Chiropractors should carry out X-rays before treating clients to prevent future deaths
Chiropractors should carry out X-rays before treating clients to prevent future deaths, a coroner has said.
Coroner Jonathan Heath will ask the General Chiropractic Council to bring in pretreatment imaging after the death of 80-year-old John Lawler.
Mr Lawler died after his neck was broken and he suffered “irreversible” spinal damage, which left him a quadriplegic.
An inquest heard Mr Lawler's neck was "snapped like a rigid stick" on Canadian qualified Doctor of Chiropractic Arleen Scholten's treatment table.
Mr Heath said he would be utilising his powers to prevent future deaths by writing to the General Chiropractic Council.
He added: “It will request a review of Chiropractic guidance with a requirement for pre-treatment imaging.
"It will also be to consider making first aid mandatory for chiropractors."
He recorded a narrative conclusion that Mr Lawler suffered spinal injuries while undergoing chiropractor adjustment and died from respiratory depression.
But Mr Heath underlined that it was not known at the time that Mr Lawler was suffering from a calcifying condition, common in old age, which meant his spine was much more rigid.
Mr Lawler was lying face down when Mrs Scholten lowered a section of the couch 2 centimetres while also giving him a slight push.
The inquest heard that treatments on such a back would have been like “bending a spoon back and forwards" until it broke in two.
The six day inquest at York Racecourse was told that Mrs Scholten was not trained in first aid at the time of the tragedy but had since completed a course.
The chiropractor had also not asked for any X Rays or images before treatment which might have revealed his condition.
Mrs Scholten, 40, boss of Chiropractic 1st in York, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after Mr Lawler died on August 12 2017, the day after the session and three days after his 80th birthday.
Following a detailed investigation, North Yorkshire Police concluded a year later that no charges would be brought against Mrs Scholten.
After the hearing, daughter Claire Lawler said the family were “devastated” by the loss and hoped “lessons would be learned".
She added: “We would urge the regulator to take immediate measures to ensure the profession is properly controlled.”
GCC said in a statement: “These are sad circumstances.
“It has been difficult hearing the testimony of those affected and our sympathy goes to the whole family.
“Following the completion of the Inquest we are now in a position to resume the investigation opened in 2017 following the death of Mr Lawler.
“We must consider the Coroner’s findings carefully as we take our next steps.
“We look forward to receiving the Coroner’s report on steps that might prevent deaths in the future.”