Following the revelation of chiropractor Ian Rossborough’s ‘cracking’ of an infant’s spine on YouTube*, Australian Skeptics and many members of the public and professionals expressed their outrage.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Chiropractic Board of Australia (CBA) took action and limited Rossborough’s areas of activity.
But that wasn’t enough. There are still many chiropractors promoting and presumably performing the same practices as Rossborough, but with little if any reprimand.
We therefore wrote to AHPRA and CBA to express our concern of this lack of consistency in regulating chiropractors who act outside of the rules and regulations of the industry.
Following is that correspondence.
(Note that we initially wrote to AHPRA and the CBA on June 17, 2016. Their response was dated June 28 but, based on the postmark, not posted until August 16.)
Australian Skeptics Inc letter:
Dear Dr Minter,
Australian Skeptics, along with many other individuals and organisations, has for a long time had grave concern over chiropractic practice and the management of the profession.
In 2013 we awarded our Bent Spoon award to both the Chiropractic Board of Australia (CBA) and the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia (CAA) for blatantly ignoring the restrictions set by both groups on what the members of the profession could promote in terms of non-evidence based treatments.
This was not just a case of focusing on rogue elements within the industry – members of the CAA’s own Board were ignoring their organisation’s own instructions.
More recently, we have seen evidence of widespread use of disputed, debunked and totally unsubstantiated ‘evidence’ for a range of chiropractic practices and methodologies. These include many instances where chiropractors are claiming treatment for a wide range of conditions that would have nothing to do with the spine and/or nervous system, resort to the totally unproven concept of ‘subluxation’, and chiropractors blatantly ignoring the rulings of the CBA on use of non-evidence based claims in their advertising and promotion.
Now we have the case of chiropractor Ian Rossborough who has achieved recent notoriety for a video posted on YouTube where he cracks the spine of a four-day-old premature baby. Rossborough has been rightly sanctioned for his actions, and limitations imposed upon his activities. Australian Skeptics applaud this action.
But the situation seems to be that Rossborough’s major failing was in posting a video of his performing ‘treatments’, the same treatments that many other chiropractors also perform. These others possibly number in the hundreds, and are claiming (at the least) if not performing treatments on neonates and infants that are both unnecessary and dangerous.
We ask whether the CBA will be issuing restrictions and limitations on all of these as well, or are we to infer that the CBA’s heavy hand falls only on those who are publically exposed and who bring public outrage and shame upon the profession? Is Rossborough being restricted because of what he was doing, or because he was caught?
If the latter, then we are assured that there are many others within the chiropractic profession who will be similarly ‘outed’ for dangerous practices, because we believe that these dangerous practices are far more widespread than the CBA might be aware of or fear.
With these concerns in mind, we are copying AHPRA and the ACCC on this letter.
We look forward to your response.
President, Australian Skeptics Inc
CBA response to Australian Skeptics:
Thank you for your correspondence date 17 June in relation to the recent action taken by the Chiropractic Board of Australia (the Board). I note the concerns you have identified about practitioners who may be performing unproven and potentially unsafe procedures on your children and infants, and using non-evidence based claims in their advertising and promotion.
The public are entitled to receive safe, ethical and competent care from chiropractors. The Board regulates individual chiropractors and sets the standards they must meet. The requirements for chiropractors to provide care to the public that is evidence-based is a key component of the professional standards, codes and guidelines to which the Board expects practitioners to adhere.
Practitioners are expected to practise safely and within the limits of their competency, training and expertise.
AHPRA and the Board have a number of investigations underway in relation to practitioners making claims about the benefits from, or potentially performing, unproven and potentially unsafe procedures. While we cannot discuss individual matters to protect the integrity of the processes underway, the National Public Register is updated with details of action taken by the Board to protect the public.
The Board considers risk to the public each time it receives a notification. In the specific case you have highlighted, the action taken by the Board reflects the action it believed was necessary to protect the public with respect to this individual practitioner, based on evidence about the way this individual practises. The Board will continue to act on individual cases where it is appropriate to do so in the interests of public protection.
Further information about the notifications process or action may be taken by the Board can be located on the AHPRA website, including information about how a notification can be made.
Thank you for raising this matter with me.
Dr Wayne Minter AM
Chair, Chiropractic Board of Australia
*The original Youtube clip is still available online but with a children’s song overlaid so the original audio is unclear. Another copy of the clip, with additional footage at the beginning, can be found here.