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A Different Way to Heal?


Viewer Mail

We received a large amount of viewer mail for "A Different Way to Heal?", particularly in response to the segment "Adjusting the Joints." A sampling of letters has been posted below. Click here to read the producer's response. For those of you who wrote to us, we thank you for participating. The Special Forum is now closed.

The following letters represent the views of the correspondents only and not necessarily those of the producer.


To the Producers of Scientific American Frontiers

I was really impressed with the presentation on alternative medicine. I teach physiology, pharmacology and pathophysiology in a small comprehensive college in the Pacific Northwest and have had a difficult time helping students understand some of the concerns regarding alternative medicine that were presented in the program. That episode on "A Different Way to Heal" provided clear and concise information critically important to people who are considering health care careers. It is also important to those considering alternative medicine in lieu of traditional health care.

I am concerned about alternative health care practices used in the U.S. Many of these are of little or no value except for the placebo effect and in some cases they are dangerous. One major problem from my perspective is that alternative medicine gives people a false sense of confidence that they are treating their health care problems satisfactorily. Sometimes no harm is done, however, too often going to an alternative health care practitioner delays needed traditional care until there is much damage and/or it is too late to successfully treat the original illness. I congratulate the producers of Scientific American Frontiers for their excellent work in providing a clear and balanced presentation of these issues.

I have placed an order for the video so I can show this episode to students in my classes.

Thank you.

Jack L. Keyes, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Linfield College-Portland Campus

From: Name Withheld

Dear Mr. Alda,

I just watched your program on alternative medicine. I am as "scientific" a guy as you can find (PhD in Physics from Princeton, currently working at a biotech company, and a big Feynman fan), but I thought that the program was excessively narrow-minded. Here are a few comments.

The main thing people seem to miss in these kind of discussions is the power of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, brains, to powerfully influence our bodies. Emotions are undeniably and scientifically known to also be physical/chemical states of our bodies and minds, but physical states which can in many cases be activated simply by the transmission of "information". Information goes above and beyond simple physics in the sense that it is the subtle pattern carried by a stimulus (light, sound, touch, etc.) that has the effect, not the physical stimulus itself, which is just a carrier. The sound waves of someone saying "I love you" or "LOOK OUT!!!!" can have a measurable effect on your heart rate, blood pressure, neurological state, etc...but only if you speak English. The physical sound waves themselves, the pressure oscillations, do *nothing* other than make your eardrums vibrate a bit. It is their pattern and how our brain interprets and receives it that sets off the complex chain.

Following this train of what if an alternative therapy is "just" a placebo effect. The truly amazing thing about the placebo effect is that it works so well, so often, for so many ailments; and that it only works if you truly believe in whatever "fake" remedy you are receiving. As soon as you know it is "just" a placebo, it loses its power. This again points out the power of our thoughts/emotions/brain/nervous system over our feeling (and perhaps the reality) of physical well being. If some alternative therapies are simply effective ways of accessing this powerful phenomena, and people receive a benefit...well, I see no problem there. Just don't tell the patients what is really going on, or it won't work. The naive belief in the reality of the therapy, by "doctor" and patient, may BE the therapy, and it can have *real* value nonetheless.

I have tried acupuncture and received no benefit whatsoever. On the other hand, I get a full-body, deep-tissue massage about every two weeks and swear by it. Don't really know how it works, don't care. On one occasion at the end of a massage, while I was lying on my back with my eyes closed and not being touched at all by the therapist, I suddenly felt an undeniably real "wave of energy" (or SOMETHING) passing up and down my body. I was stunned and surprised and said "WOW, what did you just do?". The therapist had just performed some version of "therapeutic touch" - holding her hands about two inches above my skin and passing them over me from head to toe. I think this "transmission" probably just works by body heat (radiation and convection are scientifically sound!) -you simply sense a few degrees warming on a certain part of your skin, which moves with the practitioners hands. A sensitive thermocouple could pick it up. Perhaps there is a bit of a breeze or even electrostatic interaction.

Now think about the experiment done by that teenage girl. She held her hands about six inches or more ABOVE the hands of the subjects. Hot air rises. I bet that if she had held her hands beneath those of the subjects, and/or a lot closer, they would have felt it. No mystery, just heat.

Similarly, I thought the experiment where the Chinese doctor was asked to hold his hands over a cell culture was ridiculous. IF cancer can be cured by some forms of alternative therapy (I don't know if it can or experience, no opinion), it certainly doesn't work by magic rays passing from the practitioner's fingers into the tumor! It would have to be via the brain and all of the physical/chemical systems that it is connected too.

So there you have scientist's opinion. I believe in western medicine 100%, my job depends on it, but also I think the body and mind are more complex than anything the physicists could have dreamed up, even while functioning entirely within the laws of physics.

