The New Zealand Chiropractic Report: An Evaluation (1980)

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.
June 9, 2001

New Zealand has a government subsidized, cradle-to-grave medical and hospital services program. In 1975, a petition containing more than 94,000 signatures was presented to Parliament asking that chiropractic services be subsidized on the same basis as other health services. Thus, a Commission of Inquiry into Chiropractic was established which began its work in January 1978.

The Commission consisted of a three-person panel which included a barrister, a chemistry professor, and a retired headmistress of a girls secondary school. They were to study:

  1. the practice and philosophy of chiropractic, its scientific and educational basis, and whether it constitutes a separate and distinct healing art;
  2. the contribution chiropractic could make to the health services of New Zealand; and,
  3. any other matters that may be thought . . . to be relevant to the general objects of the inquiry [1].

In October 1979, the Commission issued its report. The results have practical significance only for the 93 chiropractors of that small island nation but have meaning for chiropractic everywhere.

From the perspective of chiropractic in the United States, much of what the Commission had to say in the text of the report appears favorable and has already been widely extolled in chiropractic literature. However, the recommendations which summarize its findings can only be seen as devastating to the chiropractic guilds in this country.

The Commission would strip chiropractic of its major claim of being an alternative health care system to medicine. It would forbid chiropractors from “by words or conduct inducing any person to believe that a chiropractor should be consulted in the first instance in preference to a registered medical practitioner, in respect to any disease or disorder; or for failing to take reasonable steps to advise a patient to consult (or continue consulting) a registered medical practitioner when consulted by a patient he knows or ought to know (emphasis mine) is suffering from a disorder requiring medical care.” In addition, chiropractors are not to “exhibit or publish to the public” any circular designed for general publication which has not been approved by the Association.” [2] The publications the Commission wants to prohibit are spine charts, standard form letters, and pamphlets like those widely used in the United States that extol benefits of chiropractic for a wide variety of human ailments. The Commission called these kinds of materials “totally unprofessional.” [3] It added that it was beyond them “to understand how chiropractors can complain that the medical profession does not take them seriously when they use materials of the kind mentioned.” [4]

To further protect the public from being “misled into believing” that chiropractic is an alternative to medicine, the Commission would also forbid chiropractors from using the title “doctor” and “any notice or sign or any publicity material [5] which projects a public image as doctors rather than chiropractors.

Moreover, the Commission would see to it that chiropractors were strictly monitored. Rather than leaving enforcement of the code of conduct it recommends to voluntary, professional self-discipline, the Commission would institute a Statutory Complaints Committee and [6] enforce its disciplinary actions by criminal penalties (i.e. fine or imprisonment as well as suspension from practice). The rights of appeal would be shifted from the Chiropractic Board to the High Court [7].

These strong and restrictive recommendations seem paradoxical in light of the amount of rhetoric favoring chiropractic within the text of the report. This apparent self-contradiction is resolved when one closely scrutinizes the chiropractic enigma and the Commission’s approach.

How the Commission Reached Its Conclusions

Anyone attempting to study chiropractic is immediately confronted by the problem of definition. There is no clear, unified definition of what constitutes a “chiropractor.” Indeed, chiropractors themselves are at such odds over the issue that chiropractic is a house divided against itself. Two major professional associations exist which disagree with each other, in some cases to the point of legal hostility, over what constitutes “chiropractic.” Obviously, if the chiropractors themselves cannot decide what they are, it is difficult for anyone else to do so.

The most obvious and commonly used way of differentiating between chiropractic factions is the
straight/mixer dichotomy.
Straights are chiropractors who employ only spinal manipulations for the purpose of correcting “subluxations.”
Mixers mix other treatment modalities into their practices. However, this simple dichotomy is inadequate to describe the heterogeneity within chiropractic. The wide range chiropractors cover is better understood in terms of a continuum. In an attempt to clarify the problem of definition and more accurately portray the wide spectrum of chiropractics, this writer has developed the the following schematic.

