Chiropractors Go To Jail ~ Nanaimo Chiropractor

Chiropractors Go To Jail ~ Nanaimo Chiropractor

To have true appreciation of what chiropractic is, you have to look at its history. If it weren’t for the bravery and conviction of those early pioneers of the profession, there wouldn’t be any chiropractic today. During the first half of the 1900’s, the medical profession waged a war on the fledgling field of chiropractic. By 1901, all of the US states had given the medical profession authority to set standards and to police itself. It then used the courts to prosecute chiropractors and lobbied state legislature to block licensing the profession of chiropractic. In 1906 DD Palmer, the discoverer of chiropractic, was one of the first to be convicted and jailed for practicing chiropractic. It’s estimated that by 1931, 12,000 chiropractors had undergone 15,000 prosecutions for practicing medicine without a license. None of these chiropractors were using drugs or surgery.

Chiropractor in jail ~ Nanaimo Chiropractor

Chiropractor, Dr. Mildred Creveling in the Ohio’s Mahoning County Jail – Circa 1930

Police officers would be sent into chiropractic offices in plain clothes and act as patients to collect “evidence.” In some juristictions, massive sweeps of the chiropractors in town would be made. Crowds of up to 1,200 patients were said to have protested against the arrests. Patients rarely agreed to testify against their chiropractor and often had to be subpoenaed and treated as a hostile witness. Some of the chiropractors prosecuted would pay a fine and would simply return to practice later that afternoon, facing further prosecution. Fines collected help the medical profession fund further prosecutions. For this reason, some chiropractors would choose jail time over fines. Sometimes, the chiropractor was not given the choice. At the peak of persecution 450 chiropractors were jailed in a single year.  These were not the jails of today, but would have rats, bugs and could involve hard labour. While behind bars, one chiropractor wrote to a friend, “Being here is sometimes like a bad dream.  And when you think of it being for nothing but doing good, it makes it twice as hard to take.” Over 100,000 letters were sent to one prison where a husband and wife chiropractic team was sent to prison for 100 days, having to say goodbye to their twin 3 year old girls at the jail gates.

Patient protest ~ Nanaimo Chiropractor

Patients protest outside the Ohio jail where their doctor, Herbert R. Reaver, D.C., was imprisoned. (ca. 1946)

Many of the jailed chiropractors would set up practice while incarcerated, committing the very crime they were jailed for. They would treat their fellow inmates, and even more surprisingly, some of the prison guards. Some would even treat their regular patients who visited the chiropractors in jail. It has been rumored that at one time the LA County Sheriff had more confiscated chiropractic tables than owned by chiropractors in the entire state of California.

Adjusting in jail ~ Nanaimo Chiropractor

Dr. Fred Courtney adjusting in jail— Los Angeles, California. Circa 1921

But the most notable of these brave chiropractors was Dr. Herbert Ross Reaver, known as the most jailed chiropractor. He went to jail 12 times in the state of Ohio. 12 TIMES!!! For the first 8 times he paid a fine. For the last four he was given more harsh sentences of jail time. The last time was 6 months of hard labour. After this twelfth time, Dr. Reaver moved his family to Florida where he was able to practice without further arrest. Again, guided by his strong sense of what was right he insisted on treating and befriending people of “dark skin.” At one point the Klu Klux Klan hired two men to kill him. He had been beaten about the head with 2x4s and left for dead. Luckily he survived the attack. He was passionate about chiropractic and didn’t want to leave the profession. Every year he would ask his wife, Millie, “Can I have one more year?” “The last time he asked,” she smiled, “I told him, ‘You can have the rest of your life.'”  Dr. Reaver lived to 93 and adjusted his last patient only three days before he died. He spent 71 years in the service of others.

Chiropractor in jail ~ Nanimo Chiropractor

Dr. Herbert Reaver – “The Most jailed Chiropractor.”

The lesson is, Dr. Herbert Reaver didn’t get arrested 12 times so that he could prescribe orthotics. He didn’t go to jail to use lasers on patients. And no, he didn’t do hard labour to use decompression machines, give supplements, or do ultrasound either. All of these things can be provided by non-chiropractors. He went to jail so that he could keep the spine in alignment so that the nervous system was at optimal function. He went to jail for practicing chiropractic.

The arrests in the United States continued until 1974, when Louisiana became the 50th and last state to license chiropractors. But it didn’t stop there. In 1997 a chiropractor was arrested in Thailand for practicing medicine without a license. I personally have a friend that was arrested in the 1990’s in the middle east for the same offense.

This profession truly stands on the shoulders of giants. If it weren’t for these brave men and women, the profession of chiropractic might not even exist today. This Nanaimo chiropractor, for one, is grateful for the sacrifices of those that came before me. I will remember their struggles and will remain true to the definition of chiropractic.