Chiropractor child spinal manipulation faces COAG scrutiny

Concerns about unsafe child spinal manipulation by chiropractors are to be addressed by an independent review reporting to the Council Of Australian Governments (COAG).

Musculoskeletal specialists will be part of a Victorian review panel tasked to investigate the practice of child spinal manipulation following public outrage over a video of a chiropractor treating a two-week old baby.

The video posted on a chiropractor’s practice Facebook page in August 2018 gained widespread media exposure after it showed the chiropractor holding the child upside down and using a spring-loaded ‘activator’ device on its neck and back, making the infant scream.

The chiropractor has been identified as Andrew Arnold of the Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, who has since been banned from treating children under 12  while he is investigated by AHPRA and the Chiropractic Board of Australia.

But the affair has also sparked a COAG-oriented review ordered by Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.

Chaired by Safer Care Victoria CEO Professor Euan Wallace, an obstetrician, the review will be undertaken by experts in paediatrics and musculoskeletal care, consumers, and representatives from the Chiropractic Board of Australia and Australian Chiropractors Association.

According to its terms of reference, the aim of the review is to “examine and assess the available evidence, including information from consumers, providers, and other stakeholders, for the use of spinal manipulation by chiropractors on children less than 12 years of age”.

The panel will accept submissions from April 2019, and produce a report with recommendations to the Victorian Minister for Health.

Ms Mikakos will then take the final independent review to report to the COAG Health Council which will consider if there are any changes needed for the national law.

Medical groups such as the AMA have long been critical of chiropractors’ dangerous and biologically implausible use of spinal manipulation in children for conditions such as infantile colic, bed-wetting and middle ear infections. The practice is particularly risky in young children, in whom the use of short sharp thrusts may lead to vertebral fractures.

Meanwhile chiropractors have continued to be in the public eye with the District Court of South Australia upholding a tribunal’s decision to cancel the registration of former chiropractor Robert Marin.

In mid 2017 the South Australian Health Practitioner’s Tribunal found that Marin had demonstrated serious commercially predatory behaviour by providing highly questionable services, both chiropractic and weight loss, to 14 adults and 14 children under the age of 12, over an eight year period.

At the time the tribunal reprimanded Marin, cancelled his registration as a chiropractor and permanently disqualified him from reapplying for registration, while also imposing a $20,000 fine and Board costs.

While the District Court of South Australia upheld the tribunal it wound back the total registration band, disqualifying him from applying for registration for a period of 10 years.

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