April 20, 2014 Forbes online printed an article by Steven Salzberg that attempted to make the point that chiropractic has no basis and should be removed from the Medicare system. His byline is, “I cover pseudoscience and bad medicine, and sometimes good medicine.”
Ironically, Salzberg appears to have been compelled to resort to pseudoscience himself. In great part his argument for banning chiropractic is the anecdotal evidence of two disgruntled former chiropractors.
There is a device known as the straw man argument. This is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a weak or imaginary argument or opponent that is set up to be easily defeated.” Wikipedia defines it as, “a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of the original topic of argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.”
Salzberg uses the straw man argument by stating, “Chiropractors are not medical doctors.” He then proceeds to disparage chiropractors for not being like medical doctors. There is no reason for a non-medical doctor to be like a medical doctor. When you do not realize that most of us chiropractors have no desire to be like medical doctors, and only then, you might take this man seriously. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that chiropractors are the sane, safe alternative to drugs and surgery as daily health interventions. The last thing most of us want is to be lumped into the same category as those who would use drugs and surgery for anything more than crisis intervention. He further calls chiropractic validity into question by stating that chiropractors do not have medical degrees, that they only have “special Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degrees.”
Chiropractors need our own degree because a medical education would not prepare us for what we do every day, adjust people for subluxation. Medical degrees are skewed toward pharmacology. Chiropractic degrees are skewed toward neuromusculoskeletal understanding. I ask all of you, “Do you want someone who understands drug reactions to adjust you, or do you want someone who understands the relationship of the nervous system to the muscular and skeletal systems to adjust you?”
Salzberg goes on to provide statistics that are meant to disparage chiropractic, but appear to strengthen the case for chiropractic use in Medicare. In 2012 $77 billion in Medicare funds was paid to over 880,000 health care providers. One hundred doctors alone received $610 million of that total. By comparison all chiropractors were paid $496 million in 2012, an amount Salzberg calls stunning. The fact is, numerous studies over the past 20 years have demonstrated that chiropractic use saves money.
Salzberg goes on to state that chiropractic has no scientific basis and that it causes stroke deaths in many patients. Science is definitely not on his side on either of these arguments. There is, quite simply, no human experimental evidence that chiropractic adjustments are causally related to strokes. Salzberg states that anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence, yet that is the only evidence to relate chiropractic adjustments to stroke. We chiropractors will put our safety record up against that of the medical field every day. We will put our research record up against the medical field also. New chiropractic studies are published weekly, and none of them lead to the approval of harmful practices.
Finally, when Salzberg makes the argument that chiropractors should be kicked out of the Medicare network I respond, “Please, do us a favor!” He is advocating what many of us wish we had the legal right to do on our own, opt out of the Medicare system. Unlike M.D.’s, we chiropractors do not have that option. If we did, likely fewer than 50% of us would continue to utilize the system.
Ultimately, the Forbes article serves to hurt the people who need a viable alternative to treating symptoms rather than underlying cause of conditions. The underlying cause is always the body, mind and spirit’s inability to adequately comprehend the stresses of its external environment and make successful adaptations to those stresses. That is exactly what chiropractic treats. The article also establishes Forbes as an inferior brand that fails to hold its journalists to appropriate standards.