Chiropractic “accident” resulted in death

34-year old Katie May died after visiting a chiropractor last February. The coroner calls it an “accident” that she suffered an “infarction of the brain, a type of stroke, and a vertebral artery dissection” due to neck manipulation. Chiropractors regularly do neck manipulation – not by accident.

Playboy model’s death ‘ruled an accident’ after suffering injuries from chiropractor

The model hurt her neck and went to a chiropractor, as many do, to get help. This treatment, typically sharp twists of the neck, caused a blunt force injury, tearing her left vertebral artery, and cutting off blood flow to her brain, according to the death certificate reported on by entertainment news and gossip site TMZ. The family may be considering legal action.

This type of claim, that chiropractic caused a serious, potentially deadly, health situation is somewhat rare but certainly not unique. Neck trauma has been reported multiple times and is a real risk of chiropractic that is too often not made known to those who undergo the therapy. This study [PDF] recounts the experiences of 36 patients who experienced the effect. A 30-yr old Oklahoma man died after chiropractic treatment. The autopsy reports the cause was acute cerebellar infarction due to manipulation of the neck. An Alabama man received a jury-awarded settlement after he suffered a post-chiropractic stroke. He also said he was not told of the risk. Another man noticed serious symptom after a chiropractic neck adjustment and collapsed due to a stroke. Sandra Nettles, a 40-yr old Canadian woman sued after suffering a stroke after rapid neck manipulation which nearly paralyzed her. She not only wrote a book about it but her case caused the province of Manitoba to consider banning the practice. Hercules TV actor Kevin Sorbo also attributed his stroke to chiropractic manipulation.

Neck manipulation, and possibly all of chiropractic, is considered medically unnecessary. Why take the risk in getting a dangerous therapy when there is even a small potential it can cause you serious harm? Don’t let the chiropractor crack your neck. Better yet, ditch the chiro altogether. Seek science-based medical care instead, one that has some evidence that it can work.

Hopefully, this tragedy leads to the eventual banning of chiropractic neck adjusting.

Tip: Dr. Hagen

  8 comments for “Chiropractic “accident” resulted in death

  1. Bob Jase
    October 19, 2016 at 8:15 PM

    It does feel good usually – I know, I’m a bad skeptic but desperation and a lack of success from standard medical treatments can make a person desperate.

  2. James R
    October 19, 2016 at 8:40 PM

    I have to admit I provide some appointment reminder services to many chiropractors, and am conflicted since I know the facts don’t really support what they do. Fortunately these neck cases are very rare, and ‘bad’ results can occur in any branch of the healing arts (one my clients is actually called ‘Healing Arts’, which should tell you something … I don’t want Pablo Picasso fixing my spleen). What concerns me more are some D.C.’s work on kids, even babies. Scary. On the humorous side, one potential client was offering chiropractic on animals – seeing him trying to do bear hug on a horse was good for a chuckle.

  3. Matt T
    October 21, 2016 at 1:42 AM

    I’ve met loads of people who are surprised to learn that it’s a mystical pseudoscience. One was like, “but… they sell it like they’re doctors… they LOOK like doctors!” And they do. Which is unnerving when you consider, a century ago the founder of chiropractic was jailed for practicing medicine without a license.

    A human-administered stroke… what a horrifying thing to happen when seeking relief. To think they regularly inflict worse injuries…

    Most of them fundamentally “believe” vaccines are ineffective. If they disagree, they disrupt core aspects of the original intended philosophy. Further, they believe they can prevent and cure many of the same diseases that are commonly (effectively…) addressed by vaccination. Selling THAT is extremely hazardous and unethical. I think it’s also grossly backwards for the regulation to permit and encourage interactions like that.

  4. One Eyed Jack
    October 21, 2016 at 10:58 AM

    A good BM feels good, but it still stinks.

  5. Mike
    October 22, 2016 at 7:36 AM

    You accept some risk in a therapy, though, if you have reason to think it works. Everything that chiropractors do that ‘does’ work is just stuff physical therapists already do, and the rest is junk.

  6. Ben
    October 22, 2016 at 7:01 PM

    What seems to missing in this discussion seems to be the fact that there is now very high level of evidence that chiropractic manipulation doesn’t cause strokes. The most thorough study on the subject (a systemic review & meta-analysis) published earlier this year found that there is no evidence that chiropractic causes strokes More really strong evidence that there is no link between chiropractic & stroke was published last year when researchers analysed the data from over a million patient records & found that people were no more likely to suffer a stroke after seeing a chiropractor than after seeing a medical practitioner.

    What we do know is that when the vertebral artery starts to rupture from other causes, this often causes neck pain & headaches etc. This prompts the patient to seek care from a health practitioner, often a chiropractor. The rupture will then progressively evolve over a period of several days before resulting in a stroke – not as a result of the practitioner’s interventions. An example of this was recently published in BMJ. In this case report a patient presented to hospital emergency department & was dismissed with a diagnosis of migraine. A few days later she presented to a chiropractor who made the correct diagnosis of vertebral artery rupture in evolution, quite probably saving the patient’s life.

    In the tragic case of Katy May the blame on the chiropractor seems all stem from one trashy gossip magazine reporting of the coroner’s findings that the stroke was caused by the manipulation. The coroner’s report needs to be publically released before anyone jumps to conclusions. I would suggest that a more probable explanation is that Katie’s stroke was initially caused by the significant trauma that she suffered when she fell hard & hit her head hard during the photo shoot. She hurt herself badly enough to go the emergency room before consulting the chiropractor. The chiropractor was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time with a patient who was undergoing an evolving vertebral artery rupture.

  7. October 23, 2016 at 3:25 PM

    That’s a nice dodge for chiropractic but I disagree with your portrayal that chiropractic manipulation doesn’t cause strokes. It’s clear that it’s rare. The logic goes, however, that because chiropractic neck adjustments are of no medical benefit, but the chance of harm is there (though very low), there is no reason to accept that risk for no benefit. Case reports are weak evidence but they can provide a clue to something to be discovered. And, there is plausibility for vertebral artery rupture.

    Other studies have found that a population that should not have a stroke, the young, has a marked increase association with stroke 24 hours after visiting a chiropractor. A causal relationship has not been established, but more inquiry is warranted. Edzard Ernst summarizes the problems with chiropractic and stroke.

    Ernst commented:

    There is no effective monitoring scheme to adequately record serious side-effects of chiropractic care.
    Therefore the incidence figures of such catastrophic events are currently still anyone’s guess.
    Publications by chiropractic interest groups seemingly denying this point are all fatally flawed.
    It is not far-fetched to fear that under-reporting of serious complications is huge.
    The reliable evidence fails to demonstrate that neck manipulations generate more good than harm.
    Until sound evidence is available, the precautionary principle leads most critical thinkers to conclude that neck manipulations have no place in routine health care.

    I get my information from Science-Based medicine: Chiropractic Neck Manipulation and Stroke. May’s death seems to strengthen the body of evidence that says chiropractic neck manipulation is at least not helpful and can exacerbate a real problem. At worst, it can be deadly. So, it’s not worth it, you should not have it done.

  8. October 24, 2016 at 11:40 AM

    Re: “In the tragic case of Katy [sic] May the blame on the chiropractor seems all stem from one trashy gossip magazine reporting of the coroner’s findings that the stroke was caused by the manipulation.”

    CBS News has confirmed the TMZ story with the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner: “The 34-year-old suffered a stroke in February, but this week, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed her death was caused by an injury at a chiropractor’s office.”

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