Statements circulated by dozens of Manitoba chiropractors are misleading and potentially harmful, says a public health expert.
“There is no evidence that chiropractic is effective in treating cancer and autism and any of those things that they are apparently claiming that they can treat,” said Dr. Alan Katz, director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.
A CBC News analysis of company websites and Facebook pages of every registered chiropractor in Manitoba found several dozen examples of statements, claims and social media content at odds with many public health policies or medical research.
Based on the Manitoba Chiropractors Association membership listing, there are approximately 275 licensed practitioners working out of 215 offices. CBC News found questionable online content linked to more than 30 chiropractic offices.
Dr. Katz reviewed the examples gathered by the CBC I-Team and labelled most of them “misinformation.”
“It misleads the public in two areas. Firstly, those who choose to go for chiropractic care, particularly for things like infection and autism and things that we know they’re not going to be beneficial for, it misleads those individuals and gives them false hope for treatment that will not be effective,” he said.
“Putting these things up on their website also puts the doubt in the minds of others about what we do know works, and as a result those people may not seek the right type of care for conditions that could deteriorate if they don’t seek that care.”
Vaccination and immunizations outside scope of practice
The Manitoba Chiropractors Association declined an interview request but did say it would review the content.
“As the regulatory body that oversees the practice of chiropractic in Manitoba, we will review the material you have shared with us in a thorough manner as provided for by our internal processes,” said Ernie Miron, a chiropractic doctor and the association registrar.
The Manitoba Chiropractors Association has previously addressed certain issues with its membership through an internal communication.
“In Manitoba, the administration of ‘vaccination and immunization’ currently falls outside the scope of chiropractic practice,” the communication said. It also cautioned members that:
The association also said, “The degree to which a chiropractor can or cannot discuss ‘vaccination and immunization’ or other health-care procedures that are outside the scope of practice with a patient is currently being reviewed by the board of directors.”
‘We encourage Manitobans to get vaccinated’: province
Manitoba is the only province in the country that universally covers a portion of chiropractic treatments for all residents, to a limit of 12 visits per year.
In 2016, the province paid out $11.9 million for a total of 984,432 claims from 166,897 unique patients.
The fact that members of a regulated health profession are actively disseminating questionable medical information while benefiting from public funds is cause for concern, Katz said.
“Should we as a society be paying for the services of professionals, and I use that word loosely, that are advocating care that is contrary to the official public policy?”
Manitoba’s health minister didn’t comment on the issue, but Manitoba Health provided a statement after it was given examples of the information.
“We offer a publicly funded vaccine program that follows national guidelines on immunization and we encourage Manitobans to get vaccinated. But vaccination is always a matter of informed consent between a practitioner and a patient, based on an informed evaluation of the benefits and risks. If any practitioner provides advice that is contrary to our position, we do not agree with it.”
Anti-vax letters to the editor prompted CBC investigation
A letter by Winnipeg chiropractor Henri Marcoux was published last February in Manitoba’s francophone weekly newspaper La Liberté, in response to an article in which a regional health authority expert was interviewed about influenza immunizations.
Marcoux wrote that he does not recommend flu vaccines, calling them “toxic.” He further stated that the flu virus actually “purifies our systems” and said that he believes flu vaccines are “driven by a vast operation orchestrated by pharmaceutical companies.”
People should instead focus on general wellness — which includes chiropractic treatment — to stave off the flu, he wrote.
Now-retired chiropractor and long-time anti-vaccination advocate Gérald Bohémier wrote a later letter in support of Marcoux that also appeared in La Liberté.
Letters then poured in from members of the community, including a resident and two physicians who took exception to these statements.
Marcoux told the CBC’s French service, Radio-Canada, that he does not believe his views are at odds with public health.
He stands by his letter, he said, adding if society as a whole took health and wellness more seriously — rather than trying to treat symptoms — the need for vaccines would dissipate or never would have existed in the first place.
Facts on chiropractic services
Got a tip for the CBC I-Team? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the confidential tip line at 204-788-3744.
Exchange of letters to the Editor published in La Liberté
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