At Your Own Risk: Prologue

Ralph Lee Smith

Linda Epping, an active and exceptionally beautiful child, was born February 8, 1953. In the summer of 1961 she developed a slight swelling above her left eye, and her parents took her to the University of California Medical Center in Los Angeles. On July 10th an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) on the staff of the medical school examined her and photographed the growth. Linda was admitted to the hospital the following week.

A biopsy of Linda’s tumor taken July 17th showed her to have a particularly dangerous and fast-growing type of cancer whose scientific name is embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. The tragic news was that immediate surgery was imperative, and that Linda’s left eye and the surrounding soft tissue in the orbit would have to be removed. The procedure, the doctors told the Eppings, would at least prolong Linda’s life and might possibly save it. The hopeful part of the picture was that, according to the hospital’s tests, the cancer was still localized. It had not spread to her brain or to any other part of her body, and apart from the tumor itself Linda was in good health.

Only parents faced with childhood cancer can know what the Eppings went through in the next four days. At noon on July 21st Mr. Epping called the physician and gave his consent to surgery

On that same afternoon, when the Eppings were at the hospital visiting Linda, they fell into conversation with a couple who told them that a chiropractor named Dr. Marvin Phillips had cured their son of a brain tumor without an operation.

At the subsequent trial, Mrs. Epping testified that she called Dr Phillips, told him of Linda’s condition, of the diagnosis, of the surgery that was to be performed, and asked if Dr. Phillips could help.

Yes,” Mrs. Epping testified that Dr. Phillips replied, “absolutely!”

According to Mrs. Epping testimony, Dr. Phillips repeated his unqualified statement that he could cure Linda’s cancer, both in the phone conversation and later in his office. She said that Dr. Phillips also described UCLA hospital as an experimental place where the doctors would use Linda as a guinea pig, cut her up, and kill her. She testified that he told them to get Linda out of the hospital and bring her to him the following day.

Mrs. Epping further stated that, when he was asked how much it would cost, Dr. Phillips said that the fee would be five hundred dollars, to be paid in advance, and at there would also be a charge of two hundred to three hundred dollars a month for medicines.

At 6 o I clock that evening the Eppings, acting against the advice of the physicians on the case, took Linda out of the hospital, and the next day they brought her to Dr. Phillips for treatment.

At the trial, Dr. Phillips admitted that he had charged a $500 fee and that he had also sold medicines to the Eppings, on which he made a 100% profit. He denied, however. that he had urged the Eppings to take Linda out of UCLA Hospital; on the contrary, he said, he had urged them to keep her in the hospital and to listen to the doctors there. After they took Linda out of the hospital, he testified that he told them they should take her back. He asserted that he had never told them that he could treat cancer, and that, when Linda was under his care, he was not treating her for cancer. Speaking of what chiropractors can do, he said, “We don’t cure cancer.” [The question of whether chiropractors attempt to treat cancer one that will be discussed m this book.]

From July 22 until August 13, Linda Epping was treated for her cancer by Dr. Phillips. A fundamental element of the treatment was a daily manipulation of Linda’s spine. Dr. Phillips explained that it was a “chiropractic adjustment.”

In addition to the adjustments, Dr. Phillips also provided the Eppings with a large supply of vitamins, minerals, food supplements, and laxatives for Linda to take. At the height of the regimen she was required to swallow 124 pills a day, including such items as desiccated ox bile and extract of beef eyes.

While Linda got her daily adjustments and took her pills, the tumor grew swiftly. By August 13th it was the size of a tennis ball and had pushed the eye out of the socket and down along the nose. On this date the Eppings fired Dr. Phillips and called a medical doctor. He urged them to take Linda back to the hospital, but told them frankly that in his opinion the case was now beyond treatment or cure. Nearly beside themselves with grief, the Eppings turned to the courts.

On the late afternoon of December 20, 1961, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John W. Miner was led by Mr. Epping to his daughter’s bedside. “Seasoned as I am by observation of many score of autopsies of burned, raped, drowned, strangled, stabbed, shot, accident-mangled, even tumor-ridden bodies,” he says, “it was all I could do to keep from abruptly leaving the room. The right half of Linda’s face was that of an angel. The left half was covered by a growth so monstrous as to seem beyond nature’s capacity to be so cruel and grotesque.” Later on, at the trial, the judge prohibited John Miner from showing Linda’s death pictures to the jury; they were so terrible, he believed, that they might deprive the jury of the ability to weigh the issues rationally.

 On December 29, 1961, six weeks before her ninth birthday, Linda Epping died. Miner sought and secured from the grand jury an indictment against Phillips, charging him with second-degree murder, for stating that he could cure Linda and thereby keeping her from medical treatment that doctors stated would have prolonged her life and might have saved it. Phillips was convicted in 1963, but the conviction was set aside by appellate courts. He was retried and reconvicted in December, 1967. His conviction was subsequently upheld on appeal.

The case — according to Miner, apparently the first one in the seven-hundred-year history of Anglo-American law in which a man was found guilty of murdering with words alone — is a fascinating one for legal scholars. But much more is involved. Chiropractors are taught that chiropractic “adjustment of the spine is the true, proper, and correct treatment for many or most types of human disease. The questions raised by this belief go far beyond the death of a single child. They are cardinal issues of public safety and public health.

Chiropractor Gets Prison
After Murder Appeals Fail

LOS ANGELES, July 9 (UPI)-A chiropractor, Marvin M. Phillips, was sentenced to five years to life in prison today after losing appeals on a second-degree murder conviction in the death of an 8-year-old girl in 1961.

He was convicted twice of second-degree murder in the death of Linda Epping, who succumbed to cancer of the eye in 1961.

Phillips, who continued to practice for eight years after his first conviction, was accused of having the young girl removed from the U.C.L.A. Medical Center after assuring her parents he could cure the girl without surgery for $500.

His first conviction was overturned by an appeal court because of a judicial error.

My experience has been that most people, including those who have been under chiropractic care, do not know what a D.C. — doctor of chiropractic — is. People I have talked to usually have the vague notion that a chiropractor is a spinal specialist whose training differs from, but is not scientifically inferior to, that of other medical specialties.

The purpose of this book is to set forth what a chiropractor is, what be believes, and what he does. To do so, we must first go back to the nineteenth century and look in on the life and ideas of a grocer and fishmonger of Davenport, Iowa, named Daniel David Palmer. Palmer believed that the golden secret of the ages — the cause and cure of human illness — had been vouchsafed to him and him alone.

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