PS, saw you as Feynman in NY, good job!

From: Bobbi

I usually look forward to your programs, and I anxiously awaited the one on alternative healing. What I saw was a biased, closed minded presentation, bent on debunking anything that can't be proven by already flawed criteria. You chose the 'experts' whose sole purpose is to debunk alternatives.

I'm waiting for the scientist who can tell me how aspirin works. There is no proof, yet the entire scientific community uses it and says it cures a headache. I came from a purely scientific background, yet while I sat in a wheelchair with diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis, all those doctors that I had put my faith in, couldn't help me. I decided that acupuncture was worth a try, although I didn't, and still don't understand how it works. The result was that I am now walking around with only the aid of a crutch. Acupuncture controlled my pain and enabled me to begin to fight and strengthen my muscles. I don't take any meds, but do take supplements. I also go to a chiropractor who doesn't 'crack' anything but uses the agitator. I do notice a difference from when I came into the chiropractor and when I'm finished.

I feel badly for all the people who watched the program, with open minds feeling that Scientific American Frontiers means just open mind. Instead they saw a program with an archaic attitude. Shame on you!!

From: spike

No question. Just a big compliment on the quality of the alternative medicine show. It's so rare to have a rational presentation on this area.

From: Christa Emrick

Congratulations! This was an outstanding program. Being an active recipient of alternative healing I do want to tell you that I have found immense relief from it. Acupuncture - my relief was felt within 15 - 20 minutes of having received treatments. Sinus congestion, headaches, aches & pains went away and I felt refreshed and energized. (Even a foot injury was healed.) Healing Touch & Spiritual Healing - leaves me refreshed and energized. Supplementary vitamins, minerals, etc. - I can tell a distinct difference when I stop taking the supplements. I feel lethargic, ache, allergies, and am easily affected my other's colds.

I do agree that the fact that someone else is caring for you directly helps in the healing process. I look forward for future programs on these subjects.

Thank you.
Christa Emrick

From: Susan

I was disappointed in this week's episode because of its limited scope and the obvious bias. I realize the program has "American" in the title, I do not see how you can how the program's producers can claim to be putting forth the defining studies on herbal remedies without looking at the European research, for example, the findings of Germany's Commission E. You will find quite different "scientific" information there. European medicine routinely incorporates herbal therapies based both on scientific research and thousands of years of human experience. The important point as regards this program though is that herbal remedies are routinely used by the medical profession in many other parts of the world. It is only in American medicine that the ancient remedies are dismissed as voodoo.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do keep an open mind. When something is dismissed out of hand, I tend to look for hidden agendas. Who has something to gain or lose? Herbs cannot be patented and the drug companies cannot make fortunes in exclusive sales. As more people as becoming disgusted by their treatment, medical and personal, by the medical profession, they are turning more to other methods of healing. Does the medical community fear losing its hold on access to "drugs"? The medical profession has become so cold and so specialized the ability to "heal" has been lost because few doctors today see a person, a dynamic organism, but only see a toe, a lung, a liver that is totally disconnected from the being as a whole. Unless a person has a serious illness or traumatic injury, the only reason to see a medical doctor anymore, in my opinion, is because they and they alone possess the "golden key" to the medicine cabinet. As consumers, we pay for this access dearly not only in terms of money

I don't know what went wrong with the medical profession. However, I do know that at one time admission to medical schools was not limited to those with the "top" grades but included those who were dedicated and tried harder, if you will. I also know that at one time, doctors were healers, not llc's or p.c.'s. It seems anymore, the "top scorers" who don't want to be lawyers or CEO's go into medicine as the way to make their fortune. Caring and healing are not even considerations and have been replaced by the portfolio. There are many more factors at work here, but some of the blame has to be placed on medical educational institutions for setting the current tone.

If this episode of the program had looked at practices and the literature world-wide it could have been valuable and informative. There are herbal products out there that ARE dangerous and distributors of products that are shamming the public. We need to be warned about this. But at the same time, we need to be informed about what is working - in Europe and other parts of the world and why. We need to be willing to acknowledge that the whole may indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. We need to keep an open mind that there may indeed things that are not drempt of in our current philisophies. We need to bear in mind that most of our first and best "marketable drugs" were (and are) derived from plants or synthetics based on plants. But plants can't be patented, can they?


From: Bruce Houghton

I was pleased with the episode about alternative medicine. I thought that it presented the therapies in a scientific light which is often lacking in stories about alternative therapies. I attempt to used the precepts of evidence based medicine in teaching about alternative therapies at our medical school.

