Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australian Chiropractors Manipulate the Evidence

By Ken Harvey

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is dealing with more than 600 complaints about chiropractors. The majority of these cases involve caring practitioners who genuinely believe that their interventions are effective. The problem is their interpretation of evidence.

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The Chiropractic Board of Australia, which supposedly regulates the professional conduct of chiropractors, has stated that high-level evidence is required to justify their advertising claims. The Board’s Code of Conduct includes the need to provide treatment or care options based on the best available information and to practise in an evidence-based context.

Despite these injunctions, many complaints about chiropractors note that the evidence used to justify their promotion and practice does not meet the Board’s requirements. The following examples, taken from real cases, are typical of many more.

Practitioner Experience
“I can categorically say that children under my care have experienced amazing changes with conditions such as colic, reflux, recurrent ear infections, learning difficulties and ADHD, to mention just a few.”

There are a number of reasons why practitioners and patients report that a treatment is effective when it’s not. These include the placebo effect (a patient’s expectation of an intervention), the natural history of disease (symptoms may wax and wane), confirmation bias (seeing what you expect to see), cognitive dissonance (ignoring results that don’t accord with expectations) and promotion by charismatic gurus.

In short, personal experience is easy, convincing and often wrong, while blinded, placebo-...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.