Following a public outcry, the Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy has raised serious concerns about practices and regulations in the chiropractic industry, calling for urgent action on these issues.
She is the second State Health Minister to raise concerns about the chiropractic industry, following the SA Health Minister Jack Snelling, who wrote to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Chiropractic Board of Australia (CBA) in February demanding to know what they are doing about chiropractors involved in “potentially false or misleading advertising”.
Snelling is Chair of the COAG Health Council, whose members comprise all Australian Government Ministers, state and territory Ministers and Ministers from the New Zealand Government with direct responsibility for health matters, which includes Hennessy.
Hennessy (pictured above) has not issued a formal statement on the issue, but in interviews with the media she said she has called for urgent action against rogue chiropractors amid outrage over the manipulation of babies’ spines.
This follows the wide distribution of a YouTube clip of chiropractor Ian Rossborough cracking the back of a 4-day-old premature baby. (Rossborough has recently posted another video of himself adjusting the neck of his own baby.)
Local Skeptics and concerned members of the community raised the issue with the Victorian Human Services Minister and the Dept of Health. There has also been much space on mainstream and social media devoted to the clip and its wider implications for chiropractic practice.
Hennessy said she was “physically shaken” after viewing the initial video. Like Snelling, she has written to AHPRA and the CBA seeking action on chiropractors performing “unproven and potentially unsafe procedures on young children and infants”.
In particular, she was concerned about persistent claims from a “small cohort of chiropractors” that spinal or scalp treatment could cure conditions such as colic, autism, ear infections of ADHD.
She said that in her letter to AHPRA and the CBA she raised doubts that the current regulations were preventing rogue chiropractors from making unsubstantiated and dangerous claims and asked the board to review its accountability mechanisms.
In March, the CBA, the group responsible for chiropractic industry standards, issued its own warning to chiropractors that “Claims suggesting that manual therapy for spinal problems can assist with general wellness and/or benefit a variety of paediatric syndromes and organic conditions are not supported by satisfactory evidence. This includes claims relating to developmental and behavioural disorders, ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, asthma, infantile colic, bedwetting, ear infections and digestive problems.”
The baby in Rossborough’s initial video was being treated for colic.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has told its members to not refer patients to chiropractors and has called for the federal government and private health insurers to stop paying them for questionable treatments.
Hennessy was also concerned about reports from “alarmed” members of the public who said they had witnessed chiropractors advising parents against vaccinating their children and openly promoting anti-vaccination materials in waiting rooms.
“It’s reprehensible that chiropractors would pedal anti-vaccination myths outside their scope of practice,” she told the media.
Following the publication of Minister Hennessy’s comments, ABC Melbourne morning radio presenter Jon Faine interviewed Andrew Lawrence, deputy president of the Chiropractic Association of Australia.
In what can only be described as an extremely hesitant response to Faine’s uncompromising questioning, Lawrence repeatedly refused to condemn chiropractic treatment of infants.