I am certain that your episode has generated a great deal of 'hate mail' as the topic of Complementary/Alternative Medicine (CAM) does tend to bring vehement emotions out of people. I know that our efforts to effectively teach this topic to our medical students has been a lot of fun yet there is difficulty separating the wheat from the great deal of chaff present in the CAM world. It is quite interesting to point out to the students, however, that there is something the patients derive from visiting the CAM practitioners that we in 'Western/American Medicine' are not delivering...this is a point we attempt to make in our discussions.

Great show!

I have gained more respect for Alan Alda.

From: Name Withheld

I found your U.S. scientific "evidence" laughable. Quite frankly, western science—especially medicine, as practiced in the U.S. is a religion, not an objective search for the truth. The essential tenent--if it can't be measured, it doesn't exist.

Take for example the criticism of the concept of "chi". It has been observed and put to the practical test in China for about 4,000 years. But U.S. doctors insist that well, 4,000 years of practical treatment doesn't matter unless we can measure it. What arrogance. Not a single person you presented postulated that perhaps we just don't yet have the technology to measure this energy. Yet you call yourselves objective. What a fraud. In Europe, some scientifically trained physicians will study "alternative" treatments with a proven track record and use them effectively to treat their patients. I myself was treated by one such physician for chronic eczema that had persisted a decade. In the U.S. I was given cortizone and told to buy Crisco as a cheap lubricant. In Germany, I was cured by a physician who also was a practicing homeopath.

This criticism is quite analogus to the original theory of germs causing disease. Lister was practically run out of town and out of his profession for having the gaul to suggest that microbs were disease causing agents. Yet, when the technology caught up to the meticulous observations, the microbes were found and measured. But then, science never admits that it makes mistakes, does it?

Western medicine would be better served by actually understanding the placebo effect instead of just discounting it. Just what effect does the mind have on healing when it believes? Ahh, but that doesn't involve a drug or a machine. Perhaps M.D. should be stand for Medical Druggist.


From: Charles Sullivan, D.O.

It is common practice in Medicine to put patients on combinations of drugs. The vast majority of these combinations of drugs (especially where 3 or more drugs are involved) have never been studied at all, let alone in double-blind trials (with the exception of Oncology/AIDS treatment, where the toxicity of the drugs demands study); yet it is frequent practice to prescribe these multiple-drug combinations. It is well accepted in Pharmacology that it is scientifically impossible to accurately predict the side effects or clinical effects of a combination of drugs without studying that PARTICULAR combination of drugs in TEST subjects.

Knowledge of the pharmacologic profiles of the individual drugs in question does not in any way assure accurate prediction of the side effects of combinations of those drugs, especially when they have different mechanisms of action, which is very common because polypharmacy is most often prescribed to patients with "multiple illnesses". About 180,000 patients in this country die from identified adverse drug reactions; the number who die as a consequence of polypharmacy is, to my knowledge, unknown.

The argument that the prescribing of drugs is the "Art" of Medicine is not valid in defending polypharmacy, because drugs are developed (indications, dose and administration, etc) and approved through a "scientific" process (double-blind, placebo-controlled studies). The fact that the medicines are often prescribed for "different conditions" is irrelevant (especially to the patient's physiology). The idea that " we are doing the best we can ", a frequent defense of Polypharmacy, does not in any way uphold a scientific argument in favor of it. (We are, indeed, trying the best we can, with tool which do not improve at the rate we would wish!) The fact that "there is a limit to how much research can be done" in no way makes the research unnecessary in order to predict the side effects of specific combinations of drugs.

It has been said that 30% of medical practice can claim to be backed by controlled studies. Are we looking closely enough at our way of practicing Medicine? Can the use of unstudied polypharmacy really be considered evidence-based, "scientific" Medicine? Are those of us in conventional medicine looking at our way of practicing using the same "scrutiny" with which we often condemn other "alternative" systems of medicine?


From: Name Withheld

Dear PBS & Chedd-Angier Productions,

I commend you on your recent episode of Scientific American Frontiers, "A Different Way to Heal" broadcast on 4 June. I find it reassuring that a top-flight media production took great care to present the topic of so-called alternative and complementary medicine in an objective and factual manner. I also find this rare.

Aside from the risk of vertebral artery dissection caused by cervical manipulations, chiropractic simply lacks a basis in science -- so I won't bother to rehearse the points you made so well. Irate parties will no doubt point to research which they believe demonstrates the safety and efficacy of chiropractic. The fundamental problem with chiropractic research is, that absent a plausible scientific basis for subluxations and their "treatment" by adjustment, the data is useless as there is no demonstrable relationship between cause and effect. No matter how often chiropractors assert to the contrary.

Your chiropractic segment was very objective and balanced. The chiropractic practitioners you showed seemed like sane and decent people, though I must confess I had to turn away at the cervical adjustments. You could, however, have shown what else chiropractic does.