Radical religious Adhere strictly to original Palmerian theory including belief in the INNATE INTELLIGENCE —a metaphysical, pantheistic notion of “God in man” or “soul” as the life force interfered with by “subluxations”
Conservative straight Limit Practice to spinal manipulation only. May secularize belief in INNATE to “nerve flow” interference. Does not apply chiropractic to all diseases
Moderate mixer Differ very little from the “conservative straight” except to add other modalities to practice
Liberal mixer Add as many different modalities to the practice as the law allows. Many range as wide in philosophy as to believe “anything can cause anything” and be helped by anything. May be regarded as Eclectics or rampant Empiricists

The “radical religious” chiropractors are those who adhere strictly to the original theory that vertebral subluxations are the principle cause of disease as proclaimed by D. D. Palmer. (“Subluxations” to a chiropractor are not the same as those defined in medical jargon. Their notion of “subluxations” involves structural dysfunctions which presumably cause interference with normal nerve function, producing disease.) Further, they include the belief that the impingement of the nervous system affects not simply the flow of nerve impulses but the “Innate Intelligence”—a pantheistic concept of “God in man” or “soul.” These chiropractors see themselves as purists. For them chiropractic remains the revealed word enlightenment passed down by the Fountain Head and discoverer, D. D. Palmer. (D.D. Palmer referred to himself as the Fountain Head of Chiropractic when he modestly proclaimed his brainchild to be the “grandest and greatest science the world has ever known.) This extreme end of the spectrum is represented by chiropractic colleges like the ADIO and Sherman Colleges which eschew accreditation by the Council of Chiropractic Education (CCE) because of its Mixer philosophy. (ADIO is derived from “above-down inside-out,” the path supposedly followed by the Innate a gives life to the body.) Life College would be placed slightly to their right because it a pays tribute to the Innate and sells chiropractic as an alternative to medicine but pragmatically seeks to achieve CCE accreditation.

For chiropractors on this end of the continuum the Commission had harsh words. It criticized references in a chiropractic textbook (Homewood’s Neurodynamics of the Vertebral Subluxation, 2nd ed., 1962) to D. D. Palmer’s “principles” as jarring “on the sensibilities of those trained in the basic medi sciences” and not representative of the “official view” of the chiropractic colleges they visited [8]. The Commission stated that the belief that “exertion of pressure on a spinal nerve which by interfering with the planned expression Innate Intelligence produces pathology” would not be subscribed by any reputable chiropractor [9] and said that the mention of “Innate Intelligence” in the Palmer College Bulletin prompted “reservations” on their part [10].

Clearly, the Commission felt free to proclaim that “mode chiropractic,” as they define it, is not an “unscientific cult.” [11] However, speaking as a scholar I must say that the Commission appeared to be confused about what constitutes a cult. According to the dictionary [12], one definition of a cult is system for the cure of disease based upon dogma set forth by promulgator.” Incontestibly, the basis for the notion that “subluxations” (or mechanical interferences with spinal nerve flow in any other terms ) produce disease was born in the mind of D.D. Palmer, not determined by quantified observations nerve impulses. Using established definitions this makes adherence to such a belief without objective evidence a form of cultism. Despite the numerous rewordings chiropractors have given to Palmer’s spinal subluxation theory its essence remains unchanged. I can see no real difference between terms like “subluxations” and “pathomechanical states . . . related to the dynamics of the locomotor system . . . of the spine and pelvis” (p. 248) or “relationships between structure and function which are most significant(ly) expressed in relationships between the nervous system (p. 247) and spinal column.” These are but a sample of the verbal gymnastics chiropractors employ their attempt to modernize Palmer’s original tenet.

The Commission also ignored the dictionary in the matter what constitutes a “philosophy.” They say:

The (Palmer College) bulletin deals with various hypotheses which are proposed to explain the influence of mechanical dysfunction on various body systems via the nervous system—this is scarcely philosophy [13].\

They were apparently unaware that one of the definitions Webster’s” dictionary offers for a philosophy is “a theory underlying a sphere of activity or thought.” [14] The principle that mechanical dysfunctions affect bodily health via the nervous system underlies all such hypotheses and is clearly based upon Palmer’s original notion. This constitutes “philosophy” according to normative definitions.

This failure by the Commission to grasp the basis for designating chiropractic as a cult or to adequately show why it should not continue to be regarded as such by scientists and scholars causes a great deal of confusion within the report. This is exacerbated by the fact that although many reservations were expressed concerning the “subluxation” theory, the Commission eventually came to accept that it was not “unreasonable in thinking in terms of a “subluxation.” [15]

The Commission did not discuss in any detail chiropractors represented on the extreme right side of the continuum. It does clearly reject the idea that chiropractors should attempt to treat Type O disorders.” [16] (Type O disorders are those of an organic or visceral nature. Type M disorders are strictly musculoskeletal in nature.)

