Chiropractic: crackers now, and crackers way back when

[This is a repost of an article that appeared on 23 Dec 2011 in The Conversation].

Recently there was an excellent, and much read, article on The Conversation entitled There’s no place for pseudo-scientific chiropractic in Australian universities which made the case against chiropractic “medicine” all too well.

Dodgy doctors are dodgy wherever they live and are trained. Despite the value of a good and not-too-vigorous back massage (or perhaps some mild acupuncture), neither alternative medicine nor chiropractic make the grade as health sciences.

The article, by John Dwyer of the University of New South Wales, made me reflect that in 1998 Dr Bessie Borwein – whom among her many other attributes is my mother – had been involved in a similar, and largely successful battle to stop such bogus or unvetted programs becoming ensconced in Canadian Universities.

A quick web search reveals several websites – including Wikipedia’s Chiropractic in Canada entry – written largely by the chiropractic community. This makes make it clear that, even now, only one legitimate (if small) university (Trois Riviere in Quebec) hosts a chiropractic program. To put it mildly, there has been very little buy-in from the serious medical and health science community in Canada.

It made me a bit depressed to think a battle won in Canada more than a decade ago is only just being fought now in Australia and elsewhere. Sadly, this is often the case, and often the facts do not change when the dates and places do. Perhaps vehicles such as The Conversation and related modern electronic journalism can reduce the frequency of such events.

So, in that spirit, let me reproduce my mother’s letter – dated April 17, 1998 – when she was an Assistant Dean of Research at the University of Western Ontario – one of Canada’s top medical schools.

Earlier this month, a large group of serious medicos directly criticised a current attempt to set up a programme at Central Queensland University to add to those at RMIT, Macquarie and Murdoch.

All of these institutions presumably chose money over principle. Perhaps my mother’s succinct summary can help them reconsider.

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