After more than a century of institutional discrimination against blacks in the medical profession, the American Medical Association has finally admitted its role in promoting such discrimination, issuing an apology for all the harm its racist policies have caused over the years. You can read the apology on the AMA Website.
Unknown to most consumers, the American Medical Association barred physicians from becoming members of the AMA unless they were first accepted as members of local AMA chapters, yet many local AMA chapters had rules specifically barring membership of black doctors well into the 1960’s.
The medical profession has a long history of discrimination, particularly against alternative healing professions. While always claiming public safety as its reasons for the attacks, the true reasons involve protecting their monopoly of the health care market.
In the past, medicine has fought battles to limit the practices of such professionals as homeopaths, naturopaths, osteopaths, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists, psychologists and chiropractors. In the case of osteopathy and chiropractic, there are distinct differences in the approach to healing and health when compared to medicine. The last thing that organized medicine wants is for their doctrine of drugs and surgery to be challenged.
Osteopaths allowed themselves to be absorbed by medicine–today there is little difference between an M.D. and a D.O. Chiropractic on the other hand, fought hard–through the personalities of those like B.J.Palmer to remain a separate and distinct profession.
Medicines opposition to chiropractic was at its strongest under the leadership of Morris Fishbein. Fishbein as Secretary of the American Medical Association from 1924 to 1949, lead a 25 year anti-chiropractic campaign in both professional publications and the public media. Fishbein called chiropractors “rabid dogs” and referred to them as “playful and cute..but killers.” He tried to portray chiropractors as members of an unscientific cult, caring about noting but taking their patients money.
In 1949 the AMA removed Fishbein but continued its wage an anti-chiropractic campaign. In 1971, H. Doyle Taylor, the Director of the AMA Department of Investigation, and Secretary of its Committee on Quackery (COQ), submitted a memo to the AMA Board of Trustees stating:
Since the AMA Board of Trustees decision, at its meeting on November 2-3, 1963, to establish a Committee on Quackery, your Committee has considered its prime mission to be, first, the containment of chiropractic and, ultimately, the elimination of chiropractic.
The following is an excerpt from the COQ’s first annual report to the Board of the AMA:
…The Involvement (and indoctrination) of the State Medical Society leadership, in our opinion, is vital to the success of the chiropractic program…We hope and believe that, with continued aggressive AMA activity, chiropractic can and will be contained at the national level and that steps are being taken to stop or eliminate the licenser of chiropractic at the state level.
In 1967 the COQ released its anti chiropractic campaign goals:
Basically, the Committee’s short-range objectives for containing the cult of chiropractic and any additional recognition it might achieve revolves about four points:
1. Doing everything within our power to see that chiropractic coverage under title 18 of the Medicare Law is not obtained.
2. Doing everything within our power to see that the recognition or listing by the U.S. Office of Education of a chiropractic accrediting agency is not achieved.
3. To encourage contained separation of the two national chiropractic associations.
4. To encourage state medical societies to take the initiative in their state legislatures in regard to legislation that might affect the practice of chiropractic.
The AMA through its Committee on Quackery continued its war against chiropractic through such acts as, distributing propaganda to the nation’s teachers and guidance councilors, eliminating the inclusion of chiropractic from the U.S Department of Labor’s, Health Careers Guidebook, and establishing specific educational guidelines for medical schools regarding the “hazards to individuals from the unscientific cult of chiropractic.”
The AMA did not stop with these acts of propaganda against the chiropractic profession. They worked both publicly and politically to insure that chiropractic failed as a profession. But, even with all of this negative publicity against the profession, chiropractic continued to gain acceptance with the general public, because chiropractic got results.
In 1975 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Goldfarb vs. The Virginia State Bar that learned professions are not exempt form antitrust suites. In 1982 the Court ruled that the FTC can enforce antitrust laws against medical societies. These two suites paved the way in 1976 for five chiropractors to file an anti-trust suite against the AMA and several other heath care agencies and societies in Federal District Court (known as the Wilkes Case).
Similar suites were filed in New York and Pennsylvania in 1979. The pressure of these law suites forced the AMA even before these suites went to court to propose a modification of their Medical Code of Ethics which prohibited M.D.s from associating with chiropractors. But, it was not until 1980 that the Ethics Code was changed to reflect that each individual doctor may decide for themselves whether to accept a patient from or refer a patient to a chiropractor or other limited practitioner.
The law suites caused so much fear in the medical profession that Mike Wallace (of 60 minutes) was unable to find an M.D. to take the anti-chiropractic side for a 1979 documentary piece on chiropractic.
In 1980 the Wilkes suite went to court, were the AMA and other defendants were found not guilty of all charges. That decision was overturned and a new trial was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals in February 1983.
Judge Susan Getzendanner found the AMA and others guilty of an illegal conspiracy against the chiropractic profession in September of 1987, ordering a permeate injunction against the AMA and forcing them to print the courts findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Several other of the defendants settled out of court helping to pay for the chiropractors legal expenses and donating to a chiropractic non-profit home for disabled children, Kentuckiana Children’s Center.
This decision was upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1990 and again by the U.S. Supreme Court that same year.
And what did we do with the opportunity? Instead of coming out strongly and publicly exposing the proven illegal boycott and corruption on the part of the AMA, many within the profession saw this as an opportunity to embrace the new found “permission” given to the medical doctors by the AMA to associate with chiropractors as an opportunity to integrate chiropractic into the allopathic model.
To this day, most consumers are unaware that the “idea” that chiropractors are quacks was purposefully, illegally, underhandedly, and cleverly crafted and promoted by the AMA.
While unable to eliminate chiropractic, the combination of AMA tactics and lack of unity among chiropractors and chiropractic organizations has very effectively contained chiropractic. Contained to episodic treatment of back pain, contained to musculoskeletal only care, contained to seeing only 5% of the population. The truth is chiropractic has proven itself over the last 113 plus years, to be a safe and effective means of maintaining health. Isn’t it about time to get together and let the public know who we are, what we represent and what we have to offer?