I offer the following as instructional, and surely the World Chiropractic Association, or the International Chiropractic Association cannot be terribly upset with me pointing out that chiropractors advertise that they can successfully treat:

-phasia and ADHD
-autism and ADHD
depression and anxiety
ear infections

A google search with "chiropractic" and your choice of disorder will probably yield much of the same: nonsense, fraud, and endangerment. Perhaps most worrisome and offensive is chiropractic opposition to vaccination.

I am extremely grateful for your sound and objective treatment of the issue of chiropractic. Though it may sound ludicrous, chiropractors are lobbying for primary care provider status -- would you want a person who believes some of the garbage above to diagnose or "treat" you or a family member rather than a qualified physician? No doubt the legions of alt-med and chiropractic supporters have flooded your organizations with protestations of all sorts, but in the end facts trump noise and rhetoric -- you have my sympathies on the noise though.

Name Withheld

From: Ed Owens

My comments are in regard to the Scientific American segment on chiropractic that aired this evening on PBS (6/4/2002). Thanks for taking on such a controversial topic and giving it a fairly balanced review.

I say "fairly" balanced because you seem to have been overly swayed by skeptical statements made by the two science experts that were interviewed. Unfortunately, some fact checking should have been done on some of their statements.

In particular, Dr. Baratz made the claim that there was no evidence in favor of chiropractic care for anything. In the interest of good science, I believe that Dr. Baratz should have been asked how he came to that opinion, what sources he had searched to find this out. He overlooked one easily accessible source of information, the National Library of Medicine.

I invite you to search MEDLINE, the literature database maintained by the NLM. You can find it at this address:

Search using the keywords "chiropractic efficacy" and you will find several citations that show the usefulness of chiropractic care for such diverse conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, and infantile colic as well as the usual things folks seek chiropractic care for: low back pain, neck pain and headaches. Dr. Baratz seems unaware of these papers, even though they offer the highest level of evidence and are published in respected indexed journals.

The other expert, Dr. John Badanes is skeptical of chiropractors' ability to move the joints of the spine. Again, I can send you references to articles that show that vertebrae move during adjustments, that curves of the spine can be restored, that nerve endings are stimulated during the adjustment, muscles are activated and that spinal reflexes are affected.

It makes me wonder how you selected Drs. Baratz and Badanes as experts to represent the science of chiropractic. Certainly they are controversial, but in searching the literature, I can find no evidence that either of them has published anything in the peer-reviewed literature. Also, there's no reference to their qualification or training in science in their online biographies.

As a chiropractic researcher it pained me to see the wealth of research overlooked in your program. It would have been great to see at least one actual chiropractic research scientist interviewed. There were several available in the research department at Life-West where you filmed much of the segment. You might also contact Dr. Anthony Rosner at the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research. Although not a chiropractor, Dr. Rosner is very knowledgable and gives excellent reviews of chiropractic research.

Another research expert is Dr. Scott Haldeman, who lives in Irvine, CA. Scott is a D.C., an M.D. and a Ph.D. who specializes in neurology. He has given testimony recently in Canada regarding the relationship between cervical manipulation and stroke. He could have provided excellent counterpoint to statements made on the risks of chiropractic by Dr. Baratz.

Again, thanks for giving chiropractic some much-needed serious attention. If you'd like me to supply any reference material or contact information that interests you, don't hesitate to ask.


Edward Owens, M.S., D.C.
Director of Research
Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic
Spartanburg, SC

From: Sue Cone

Many thanks for an excellent program, which clearly pointed out the myths and lack of any scientific merit of various "alternatives." The uselessness, and even danger, of chiropractic, based as it is on a weird idea from the 1880's, is something rarely expressed. I commend you for your clarity and integrity as shown in this segment of the program. Along with chiropractic, the absurdity of "therapeutic touch" was made crystal clear, as well as the problems with "herbal medicine."

I appreciated seeing real science on PBS, which, unfortunately, seems to have a lot of programs geared to the mind-body new age healing nonsense so prevalent today.

Sue Cone

From: Kurt Sherwood

Would you do a show on the quality of Ford cars and have as your expert the director of marketing for General Motors?

The tools of the propagandist are innuendo, exceptions to the rule, obsolete material, and out of context material. That is what your show on alternative healing is a classic example of. The Chiropractic segment was extremely one sided. You are well aware of the research coming from the chiropractic profession at this time. The most prestigous medical journals in the world have the data, maybe you should share that with your viewers. Here is a brief list journals to refer to, and I'm more than happy to be more specific if needed. Check the following, The British Medical Journal, Spine, European Spine, Clinical Biomechanics, Journal of Spinal Disorders, Archives of Physical and Medical rehabilitation, Journal of Orthopedic research, and Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics to name a few.