Since liberal mixers tend to be rampant empirics it is doubtful that they would be any more acceptable than the radical religious zealots. Both of these appear to be included in the “mavericks” [17] and “hard sell” [18] chiropractors the Commission condemned.

Chiropractors occupying the middle ground tend to be more acceptable because of their conservatism, I believe these constituted what the Commission believed the New Zealand brand of everyday practicing chiropractor to be. However, evidence given by New Zealand chiropractors themselves showed that they were not staying within the bounds idealized by the Commission as “modern chiropractic.” [19] Chiropractor Mudgway, whom the Commission judged to be “honest, efficient, hardworking, practical, and dedicated, [20] was said to have been an “impressive witness . . . on whom we could rely,” [21] disapproved of extravagant claims of the manner used in chiropractic pamphlets (some of which were in use by other New Zealand chiropractors), [22] but still clings to the idea that chiropractic can properly be applied to a wide variety of disorders and approves of the concept of a “family chiropractor” to whom the whole family can resort for regular spinal check-ups and treatment [23].

There is a kind of chiropractic practitioner which does not belong on the continuum at all. This is the chiropractor who has renounced the cultism of chiropractic (i.e., the “subluxation” of nerve interference theory by any other name) either explicitly or implicitly. I label these practitioners Chiropractic Manipulative Therapists. (The word therapist implies that manipulation is appropriate for treating trauma or pathology. No such meaning is intended as no evidence currently exists to support such an application. Rather, it is suggested that these practitioners would use manipulation and other methods as physical therapists do.) These have a chiropractic diploma and use the title “chiropractor” for the purpose of state licensure. These individuals practice as empirics; who employ spinal manipulation, heat, massage, diathermy, and other physical techniques to reduce muscle spasms for the purpose of relieving musculoskeletal complaints. They would not apply their techniques to any suspected cases of pathology or trauma without medical supervision. These practitioners may not be well versed in the scientific method but do seek to employ its principles and wish to put chiropractic on a rational basis. In chapter 45, the Commission describes “the chiropractor of the future.” Their description comes closer to describing these “chiropractic manipulative therapists” than any other existing group.

Interestingly, the Commission’s idea of what constitutes the idealized modern chiropractor is more like Peter Modde’s model of what a chiropractor should be than any clearly discernible example of what the Commission reported chiropractic to be in their inquiry. This is particularly curious considering the unfriendly treatment afforded Modde by the Commission.

Once it becomes clear that the Commission defines chiropractic as an idealized practitioner that rejects the cultism, abhors the extravagant promotionalism, seeks to put chiropractic on a scientific basis, and does not wish to be thought of as an alternative to medicine, the rhetoric within their report becomes more understandable and the conclusions and recommendations begin to make sense.

In the final analysis, the Commission dealt painful blows to all sides. Medical doctors would be forced to cooperate with chiropractors and permit them to work within hospitals. Physiotherapists and members of the New Zealand Manipulative Therapists Association, a group of dedicated practitioners who have worked hard to put manipulative therapy on a scientific basis, would be forced to give way to chiropractors as the group favored by the government to receive financial support. And chiropractors, as was noted at the beginning of this monograph, would be stripped of their major claims. Despite this, chiropractic may still be seen by some to be the major winner because it would appear to have been legitimized. It is my view, however, that chiropractic has been merely extended the opportunity to be legitimized if it is willing to fit itself into the Commission’s idealized version of “modern chiropractic.”

Weaknesses of the Report

Considering the practical realities of the problem posed by the chiropractic enigma, the Commission’s recommendations seem appropriate within the New Zealand context. New Zealand offers a unique setting under which it might possibly be demonstrated whether or not chiropractic can be brought into the mainstream of scientific health care. Unfortunately, the Commission’s report has so many weaknesses within its text that its constructive solutions may be discredited.

What stands out in the report is it capriciousness. Part of the reason appears to lie in the Commission’s small size and domination by the chairman. This limited the Commission’s abilities, perspective, and judgment and did not allow for sufficient checks and balances upon individual biases.

