time as a medical journalist at the Chicago Sun Times, Wolinsky spent a great deal of time with George McAndrews, Wilk’s attorney from that trial who provided Wolinsky with legal exhibits and reports. As the years passed, the book turned out to be something of a hit with chiropractors, and one day out of nowhere, McAndrews called Wolinsky and told him that he would like to introduce him to someone–prominent chiropractor and president of the NCMIC Foundation Louis Sportelli, D.C.
Sportelli told Wolinsky that he wanted to publish an objective account of the Wilk trial while the parties involved were still alive to give their first-hand accounts; something that could document the history and impact of it so that younger generations would know how chiropractors struggled and had to fight for legitimacy, relevance, and even the fundamental right to practice chiropractic.
Speaking with a young chiropractor who was adjusting his wife, Wolinsky asked him what he knew of the Wilk case. The young man responded with a blank expression. Even after pushing him a little, the most the young chiropractor would give him was a yawn and a dismissive “History.” When he turned to my wife to discuss the option of getting x-rays at the hospital across the street, Wolinsky added, “You know you probably wouldn’t be able to give that referral had it not been for Wilk.”
A lot has changed for the field of chiropractic since that trial. MD’s and DC’s can make referrals to one another if they feel it is warranted. Medicare covers chiropractic treatment. The federal government funds chiropractic research proposals. There are DC’s teaching in medical schools, and MD’s teaching in chiropractic colleges. Chiropractor’s have had their research published in medical journals, even the Journal of the American Medical Association. The AMA has even accepted a DC to a seat on their CPT committee. But even still, chiropractors are frequently met with resistance, regarded with suspicion, and can run into problems when interacting with other medical professionals. The advances listed above were due in large part to the Wilk trial, but the judge who made that ruling noted correctly that there were, and would be, “lingering effects of a monopoly that would take generations to overcome,” and Louis Sportelli wanted young chiropractors to know–to remember and keep firmly in mind–that chiropractors had to fight for their rights.
Sportelli also wanted the attorney George McAndrews to receive the credit he was due for his work on the Wilk case. The chiropractors at the plaintiffs’ bench frankly could not have asked for a better champion. Other lawyers would most likely have urged them into a settlement, as the AMA offered up more than once. But McAndrews’ father was a chiropractor in rural Iowa, and he grew up watching his father being called a “quack”, “huckster”, and “fraud” by his local physicians. For him, the case was personal, not just another job. It was revenge.
So Wolinsky dusted off his old notes, and he and Sportelli began compiling 40-years worth of legal briefs, documentation, interviews, and dived back into the Wilk case leaving nothing out. Wolinsky said that he learned a great deal more than before while compiling notes for the new book. Details surrounding the legal strategies, and the history that led up to the initial filing of the suit. But the most astounding revelation was how the suit was tied into another famous conspiracy–that of L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology and its war against federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies like the FBI, CIA, Dept. of Justice. As it happens, Scientology’s infiltration and subversive campaign against these formative acronyms also included the AMA itself…and that’s when he learned about “Sore Throat”.
In 1975, after the Watergate scandal had made legend of the informant “Deep Throat”, a person claiming to be an AMA whistleblower came forward calling themselves “Sore Throat”, or “Dr. Throat” if you please. They released troves of AMA documents and memos to the press, the Internal Revenue Service, and curiously, to several chiropractors and chiropractic organizations across the country. While the media confirmed the veracity of the documents themselves, no one expended much effort on uncovering the identity of their source. Dr. Throat claimed to be a disgruntled AMA physician staffer who was being laid off as the association fought off bankruptcy. But it turned out he was in fact a Scientology crusader–or rather he was two crusaders–two of hundreds who had infiltrated the agencies and organizations that L. Ron Hubbard had designated as enemies.
One of the Dr. Throats had infiltrated the AMA, breaking into the Chicago office of their external counsel. The other was a private investigator who, while pretending to be an AMA staffer, had made dozens of contacts within the media, government agencies, and chiropractic organizations. They had been searching for proof that the AMA had been conspiring against the Church of Scientology in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, but ultimately failed to produce any evidence of the sort. But they did discover something else–a secret group within the AMA called the “Committee on Quackery”, and detailed plans from the AMA’s general counsel Robert Throckmorton to “contain and eliminate” chiropractic. Throckmorton was well versed in “contain and eliminate” types of operations, as he was the legal architect of the U.S.’s program during World War II to move Japanese Americans on the West coast into internment camps.
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