It's obvious the intention of the show was propaganda. I think an apology is in order.

Kurt Sherwood D.C.

From: Sue Skidmore

Dear Mr Alda:

I have always admired your shows from Mash to your Scientific American Frontier shows. However, when watching "A Different Way to Heal?" my admiration was limited to a more than adequate dose of western medical prejudice. I had Polio when 9 months old, chiropractic and herbal remedies are the only thing that keep me going. I do not take western medicine. I work in a hospital lab but have found throughout my life that alternative medicine works. Why did you not also show the scientific studies of Dr. Michael Murray from Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine and Holistic Medical doctors such as Dr. Shealy who is internationally known? It is unfair for those watching that are unfamiliar with alternative treatments to receive such prejudicial information. It is also a disservice to those who provide such services.

Sue Skidmore

Terry Polevoy wrote:

Keep up the good work. I loved the Sci. Am. Frontiers show on alternative medicine. The chiropractors have organized a letter writing campaign to get PBS to stop showing the show. This is perhaps the best reason to keep doing shows like this.

Dr. Terry Polevoy
Ontario, Canada

From: Eric Huntington D.C.


A recent episode of Scientific American Frontiers entitled "A Different Way to Heal?" was recently broadcast on your station. This program represented the practice of chiropractic as unscientific, religious and dangerous. Far from an objective review of the largest and most popular non-drug, non-surgical form of health care in the world. The program was so slanted, and completely incorrect, in some of its points, that it would seem reasonable that PBS was somehow motivated to paint a disturbing picture of the chiropractic profession.

Just some points to note. As a full time, practicing chiropractor, I paid less than $1,000 for malpractice insurance this year. That figure is just a fraction of what most Medical Doctors and Surgeons pay each year. And you can be sure that malpractice rates are based on the probability that the company will have to pay out due to a malpractice incident. There are also many studies and governmental reports from all over the world showing the safety of chiropractic.

For decades, biased critics have said that chiropractic is unscientific. Because of this, the chiropractic profession has responded by making research a priority. Despite a lack of funding from traditional sources (such as the Federal Gov't and of course drug companies) chiropractic has amassed a tremendous amount of research regarding its most often used techniques, especially when compared to very common medical procedures (which often have little or no scientific backing). Currently, the best chiropractic research is being done by Chiropractic Biophysics Nonprofit ( This group has proved many of the basic concepts involving chiropractic, the human body and particularly the spine. Their ground breaking research is being published in the most well respected medical journals. To air a show which positions itself as an objective review of the profession without mentioning this research or its application in the field shows how poor and inaccurate a PBS production can be.

Chiropractic is not a religion. Its basic tenets are not part of any religion. Chiropractic is based on the premise that there is an intelligence in the body which makes it a self-regulating and self-healing organism. Modern science (especially modern physics) supports this point. In fact, medicine could not be practiced, unless this basic tenet was true. What surgeon would cut into a body if it didn't possess the ability to heal itself following surgery?

I appreciate unbiased objective criticism of chiropractic, both from within and outside its professional boundaries. However, the gross inaccuracies and omissions of your recent program damage the reputation of chiropractic, and the people it serves. This type of broadcasting also damages the credibility of PBS and is potentially damaging to the health and welfare of your viewing audience. Please consider removing this program from the air and creating a more accurate program on chiropractic.

Eric Huntington D.C.

From: Dr. Chotkowski

I just want you people at Chedd-Angier to know that you produced a wonderful documentary on the issue of alternative health care, particularly false chiropractic. It may well be a seminal challenge to this unscientific practice. The program has certainly brought the factor of science back into the health care system. The onus is on chiropractic to disprove anything your program has exposed, and they cannot. Remember, 27 medical college deans, former US Surgeon Dr C,Everett Koop, Dr George Lundberg former editor of the journal of the AMA, Dr Arnold Relman, editor emeritus of the New England Journal of Medicine all unanimously agree that the theory of chiropractic is false. Congratulations again! You have performed a fine public service.

L.A. Chotkowski MD FACP

From: Ron Fredrickson

The cult of chiropractic has three things going for it: a powerful lobby to influence legislators; slick, folksy ads to lure the gullible; and a wealth of snake oil testimonials from loyal adherents who promote its use. What does it not have going for it? Scientific evidence of efficacy. Chiropractors tell their patients that they must come in when completely well in order to have their mythical subluxations adjusted so as to maintain wellness. If the patient doesn't become ill, naturally it was these adjustments which did the job. By the same token, I wear a ring with a mystical symbol which protects me from tiger attacks. And, by George, it works; I haven't been attacked by a tiger yet!