The Commission seemed guided more by its subjective judgment about personalities than the evidence individuals presented. They make repeated references to how different witnesses “impressed” them, were “regarded,” “won their respect,” or affected their personal opinion in some way. Sometimes they appear so arbitrary in this practice as to suggest that such judgment might be based upon whether or not the witness’s testimony lent support to their point of view. This was exemplified in the following incident:

The Commission found its views on Type O cases reinforced by an unexpected medical witness … An hour’s conversation with him left the Commission in no doubt that he was highly intelligent and open-minded, This testimony was heard in private without opportunity for cross-examination, nevertheless, the Commission found evidence convincing and helpful [25].

This tendency to flatter witnesses favorable to their point of view and impugn those not so disposed is evident throughout the report. The Commission seemed to suspend critical judgment of those who favorably impressed them. Dr Scott Haldeman was eulogized by the Commission as “a witness with an impeccable medical and scientific background” because of his study of medicine and neurophysiology. Even though it was noted that he was a third generation chiropractor, the Commission didn’t seem concerned about any deep emotional ties Haldeman might have to chiropractic which might motivate him to be mainly an apologist for it. He was further described as “one of the most impressive and valuable witnesses in the whole inquiry,” [26] apparently because he epitomized the Commission’s concept of what modern chiropractic might become. I find it curious that Haldeman should be so highly regarded by the Commission. He may at some future time make a contribution to either the fields of neurophysiology or manipulative therapy, but I am not aware that he has done either as yet. Presently Haldeman appears to occupy some kind of limbo between chiropractic and medical science. His published criticisms of the lack of science within chiropractic are quite orthodox [27], but his need to defend its image has led to some strange comments. In his submission Haldeman charges that the Palmerian theory is but one used by chiropractors and that it is not subscribed to by even a majority of chiropractors. He calls it “the theory most commonly quoted by non-chiropractors.” [28] This statement is puzzling because the essence of the Palmer theory is the basis for every published theory on chiropractic I have ever seen, including the legal definitions of the practice of chiropractic in most states. The Commission revealed its biases by extolling testimony by medical witnesses favorable to chiropractic while it discounted testimony critical of chiropractic given by other medical witnesses as prejudiced.

The Commission exhibited a substantial degree of ambivalence toward the subluxation theory. In one place they took a cue from the New Zealand Chiropractic Association’s submission and declared that “a general theory of chiropractic is not easy to distill,” and that in their view, “chiropractic theories have only just begun to evolve on a scientific basis” [29], but later on they express support for the existence of subluxations by casting the burden of proof for its nonexistence on chiropractic’s critics. [30].

A major underlying defect the Commission suffered from was an obvious lack of competence in evaluating scientific claims. This deficiency was especially evident in their failure to appreciate the reasoning behind the fact that the burden of proof rests upon chiropractic to provide evidence for their claims, not the scientific establishment. The Commission refers directly to it but fails in its reasoning:

The argument that the burden of proof should be placed on the chiropractors is an attractive one, but in the circumstances we find it evades the real issue. The belief central to chiropractic is that a mechanical vertebral dysfunction can, through some neurological mechanism, not only cause local pain but also influence visceral function. Current neurophysiological knowledge is simply inadequate to subject this belief to thorough scientific scrutiny, and chiropractors cannot be held responsible for these shortcomings. Certainly on present knowledge, their theory cannot be ruled out [31].

The Commission doesn’t seem to understand that before a “mechanical vertebral dysfunction” theory deserves consideration, it needs to be shown that spinal manipulation has a significant influence upon visceral function or pain beyond what could be expected from simply reducing muscle spasms. Chiropractic remains unproven on the clinical level, not in the sphere limited by present knowledge of neurophysiology. During my testimony, I had attempted to instruct the Commission on the rationale behind placing the burden of proof upon proponents. I used a simple analogy I regularly employ in my classes to illustrate the point by posing a situation of someone believing that “dingo milk” cures cancer and following the process whereby they would be required to give evidence for their hypothesis. I was chagrined to find that reference was made to the analogy but not the important point it was supposed to illustrate in the final report [32]. Included was the suggestion that I was under the misconception that New Zealand was part of Australia because of having mentioned dingoes, The report states:

Dr Jarvis had introduced as an example (possibly because of the misconception shared by many Californians that New Zealand is part of Australia) the use of dingo milk as cure for cancer [32].

I mention this bit of trivia because I believe it indicates the mentality of the Commission’s report.

