That all changed forever on August 27, 1987, when Federal Judge Susan Getzendanner ruled in an antitrust lawsuit that the American Medical Association (AMA) conspired to discredit and cripple the efficacy of chiropractic through a “systematic, long-term wrongdoing and the long-term intent to destroy a licensed profession.”
While a decided victory for the four plaintiffs and the chiropractic profession (and therefore the American public), it was not an easy win, nor a quick one. The antitrust lawsuit in question was filed in 1976 by four chiropractors, Michael Pedigo of San Leandro, California; Dr. Chester Wilk of Park Forest, Illinois, Dr. Patricia Arthur of Dayton, Ohio, and Dr. James Bryden of Sedalia, Montana.
According to George McAndrews, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, ''The four chiropractors have weathered 11 years of hell to call the A.M.A. and its co-conspirators into account.''
So what exactly did the presiding officiate decide in this bell-weather case? In fact, Judge Susan Getzendanner legally substantiated ''systematic, long-term wrongdoing and the long-term intent to destroy a licensed profession'' by the AMA and its physicians in the antitrust finding. Furthermore, the decision concluded that the AMA engaged in a systematic witch hunt against chiropractic by ''labeling all chiropractors unscientific cultists and depriving chiropractors of association with medical physicians, injury to reputation was assured by the A.M.A.'s name-calling practice,'' according to Judge Getzendanner.
The ruling left no doubt that this boycott by the nation's largest physicians' group aimed ''to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.''
They did this not in the shadows but formally and systematically, including an A.M.A. policy mandating that doctors can’t refer patients to chiropractors or even accept referrals from them. Doctors were also barred from lecturing before chiropractic classes or otherwise intermingling with the profession.
In fact, the AMA went so far as to form a Committee on Quackery in 1962, with the almost sole intent of crushing the chiropractic profession.
Despite these measures, the sentiment wasn’t unanimous at the AMA, as court transcripts revealed that ''some physicians believed chiropractic to be effective and that chiropractors were better trained to deal with muscular-skeletal problems than medical physicians.”
Furthermore, the AMA stated that any existing anti-chiropractic campaigns were shut down in 1980, although Judge Getzendanner ruled that they ''had never acknowledged the lawlessness of its past conduct and maintains to this day it has always been in compliance with antitrust laws.'' Getzebdanner went on that ''There has never been an affirmative statement by the A.M.A. that it is ethical to associate with chiropractors.”
The lawsuit not only named the Chicago-based American Medical Association as well as four of its top officials and ten other medical groups that conspired to discredit the chiropractic profession to keep it from practicing unimpeded in the United States.
Judge Getzendanner found that the American College of Radiology and the American College of Surgeons had been in concert with the AMA in intending to damage the reputation of chiropractors.
Only three days before the judge’s landmark ruling, three of the five defendants named in the lawsuit (that were the Illinois Medical Society, the American Hospital Association, the Chicago Medical Society, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation), settled out of court, choosing to affirm the rights of chiropractors.
Once the decisions came down, cries that the four plaintiffs were just targeting the AMA for a big pay check were quickly squashed when it was learned that the lawsuit sought no monetary damages at all. In fact, the only compensation was put aside to help pay legal expenses as well as restitution to the Kentuckiona Children's Center in Louisville, Kentucky, a home for mentally and physically challenged children that was prevented from receiving chiropractic care services.
Instead of just winning money through the suit, chiropractor Michael Pedigo said he and his co-plaintiffs wanted ''to be allowed to compete freely in the marketplace.''
In the 101-page opinion, Judge Getzendanner ruled that the AMA and other defendants had violated U.S. Sherman Antitrust Laws.
To add teeth to the ruling, the U.S. District Court issued a permanent injunction just four weeks later, preventing the American Medical Association from “restricting, regulating, or impeding” its doctor/members from associating with chiropractic doctors or otherwise failing to inter-cooperate, as that was not in patients best interests.
The AMA was ordered to give a copy of the nine-page injunction to all of its members, as well as publish it without comment or bias in their Journal of the American Medical Association. That injunction closed the door on an 11-year David v. Goliath legal battle for the four defendants, but as well know; there is still work yet to be done to level the playing field against the traditional medical establishment to ensure chiropractic care for the American public.