Chiro Board cracks down on its own anti-vaxers

The Chiropractic Board of Australia says it will crack down on chiropractors who “step outside their primary role as healthcare practitioners and provide treatment that puts the public at risk”.

Specifically it is referring to the promotion of an anti-vaccination stance.

To this end, the Board has ordered practitioners to remove all anti-vaccination material from their websites and clinics. It has also removed several courses from its list of approved CPD programs, and introduced random audits of practitioner compliance with the Board’s registration standards.

Among a number of tasks, the Board is responsible for registering chiropractors and students, and developing standards, codes and guidelines for the chiropractic profession.

Following a meeting of the Board in mid-July, it said that “The Board is becoming increasingly concerned that some chiropractors are continuing to promote, display and provide material to their patients – online and in their practices – that is not consistent with the standards set out in the board’s Code of conduct for chiropractors, and its Guidelines for the advertising of regulated health services.

In particular, a communiqué recently issued covering the July meeting says that “Providing or promoting anti-vaccination material is not consistent with the public health obligations of practitioners set in Code of Conduct.”

It goes on to say that “Chiropractors must not display or promote information about vaccination/immunisation, as this is not within the usual area for a chiropractor. To comply with the Code, information, advertising or promotional material of this sort should be removed from all clinic areas and from websites immediately.”

Dr Rachael Dunlop, vice-president of Australian Skeptics Inc and a leading campaigner against chiropractors’ denigration of vaccination and their support for the anti-vaccination movement, said that it was about time that the Board made such a move.

“They are to be congratulated for doing it, but it has taken some time.”

Several years ago Dr Dunlop raised concerns over the practices of chiropractor Nimrod Weiner, who made regular strong anti-vaccination statements and promoted homeopathic vaccine ‘treatments’ in his presentations to parents and on his website. At the time, Weiner was vice-president of the Chiropractors Association of Australia (NSW).

Dr Dunlop went on to point out that chiropractors formed a large proportion of the professional support for the Australian Vaccination Network, a fanatically anti-vaccination group that is currently facing its own problems with regulators, including an order to change its name to one that more properly reflects its anti-vaccination stance.

Dr Dunlop is one of several Skeptics who have campaigned against chiropractors’ anti-vaccination stance, as well as the Friends of Science in Medicine and the Australian Medical Association.

In an ironic comment, the Chiropractic Board communique reminded its constituents that “compliance with the code [involves] only making treatment claims that are supported by a reasonable evidence base”.

While chiropractors’ anti-vaccination stance certainly lacks an evidence base, other claims made by some chiropractors, such as its being used to treat conditions such as asthma, epilepsy, depression, ADHD and “clumsiness”, are similarly unsupported by evidence.

The very fundamental principle of chiropractic, that all ‘diseases’ are the result of so-called ‘subluxations’ of the spine, is itself without “reasonable evidence”. In fact, there is no proof that subluxations even exist.

Nonetheless, the Board chair, Dr Phillip Donato, said “the Board takes a very strong view of any practitioner who makes unsubstantiated claims about treatment which is not supported within an evidence-based context”.

“We will not tolerate registered chiropractors giving misleading or unbalanced advice to patients, or providing advice or care that is not in the patient’s best interests.”

The Board also cautioned chiropractors about marketing and promotional activities that breach the advertising requirements in the National Law. Section 133.1.e of the National Law specifically rules out directly or indirectly encouraging the “indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services”.

“The Board reminds chiropractors that they need to comply with the Law and the standards set by the Board. We take a very dim view of any practitioner who does not put the best interests of their patients first,” Dr Donato said.