A second problem caused by the Commission naiveté was the inability to resist being overly impressed by anecdotal reports of chiropractic effectiveness by satisfied patients. The Commission acknowledged that a “selection effect” was at work regarding the questionnaire the Chiropractic Association had circulated, and gave lip service to the danger of accepting anecdotal evidence. I had spent time pointing out the pitfalls of testimonials [33], but the impact was apparently overwhelming. The Commission cites a number of possible rival hypotheses and did note that the evidence was not “decisive, but is compelling.” [34] Unfortunately, it was not apparent at the time that it was necessary to provide the Commission with an in-depth education on why people can mistakenly attribute their somatic improvement following manipulation to the explanations they have been provided by their chiropractors. While in the final analysis the Commission provided adequate safeguards in their recommendations, it seems apparent that the subjective influence of these testimonials had a significant impact on the attitudes of Commission members because they labeled them “impressive.” [35]

Another spectacular failure to appreciate the scientific process was the complete avoidance of the most pertinent and practical test which can be applied to the whole chiropractic question, that is, the reliability of the clinical identification of the “subluxation”, or in Haldeman’s terms, “manipulative lesion.” [36] The Commission could have spared itself a great deal of effort had they undertaken the same test several others have to see whether a number of different chiropractors without conspiring can find subluxations with any degree of consistency in the same patients on the same day. Such a test is not expensive nor does it require special facilities. It enables the chiropractors to perform as they do under everyday circumstances. Granted, it would not prove the efficacy of manipulative therapy, but it would have told the Commission whether or not the whole notion of chiropractic subluxations was worth pursuing. Apparently, even Dr Haldeman would endorse such a test because he has criticized research efforts which are directed at finding more accurate ways of measuring a subluxation “in the absence of any solid data that the subluxation is worth measuring.” [37] Scientists would be at least somewhat impressed if the lesions chiropractors purport to exist could be consistently found. [The fact that chiropractors will conspire when forced to objectively demonstrate “subluxations” is evidenced by the fact that soon after chiropractors were included under Medicare they met in Houston (November, 1972) and agreed upon what would be interpreted as radiographic evidence of a vertebral subluxation to be uniformly used in medical reporting. This was made known to the Commission in the New Zealand Medical Society submission (pp. 46-50) but received no comment.]

The Commission also did not seem to appreciate evaluations made from the perspective of protecting health consumers. Consumerists view issues in the health marketplace with the concept of Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) in mind. It is not the purpose of a consumer evaluation to dwell upon the possible benefits which might accrue serendipitously or otherwise from using a product or service. The question is whether or not these products or services can be expected ordinarily to live up to the claims made by their promoters, involve potential harm, or should be viewed with skepticism by prospective buyers for some other reason.

The New Zealand Consumers’ Council, Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, Inc., Consumers’ Union, Peter Modde, Murray Katz, myself (all witnesses at the Commission), and others have found great discrepancy between what chiropractors claim in their advertising, publicity materials, professional journals, and other official statements and what they can prove. The Commission dismisses such extravagant claims as “unprofessional” and the practices of a few “mavericks,” and so forth. It focuses on chiropractors presumed not to engage in such practice. Its harsh criticisms of consumer groups is unwarranted because they are merely warning the public about the abuses which the Commission itself abhors. The Commission displayed a distinct lack of insight not to have realized this themselves.

The Commission greatly overextended itself when it criticized the work of Dr Stephen Barrett of the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, Inc. Without examining his evidence, receiving a submission, cross-examination, or visiting him when in America, they completely discounted Barrett’s written work and impugned his motives in the same manner as they did all others critical of chiropractic. Having examined Dr Barrett’s work myself, I consider their treatment of him completely unjustified. Dr Barrett carries out very thorough, well-conceived studies and investigations. Did he not, he would have found himself in legal difficulty long ago.

The Commission’s negative attitude toward medicine was clearly revealed on pages 37-39. Relating the story of bonesetter Sir Herbert Barker’s rejection by the London medical community early in this century, the Commission stated, “We believe that the Barker episode goes some distance towards explaining the attitude of New Zealand organized medicine towards chiropractic.” The Commission refers to this bias against Barker several times [38,39].

