In a recent press release http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/54591417.html the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing announced that they had suspended chiropractor Judith Yager’s license for one year. Her transgressions?
- Practicing with a lapsed license
- Using a banned device to treat patients (device not named in press release)
- Hiring an unlicensed chiropractor to treat patients in her clinic
- Engaging in a sexual relationship with a patient
- Providing false information to the board
- Diagnosing patients based on handwriting samples and dreams.
They characterized all this as “engaging in practice outside the proper boundaries of her license.” They ordered that she take 18 hours of continuing education in patient boundaries, the scope of chiropractic practice and law and ethics for chiropractors. They did not recommend that she undergo any training in critical thinking or in how to use the scientific method to determine whether a diagnostic method works.
Diagnosing on the basis of handwriting analysis and dream interpretation? Do they teach that in chiropractic school? Is a one-year suspension enough? The really sad thing about this case is that she would never have been disciplined for woo-woo diagnostic methods alone. The board was not concerned that her methods were nonsensical, but only that they were not specified in state regulations as being within the scope of chiropractic practice.
I’m not aware of any case in any state where a chiropractor was disciplined for quackery alone. It appears that they can get away with all kinds of nonsense as long as no patients complain that they have been demonstrably harmed, and as long as they don’t get caught having sex with their patients. I know of a one case in Washington State where a chiropractor was caught lying to the board and the board still failed to act. I know of another where the chiropractor was doing chiropractic treatments without touching patients and appeared to believe that she was touching them even when confronted with video evidence to the contrary (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3) and the board failed to act until they found deficiencies in record-keeping and other peripheral details that they thought were more important.
This makes me angry, but perhaps I expect too much. Medical boards are no better. In a recent case in my state, an MD got away with similarly nonsensical practices until a patient complained, and then the response of the board was inadequate. It seems boards are designed to enforce the letter of the law, not to protect the public from quackery.
This article was originally published in Swift, the online newsletter of the James Randi Educational Foundation.