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Katie May
Katie May's Twitter profile picture.

Model’s Death After Chiropractic Visit Undermines Profession’s Breakthroughs

Katie May's Twitter profile picture.

Chiropractic often undeservedly gets a bad rap so it’s unfortunate when a chiropractor takes an action that causes notoriety and skepticism for the entire profession, and earns the ire of the patient community. The recent case of a model’s death after a chiropractic visit is one such gut punch to everyone in the business.

It’s during those moments that it should come as no surprise to patients that the doctors at Capitol Rehab of Arlington are going to make some “less than conventional” remarks, but here’s one: “For the most part, we hate chiropractors too.”

After reading over the case of Katie May, it’s impossible not to feel utterly sick about her death at what Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told People magazine was a ruptured artery in her neck allegedly caused by a chiropractor’s manipulation.

May, a model, ex-Playboy Playmate, and mother of an eight-year-old girl, injured herself during a modeling photo shoot. She said on Twitter that she thought she pinched a nerve, and after her appointment complained that she was in really bad pain

Chiropractic manipulation is a safe, effective treatment for neck, mid-back, and lower-back pain, and research shows that the chance of arterial dissection of the neck arteries as a result of manipulation is extremely rare. Likewise, the chance of a stroke after visiting a medical doctor or a doctor of chiropractic occurs at about the same rate. The coroner said that he had never seen anything like it, an implicit acknowledgement of the rarity of such a scenario.

Nonetheless, it’s likely that this case will be litigated, and May’s ex is seeking a multi-million dollar settlement from the chiropractor. We don’t know how Ms. May presented her symptoms, what recommendations the chiropractor gave her, and what methods or actions he took during his treatment. We don’t know if she had already severed her artery and that’s why she went in for the treatment.

But what is certain is that this is a tragic outcome for a routine visit, and we hope the glaring spotlight on this one case compels chiropractors everywhere to double down on the caution they use when evaluating a patient, including attention paid during the patient assessment to learn about the intensity of the patient’s pain and other symptoms, medical and family history, and unique circumstances that caused the injury, among other issues.

It’s a shame that episodes like this do so much to harm the industry when so many people are helped on a regular basis through chiropractic. We don’t know if it’s a bad apple in the bunch, or if the chiropractor just got caught in the middle of a bad situation, but as doctors, it’s our objective to act in our patients’ best interest at every turn, and that is a commitment we will always uphold.

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