Chiropractic Antitrust Suit: Index

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
July 11, 2020

In 1976, a series of lawsuits was begun against the AMA, other professional organizations, and several individual critics, charging that they had conspired to destroy chiropractic and to illegally deprive chiropractors of access to laboratory, x-ray, and hospital facilities. Most of the defendant groups agreed in out-of-court settlements that their physician members were free to decide for themselves how to deal with chiropractors.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Radiology (ACOR), the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery (AAOS), seven other groups, and and four individual defendants chose to defend in court. In January 1981, after an 8-week trial, the jury ruled unanimously in their favor. However, the case was reversed on appeal and the parties agreed to retry it in front of a judge rather than a jury.

In 1987, federal court judge Susan Getzendanner concluded that during the 1960s “there was a lot of material available to the AMA Committee on Quackery that supported its belief that all chiropractic was unscientific and deleterious.” The judge also noted that chiropractors still took too many x-rays. However, she ruled that the AMA had engaged in an illegal boycott. She concluded that the dominant reason for the AMA’s antichiropractic campaign was the belief that chiropractic was not in the best interest of patients. But she ruled that this did not justify attempting to contain and eliminate an entire licensed profession without first demonstrating that a less restrictive campaign could not succeed in protecting the public. Although chiropractors trumpet the antitrust ruling as an endorsement of their effectiveness, the case was decided on narrow legal grounds (restraint of trade) and was not an evaluation of chiropractic methods.

First Trial
Second Trial