On the more sober side, those who choose to go to chiropractors for their health care should read the 1999 publication, "Inside Chiropractic - A Patient's Guide", by Samuel Homola, D.C. Dr. Homola knows chiropractic from the inside, and he pulls no punches in his evaluation of chiropractic as it is presently practiced. Caveat emptor!

From: Philip Mitchell, R.N., B.S.

As a healthcare professional for over 20 years in the nursing profession, I have worked in a variety of capacities caring for the sick and injured, ranging from military medicine, trauma, intensive care, pre-hospital care and neurosurgical specialties. I injured my back severely in the course of performing my duties and first sought out traditional allopathic treatment, then osteopathic and finally chiropractic care.

Only the chiropractor was able to assist me in regaining my ability to walk over 150 yards again and instantly relieved my symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome/pronator teres syndromes. No allopathic physician could do this. I was so impressed with the professionalism and efficacy of my care that I left the nursing profession and enrolled in Life Chiropractic college-West.

I am now finishing up my last 3 quarters of college and anxiously anticipating entering this incredible profession! I was sorely disappointed in your representation of my new profession. It seemed highly slanted in its presentation and ignored the research and studies validating the efficacy of our healthcare approach. I have always regarded PBS as a highly ethical news/information source but now must reconsider my opinion and support for your misinformation.

Controversy and sensationalism sells and you folks must be in dire need of ratings. Please reconsider airing your biased presentation of my profession until your research staff has thoroughly investigated it. I would refer you to my instructor Dr. Malik Slosberg's website. He is an international speaker on the validity of chiropractic and interfaces with the medical (allopathic) community presenting the scientific research validating chiropractic citing research from the most prestigious medical journals in both the allopathic, osteopathic and chiropractic professions.

I am a proud member of this profession called chiropractic and have witnessed near miraculous recoveries from injuries and fatal conditions such as advanced terminal cancer after patients received care.

Since the chiropractor indirectly affects the nervous system via vertebral subluxation adjustments and the nervous system directs and coordinates ALL of the bodily functions including the immune system (which fights cancer), is it so far fetched that once dysafferent/efferentation has been corrected that the body can better coordinate its functions and homeostatic drives? Innate Intelligence, the organizing concept of our bodily functions and regulating powers is no different than homeostasis, the concept and model the medical community uses to explain our innate drives for healing and self-regulation.

Philip Mitchell, R.N., B.S.

From: Name Withheld

Thanks for the great show on alternative medicine. I think that you went quite far to be fair to chiropractic, etc, and did not present anything much besides good facts. Good job. My best friend died of cancer after being treated by a chiropractor for a backache that was caused by a tumor that the chiropractor did not diagnose during a few months of treatment. If your program could save one such victim from what my friend went through, it's worth whatever criticism you suffer. Nature is not fooled. Cancer is not suckered. Keep telling the truth.


From: Daryl D. Wills, DC

As president of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), I find it ironic that a program titled "Scientific American Frontiers" would completely ignore the scientific foundation of the chiropractic profession. The chiropractic portion of the June 4 episode titled "A Different Way to Heal?" irresponsibly characterized chiropractic care —a legitimate, research-based form of health care — as a fraudulent hoax.

I am also disappointed that you chose a group of admitted chiropractic antagonists, representatives of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), as your "expert" health care sources. The NCAHF Web site describes chiropractic as "America's homegrown health care cult." The producers of your program could not have expected objectivity from this organization. And as a viewer of public television, I expect more reliable information than what the program offered.

I must also take you to task on the format of the program itself. The program did not offer any of your pro-chiropractic guests an opportunity to rebut the foolish statements made by the NCAHF group and former doctor of chiropractic John Badanes. This would be the legal equivalent to a jury trial in which the plaintiff’s attorney is the only counsel permitted to make a closing statement to the jury. Secondly, through just a little research, you would have learned that an ACA representative would make the most logical pro-chiropractic guest for the program. Excluding the nation’s largest chiropractic organization from the discussion is irresponsible.

The NCAHF is a private organization that has been discredited in the past for its lack of accuracy and objectivity. The Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud (LVCAHF), one of the three constituents that eventually formed the NCAHF, was discredited as a source for information on chiropractic in 1979 in a report ordered by the New Zealand Governor General and presented to the New Zealand House of Representatives. The report stated, "nothing [Stephen Barrett, then chairman of LVCAHF and current vice president of NCAHF] has written on chiropractic that we have considered can be relied on as balanced." The report went on to say, "It is clear that the enthusiasm of the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud is greater than its respect for accuracy, at least in regard to facts concerning chiropractic. We are not prepared to place any reliance on material emanating from the Lehigh Valley Committee."