The idea conveyed is that medical science has traditionally resisted new scientific advancements such as those of Semmelweis, Harvey, and Fleming. Unfamiliar with the details of the Barker case, I can only evaluate it according to what is presented in the Commission’s report. Nowhere does it say that Barker made a contribution to the advancement of medical science as did these other great pioneers. Maple [40] attributes his success to art. The fact Barker was knighted certainly doesn’t disqualify him from deserving to be labeled a medical quack. Not all quacks are deliberate frauds, nor are people well qualified in some fields immune from quackery in others. The Commission does not present adequate evidence to show that the London medical establishment acted wrongly by rejecting Barker.

By utilizing the Barker episode, the Commission attempted to discredit not only the submission of the New Zealand Medical Association but any medical testimony which conflicted with their views as self-serving, bigoted, or uninformed and, therefore, without merit. The Commission also seemed to confuse the organized medical profession with science in general. It repeatedly referred to opposition to the unproven claims of chiropractic as a phenomenon of organized medicine. It failed to see that it is the scientific community that chiropractic must convince, not simply organized professional medicine.

The report also contained an outstanding contradiction regarding the schism between medicine and chiropractic. In its summary of the chapter dealing with chiropractic as a separate and distinct healing art, the Commission blames organized medicine for having “compelled the development of chiropractic as a separate discipline.” [41] However, on the very next page it states that chiropractic “developed separately for two main reasons; first, the initial belief that it provided an approach alternative to medicine to general health care; and secondly, the neglect by the medical profession of spinal manual therapy.” [42] Reasoning that chiropractic was compelled by medicine’s attitude to develop separately and its own self-concept as an alternative to medicine are contradictory. If chiropractors believed they provided an alternative why then, would they want to become a part of medicine? This is reinforced by another statement later on: “in fairness to the Medical Association, it has to be repeated that the opposition of organized medicine has been stimulated by the extravagant claims and the attitude of a few chiropractors.” [43] I can only speculate that perhaps the belief in the “Barker bias hypothesis” clouded the Commission’s judgment in this matter.

Having had the opportunity to study most of the major submissions, I was stunned by the way those of medical experts were treated. Rather than considering the merit of the evidence presented or showing that error existed in the purported facts, the Commission simply brushed them aside as medical prejudice. By the same reasoning it should have disregarded the chiropractic submission on the same basis, but did not. Ironically, the report commended the Medical Association for its cooperation in producing documentation for references to texts and articles, chastising the Chiropractors” Association for failing to comply [44]. However, in the final analysis, it was the Medical Association’s submission which ws denigrated.

The Commission engaged in some strange reasoning at times. They recount a conversation with Chiropractor L.E. Fay of National College regarding the problem of chiropractors serving as primary entry health-care deliverers recognizing serious pathology [45]. Fay maintained, and the Commission reported that they were inclined to agree, that there was a clear distinction between patients in the hospital and those who “come through the practitioner’s office door.” Neither Fay nor the Commission seemed to grasp the fact that before these hospitalized patients were diagnosed and admitted to the hospital they had to come through the office door of someone who was competent to judge their needs.

Another strange bit of reasoning employed by the Commission involved the comparison of deficiencies in chiropractic with those of medical science. The Commission seems to believe that all ignorance is equal. For example, they note that the theories underlying medical treatment are not always fully understood and since chiropractic is not fully understood either, they should be given the same consideration [46]. It seems obvious that there is a great deal of difference between the ignorance which always will exist on the “cutting edge” of science as new ideas are probed and tested and that implied in a theory such as chiropractic with its notable deficiencies.

The Commission addresses the practical nature of the problem they face when they state that it is unrealistic not to yield to demands for recognition of chiropractic. They note that chiropractic has been recognized by statute for some years and “it is simply not practicable to recommend that the position registered chiropractors and their patients have enjoyed for many years now be fundamentally altered.” [47]

The Commission continued this political pragmatism in their discussion of the effects on medical ethics permitting referrals by doctors to chiropractors. Against the logical contention that breaking the principle of not associating with unscientific practitioners automatically opens the doors to all others, they state: “This will not open the door to homeopaths, naturopaths, iridologists, or faith healers, for the simple reason that those groups are not organized health professions recognized by statute, as the chiropractics are.” [48] This bit of political reasoning could possibly have a boomerang effect (I am aware that boomerangs are native to Australia, not New Zealand). Now that the Commission has made the formula clear for recognition (i.e. a petition demonstrating enough public demand regardless of scientific validity) perhaps the homeopaths, naturopaths, and faith healers would like to organize into professional groups as the Laetrilists, reflexologists, megavitaminists, and other proponents of unproven remedies have done in the United States and begin putting on the pressure for legalization. If only 93 chiropractors can accomplish it, certainly these others can also.

