Canadian Chiropractor Sued after Child Is Paralyzed

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
October 18, 2001

On July 19, 2001, Canadian stock car racer Alan Turner and his wife Jill filed a lawsuit charging that V. Gary Dyck, D.C., paralyzed their 11-year-old son James by manipulating his neck and back. The suit asks for a total of $2.75 million Canadian dollars: $500,000 for general damages, $1,000,000 for special damages; $1,000,000 for lost earning capacity, and $250,000 to compensate the boy’s family. The suit papers state:

  • On July 24, 2000, James developed chest pains while swimming and was taken to the Dyck’s office, where his neck and back were manipulated.
  • On the following day, although James was worse, Dyck manipulated him again.
  • As a result of the treatment by the Defendant, James’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he was rushed to The Royal Victoria Hospital of Barrie where he was in great distress, having lost the use of his legs and bladder function. The pediatrician in charge arranged for an ambulance on an emergency basis to transfer James to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for an MRI and neurosurgical intervention.
  • When James arrived at the Hospital for Sick Children, a thorough examination and assessment revealed that he had a benign spinal cord tumor called a ganglioglioma. There was swelling in both the tumor and cord, which caused James to become permanently paralyzed. Emergency neurosurgery confirmed the presence of the tumor, and subsequent pathology examination confirmed that there had been an acute infarct of the tumor. (An infarct is a condition in which tissue dies as a result of loss of blood supply.)
  • The treatment has resulted in permanent paralysis of the legs, weakness of one hand, and poor bowel and bladder control.

The suit papers further charge that Dyck was negligent in that:

  • He should not have manipulated James in the manner he did, or at all, without first determining the cause of the complaint and diagnosing the problem.
  • He failed to obtain x-rays or perform tests to determine the cause of the problem and whether manipulation was contraindicated.
  • Having treated the Plaintiff on his return the following day, failed to heed the fact that his condition had deteriorated since the prior day and further investigation should have been conducted and emergency treatment sought.
  • He failed to properly examine and diagnose the boy’s condition.
  • He failed to explain treatment procedures.
  • He failed to properly warn about the dangers and consequences of the treatment being administered
  • He applied the wrong treatment and/or treatment was applied improperly.
  • He did not carry out the treatment in a cautious, prudent, proper manner.
  • The treatment used was improper and an abusive procedure, which caused the injuries to the boy.
  • He should not have performed manipulation at all.
  • He failed to advise about alternatives to manipulation.

Dyck, a prominent chiropractor who practices chiropractic in Barrie, Ontario, was a member of the 35-member consensus group that helped draft the Clinical Guidelines for Chiropractic Practice in Canada, published in 1994 by the Canadian Chiropractic Association. He has also been a licensing examiner for the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, the agency that regulates the practice of chiropractic in Ontario.

The suit was filed by attorney Stanley M. Tick & Associates of Hamilton Ontario.

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This article was posted on October 18, 2001.