This condemnation demonstrates that NCAHF cannot be counted on for objectivity. A more balanced segment would have featured representatives from the ACA and the scientific community discussing the numerous studies throughout the world that have shown chiropractic care to be effective and safe for a variety of conditions. Instead, the program’s aim clearly appeared to be to discredit chiropractic, with NCAHF operating as a more-than-willing partner.

People trust PBS to provide accurate, unbiased information. In fact, on your own Web site, you refer to PBS, a non-profit enterprise, as "a trusted community resource." By airing this unbalanced portrayal, you have done a disservice to viewers who rely on you for the truth.

During the program, Robert Baratz of NCAHF errantly claimed that there is no scientific basis for chiropractic care. This is simply not true.

In 1994, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommended spinal manipulation as an initial form of therapy for low back sufferers, finding it both "safe and effective." The statement by AHCPR was based on its scientific review of all the accumulated evidence on spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is the primary form of treatment performed by doctors of chiropractic. In fact, doctors of chiropractic perform 94 percent of all spinal manipulative therapy in the United States.

More recently, a study released in 2001 by the Center for Clinical Health Policy Research at Duke University concluded that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for cervicogenic headaches, or those that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication. Other positive studies include a 1993 report prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Health that found that chiropractic care is "the most effective treatment" for low back pain and that it "should be fully integrated in the government’s health care system," and a study published in the 1995 British Medical Journal that found that for long-term low back pain, "Improvement in all patients at three years was about 29% more in those treated by chiropractors than in those treated by the hospitals." The study continued, "The beneficial effect of chiropractic on pain was particularly clear."

Your program also failed to cite any of the countless examples of chiropractic’s successful integration into today’s health care system. For example, the prestigious Texas Back Institute (TBI), the largest, freestanding spine specialty clinic in the United States of America, at one time included only surgeons and other MDs. Then, nearly 15 years ago, when TBI’s medical doctors discovered chiropractic’s success with low back pain, they hired their first doctor of chiropractic. Now, according to published articles, about 50 percent of the Institute’s patients see a chiropractor first when beginning their treatment. Perhaps segments on the first two doctors of chiropractic to practice in the attending physician's office on Capitol Hill, the new chiropractic internship program at Bethesda, Maryland’s, National Naval Medical Center, or the successful Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Center at the National Institutes of Health, would have made for more informative television.

Despite such convincing evidence, some organizations such as NCAHF continue to question the legitimacy of chiropractic and other forms of alternative medicine.

For example, Baratz claimed during your program that "hundreds of people" are paralyzed each year from chiropractic neck manipulation. Not only is this incorrect assessment completely unfounded, it boldly ignores the scientific literature on the topic. A study by the Rand Corporation found that a serious adverse reaction from cervical (neck) manipulation may occur less than once in 1 million treatments. Studies have also shown that these rare adverse reactions more frequently occur after visits to health care professionals who are inexperienced or inadequately trained in spinal manipulation, rather than to licensed doctors of chiropractic. A more recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found only a 1-in-5.85-million risk that a chiropractic adjustment of the neck may result in vertebral artery dissection.

To put these remote risks into perspective, a study published in the April 15, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than 2 million Americans become seriously ill every year from reactions to drugs that were correctly prescribed and taken; 106,000 Americans die annually from those side effects.

Additionally, you should be aware that complications from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- a group that includes prescription and non-prescription pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen -- are responsible for 16,500 deaths each year, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Far too many patients — young and old — have their pain treated with medication that may have side effects that do not correct the underlying source of their problem.

The ACA believes that patients have the right to know about the health risks associated with any type of treatment, including chiropractic. However, health care consumers should be aware that the risks associated with chiropractic treatment are infinitesimally low.

Finally, we are particularly concerned that your biased, misleading and malicious attack has severely and wrongfully damaged the reputation of the chiropractic profession and chiropractic colleges. We urge that you reconsider the assertions made in your program given the damaging effects they have had on the profession and on these institutions, and that you publicly withdraw the assertions with an apology to this association and to the nation's chiropractic colleges.

Daryl D. Wills, DC
President American Chiropractic Association

From: Robert Baratz, MD

Daryl D. Wills, DC, who states he is the president of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) wrote in regard to the June 4, 2002 Scientific American Frontiers Episonde, "A Different Way to Heal", and placed his comments on this web site page: I was one of many people who were interviewed and shown in this excellent program.

Note: Wills' statements are in "'s. My comments follow the word: COMMENT.


"I find it ironic that a program titled "Scientific American Frontiers" would completely ignore the scientific foundation of the chiropractic profession. "A Different Way to Heal?" irresponsibly characterized chiropractic care -a legitimate, research-based form of health care -- as a fraudulent hoax.

