Chiropractic Entrepreneur Disciplined

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
June 9, 2017

In February 2014, the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing concluded that John O. Meadors, D.C. had acted unprofessionally and suspended his license for a minimum of six months. The order stated that the suspension could be lifted if he complied with a long list of conditions intended to prevent recurrence of the conduct that led to the suspension. However, his license expired while the suspension was still in effect.

Background History

Meadors said he has a “real knack for marketing.” In addition to selling himself to patients, he also marketed devices and a practice-building system to other chiropractors. A video he posted to Google stated that he injured his back when he was about 15 and decided to become a chiropractor when he was 23. In 1992, he opened his practice in California and saw 200 patients a week by his fourth week. The video further states that his practice grew to be the biggest in the world and that by 2003 he was able to retire from chiropractic with a nest egg of $17 million. He subsequently built condo complexes, but in 2008, the market for them crashed and his net worth plunged to zero. He began practicing again, but during 2008 he broke a leg and was treated for “severe prostate cancer,” which laid him up for about nine months. When he resumed working, he began advertising and from October 2008 through May 2009, he rebuilt his practice again to the largest in the United States, with an income of $340,000 in May 2009. In June 2009, he decided to try to set a record for one week sales, attracted 150 new patients, and collected $157,000. A few months later, he began offering his Newlife Network program to other chiropractors at a typical cost of $1,500 plus a monthly fee of 10% of collections with an eventual cap of $50,000 [1]. The system includes an advertising program that invited people to dial 1-800-PAIN-FREE to connect them to the participating chiropractor located nearest to their area code.

At the time that his trouble began, John O. Meadors owned and operated Utah Spine + Disc in Murray, Utah, a clinic that made glowing promises for relieving chronic pain. The clinic Web described him as “the nation’s leading back pain relief expert” and “the defacto unrivaled Number One Chiropractor in the U.S.” The site invited people to come for two free visits so he could prove they could experience the relief they have been looking for [2]. Meadors also operated Newlife Body Contour, which offered ultrasonic fat reduction and radio-frequency skin-tightening, which were claimed to improve the body’s appearance.

Meadors claimed that the cold-laser treatment available at Utah Spine + Disc was “restorative” and would “repair and build back essential structure such as a herniated disc, for instance, at the cellular level through the investment of electron-building photons that then rush to affected cells to create a super-production facility within the cells mitochondria generating massive amounts of energy to heal.” His laser device, manufactured by LiteCure, is FDA 510(k)-cleared as “for emitting energy in the infrared spectrum to provide topical heating for the purpose of elevating tissue temperature for temporary relief of minor muscle and joint pain, muscle spasm, pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and promoting relaxation of the muscle tissue and to temporarily increase local blood circulation.” [3] Various types of heat applications can provide temporary relief of back pain, but Meadors promised much more. His clinic also offered spinal decompression, exercises, and “an optimal mix of mineral content and supplementation.” [4]

Legal Trouble

In December 2012, Meadors was criminally charged with one count of second-degree felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that a “mentally disabled” patient was persuaded to sign a contract for 20 visits and open a $6,000 line of credit to pay for them without notifying her legal guardian who had accompanied her to the clinic. The Tribune article also stated that Meadors treated the woman three times but was paid $5,250 by CareCredit for treatments that included the free sessions and additional treatments that were not provided. Despite being told that the patient was disabled and that the contract was fraudulent, Meadors did not cancel any charges. Meanwhile, the credit card company was pressing for payment [5]. In June 2013, the Tribune reported that Meadors had issued a refund and the criminal case had been dropped [6]. However, the Licensing Division was concerned about what happened to this patient, what happened to another patient, and several other things.

In June 2012, the Division cited Meadors for practicing for three weeks after his license had expired, fined him $500, and subpoenaed the records of all patients he had treated during that period. Meadors quickly renewed his license and paid the $500 fine, but he claimed that he had not treated anyone during those weeks. Unfortunately for him, an undercover investigator had visited him as a patient. The Division was also concerned about Meadors’ patient management, insurance billings, and advertising practices. In May 2013, the Division charged him with unprofessional conduct [7] that included:

  • Failure to comply with subpoenas
  • Lying about the conduct of investigators and the status of his criminal case
  • Use of the term “doctor” in a television advertising that did not disclose that he was a chiropractor
  • Financial abuse of the retarded patient
  • Overcharging another patient for an orthotic insert
  • Failing to comply with requirements for cosmetic medical procedures

In February 2014, the Utah Chiropractic Physician Licensing Board upheld the charges and suspended Meadors’ license for a minimum of six months [8]. The board’s order said that before resuming practice, he would have to (a) establish clear pricing, refund procedures, and record-keeping procedures, (b) agree to submit future advertisements to the board for advance approval, and (c) secure a peer supervisor to oversee all aspects of his professional practice. In addition, if the board lifted the suspension, Meadors would be required to serve on probation for five years during which he would be required to take an approved course in ethics and comply with monitoring procedures [9]. In June 2017, the Licensing Division’s database indicated that his license had expired on May 31, 2016 while the suspension was still in effect.

The Bottom Line

Many chiropractors persuade patients to sign contracts for multiple visits and use CareCredit to finance them. I have seen contracts for as many as 100 visits. I am skeptical of such contracts because even if chiropractic treatment can legitimately help someone, it is not possible to know in advance that a large specified number of visits will be needed [10]. Meadors’ prosecution appears to be the first time a chiropractor has been criminally charged in connection with a multiple visit contract.

  1. Newlife laser success. YouTube video, Dec 17, 2010.
  2. Laser Spine + Disc Web site home page, accessed Dec 20, 2012.
  3. LiteCure Therapy System 510k summary (K103511), Jan 25, 2011.
  4. Treatments. Laser Spine + Disc Web site, accessed Dec 22, 2012.
  5. Dobner J. Chiropractor faces felony charge for fraudulent contract. Salt Lake City Tribune, Dec 17, 2012.
  6. Morgan E. Charges against Murray-based chiropractor dismissed. June 12, 2013.
  7. Petition. In the matter of the license of John Oliver Meadors to practice as a chiropractic physician in the State of Utah. Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, Case No. DOPL-2013-225, May 20, 2013.
  8. Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommended order. In the matter of the license of John Oliver Meadors to practice as a chiropractic physician in the State of Utah. Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, Case No. DOPL-2013-225, Feb 11, 2014.
  9. Order. In the matter of the license of John Oliver Meadors to practice as a chiropractic physician in the State of Utah. Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, Case No. DOPL-2013-225, Feb 12, 2014.
  10. Barrett S. Don’t pay or contract in advance for chiropractic visits at a “discount” price. Chirobase, July 11, 2010.

This article was revised on June 9, 2017.