As damaging as these failings must appear to the credibility of the Commission, I still wish to emphasize that their constructive recommendations appear to have merit. If New Zealand chiropractors are willing to fit into the prescribed definition, and if New Zealand medicine will give it a chance to work, there is hope for resolving the problems that exist between science and chiropractic. Perhaps within the confines of a small country with a state health plan under the strong traditional authoritarianism associated with the Commonwealth nations, an experiment can be made. If the plan is successful in New Zealand, perhaps it could serve as a model for chiropractic elsewhere in the world.

It is doubtful, however, if such a plan would resolve the problem we face in the United States. Each of the factions within chiropractic here appear to be too strong to ever come to terms with each other, much less comply with the New Zealand model.

  1. Commission of Inquiry. Chiropractic in New Zealand. Report of the Commission of Inquiry (Wellington, New Zealand: P. D. Hasselberg, Government Printer, 1979), p. xii.
  2. Ibid, p. 3D9.
  3. Ibid, p. 95, paragraph 28.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid, p. 268.
  6. Ibid, p. 306.
  7. Ibid, p. 310.
  8. Ibid, p. 247, paragraph 5.
  9. Ibid, p. 218, paragraph 98.
  10. Ibid, p. 247, paragraph 6.
  11. Ibid, p. 3, paragraph 14.
  12. Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merrian Company, 1972), p. 202.
  13. Commission of inquiry, p. 247, paragraph 6.
  14. Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary, p. 635.
  15. Commission of Inquiry, p. 187, paragraph 15.
  16. Ibid, p. 309.
  17. Ibid, pp. 61, 253,299.
  18. Ibid, pp. 188, 299, paragraph 18.
  19. Ibid, pp. 185-8.
  20. Ibid, p. 187, paragraph 14.
  21. Ibid, p. 186, paragraph 13.
  22. Ibid, p. 188, paragraph 15.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid, pp. 239-40.
  25. Ibid, p. 59, paragraphs 15-19.
  26. Ibid, p. 195, paragraph 6.
  27. Haldeman S. Basic principles in establishing a chiropractic clinic trial. The ACA Journal of Chiropractic, May 1978, pp. 33-37.
  28. Scott Haldeman, A Submission to the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Chiropractic, No. 131, p. 43.
  29. Commission of Inquiry, p. 43.
  30. Ibid, pp. 120-1, paragraphs 7-9.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid, p. 108, paragraph 13.
  33. William T. Jervis, transcript of cross-examination, pp. 1532-6.
  34. Commission of Inquiry, p. 152, paragraph 12.
  35. Ibid, p. 176, paragraph 86.
  36. Ibid, p. 51, paragraph 13.
  37. Scott Haldeman, “The Importance of Research in the Principles and Practice of Chiropractic.” Worldwide Report, January 1977.
  38. Commission of Inquiry, p. 120, paragraph 6.
  39. Ibid, p. 128, paragraph 50.
  40. Maple, Eric, Magic, Medicine and Quackery (New York: Barnes, 1968), p. 179.
  41. Commission of Inquiry, p. 66, paragraph 19.
  42. Ibid, p. 67, paragraph 1.
  43. Ibid, p. 179, paragraph 8.
  44. Ibid, p. 178, paragraph 4.
  45. Ibid, p. 235, paragraph 34.
  46. Ibid, p. 220, paragraphs 109-12.
  47. Ibid, p. 122, paragraph 16.
  48. Ibid, p. 265, paragraph 69.

This report was published in the
New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy in April 1980. At the time it was written, Dr. Jarvis was Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, Loma Linda University, California, and specialized in consumer health education, evaluating claims made for products and services in the health marketplace. His Ph.D. thesis (University of Oregon 1973) was on chiropractic. The New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists had brought him to New Zealand to testify before the Commission of Inquiry into chiropractic. In addition to expertise as a consumer specialist, he provided testimony on research methods and how to evaluate scientific claims. He was able to read most of the major submissions and transcripts of testimony by certain key witnesses.

This article was posted on June 9, 2001.