COMMENT: I don't believe the term "fraudulent hoax" was used on the show. While this may be true, I don't believe the show aired this epithet. Chiropractic is not scientifically legitimate as it has no testable hypothesis which underlies its beliefs. The fact that one does research on chiropractic does not make it "evidence-based". One can research scams and collect statistics on them. They are still scams.

"I am also disappointed that you chose a group of admitted chiropractic antagonists, representatives of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), as your "expert" health care sources. The NCAHF Web site describes chiropractic as "America's homegrown health care cult."1

COMMENT: The National Council Against Health Fraud is a consumer protection group which tries to provide reliable information on health care methods and practices. NCAHF is NOT a group of "chiropractic antagonists", we are a group of skeptics. We need to be shown evidence of the effectiveness and safety of purported health methods, devices, and materials.

"The producers of your program could not have expected objectivity from this organization."

COMMENT: The producers' expections were not revealed to us. They asked NCAHF for reliable information and we gave it objectively.

"I must also take you to task on the format of the program itself. The program did not offer any of your pro-chiropractic guests an opportunity to rebut the foolish statements made by the NCAHF group and former doctor of chiropractic John Badanes. "

COMMENT: By this statement Wills would seems to not understand that TV producers and reporters collect taped comments by various parties and then decide what will be in the show and what will not, and in what order. The editorial content of the show is up to those who make it. TV is not a trial or legal proceeding. Guests were not identified as "pro" or "anti". They were asked questions and answered them. Period. Calling a guest "pro" is an interpretive judgement of the viewer.

"Excluding the nation's largest chiropractic organization from the discussion is irresponsible."

COMMENT: You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows....I believe Bob Dylan originated this statement.

"The NCAHF is a private organization that has been discredited in the past for its lack of accuracy and objectivity."

COMMENT: Not being run by government NCAHF is private. So is the ACA. So what. That is the definition of a private organization. The NCAHF has not been discredited. It is a highly credible organization. NCAHF spokespersons are reqularly sought for opinions and commentary by the media, government agencies, insurance companies and attorneys

"A more balanced segment would have featured representatives from the ACA and the scientific community discussing the numerous studies throughout the world that have shown chiropractic care to be effective and safe for a variety of conditions."

COMMENT: This statement says that the ACA is not part of the scientific community, since it distinguishes the two. This is precisely what has been suggested about chiropractic by many sources. It is refreshing that Wills openly acknowledges this fact. NCAHF commends him for his honesty.

"During the program, Robert Baratz of NCAHF errantly claimed that there is no scientific basis for chiropractic care. This is simply not true. "

COMMENT: see above

"In 1994, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommended spinal manipulation as an initial form of therapy for low back sufferers, finding it both "safe and effective."4 ....etc. etc.

COMMENT: AHCPR did not recommend spinal manipulation as an initial form of therapy in the cited publication. Moreover, none of the cited sources identify any scientific basis for chiropractic, which is the issue being discussed. The cited guideline is now out of date.

"Your program also failed to cite any of the countless examples of chiropractic's successful integration into today's health care system. "

COMMENT: the fact that something is mandated or legislated doesn't make it integrated. Most insurance companies limit or exclude chiropractic care. Chiropractic pales against such things as physical therapy which ARE integrated into the health care system. However wishful the thinking or the rhetoric, Chiriopractic is not.

"For example, Baratz claimed during your program that "hundreds of people" are paralyzed each year from chiropractic neck manipulation. Not only is this incorrect assessment completely unfounded, it boldly ignores the scientific literature on the topic."

COMMENT: There is ample evidence of the truth of the statement. Chiropractors are not quick to point out their failures. Moreover, even more cases may not be recognized, due to a time lag between treatment and catastrophic event.

"To put these remote risks into perspective, a study published in the April 15, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than 2 million Americans become seriously ill every year from reactions to drugs that were correctly prescribed and taken; 106,000 Americans die annually from those side effects. 13 "

COMMENT: People who are ill are ill. Many have fatal illnesses. Someone who is dying of liver failure who gets a Tylenol for pain may die sooner. Did they die from the liver failure of the drug? More important, a discussion of deaths from prescription drugs or even non-prescription drugs is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Does Chiropractic have a testable scientific basis? Trying to dodge the question by redirecting the discussion shows the weakness of the defense.

"The ACA believes that patients have the right to know about the health risks associated with any type of treatment, including chiropractic. "

COMMENT: The ACA should then require each Chiropractor to warn patients of the risk of death, stroke, and/or disability from neck manipulation. NCAHF endorses this idea.

Additional note: Daryl D. Wills, DC never referred to me as a physician, doctor, or gave my degrees in his letter. It is reasonable to point out that I have been a licensed health care practitioner for more than thirty years, and hold licenses in both medicine and dentistry. My earned PhD is in Anatomy and Cellular Biology.

Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS
President, National Council Against Health Fraud


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