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Sandra Nette, an Alberta woman paralysed after her neck was manipulated by a chiropractor, launched the biggest-ever class action suit against chiropractic in Canada. The suit, filed on 12th June 2008 in Edmonton, asked for more than a half billion dollars in damages not only for the victim, Sandy Nette and her husband, David, but for an entire class — anyone in Alberta treated or harmed by chiropractors who delivered "inappropriate and non-beneficial adjustments".
A routine neck adjustment left Sandy Nette trapped in her own body. Paralysed by a series of violent strokes after her arteries were ripped by a chiropractor, she was unable to move or swallow or talk. Suddenly, Sandy was a prisoner of locked-in syndrome, devastatingly aware of the world around her but completely unable to reach it. Sandy could only communicate with those around her by blinking. Barely into her forties, she had been cast into a living hell, a place where few have ventured and actually survived. But neither Sandy, not her devoted husband David, were willing to accept this cruel fate and together they began to fight for their future. Blink: Life After Locked-In Syndrome is the remarkable true story of a young woman's courage, strength and determination to beat the odds. It is also an exceptional tribute to the power of unconditional love. David Nette narrates the events that tore him and Sandy apart and then brought them closer than ever, sharing the trials and triumphs of their unique relationship, one always filled with humour, even in the darkest of days. Blink: Life After Locked-In Syndrome is a story that may just change your life." (Published June 10th 2013) [More background to the book can be found here.]
"Sandy Nette, 46, who lives in Alberta, Canada, suffered a series of massive strokes after her chiropractor manipulated her neck and ripped two arteries...research increasingly shows that in about half cases, chiropractic can cause adverse effects. With extreme chiropractic movement of the neck, an artery can disintegrate and lead to a stroke, an outcome that is well-documented in medical literature...Sandy's chiropractor admitted to committing fraud and perjury. Initially he had claimed that Sandy had signed a form to undergo the manoeuvre that caused her cascade of strokes. But two years after the incident, he finally admitted, under oath, to faking her signature on medical records. He was handed a three-month suspension and is now forced to find his own insurance as the Canadian Chiropractic Protection Association will no longer insure him. Last year, a settlement was reached and the money Sandy and David received paid off the couple's debts after David was forced to leave his job to care for his wife." Daily Mail (18th August 2013)
In January 2010, the court dismissed the ACAC [Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors] after concluding that (a) it did not owe a private duty of care to individual citizens and could not be held responsible for the conduct of its members, and (b) disputes about false claims by the association would be a matter for review by the legislature rather than the courts. The court also refused to certify the suit as a class action. The malpractice suit against Stiles is still active and will proceed. As of this writing, the plaintiffs have not decided whether to appeal the January 2010 ruling.
After further examination of the facts, the Spa and its owners were voluntarily dismissed as a defendant. In July 2009, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench concluded that the Ministry of Health did not owe a private duty of care to individual citizens and dismissed it as a defendant.
Filed on 12th June 2008:
[1.] This lawsuit arises from the fact that, once again, a perfectly healthy young woman's life has been irreparably and devastatingly damaged as a result of her exposure to a chiropractor's manipulation of the vertebrae in her upper neck to correct alleged subluxations. The procedure is an ineffective and dangerous one which chiropractors employ routinely. Ideological practitioners of chiropractic masquerading in the white smock of science perpetuate its unregulated indiscriminate use with the condonation and protection of their supposed regulator against all reason. It has got to be stopped.
[2.] This action concerns the promotion and supply, by members of Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors to the Class Members, for economic gain, of chiropractic interventions directed at the identification and correction of "vertebral subluxations" or involving manipulation of the upper cervical spine during the Class Period and seeks damages for the losses which the plaintiffs and the other Class Members were exposed to and suffered thereby.
[3.] For the purpose of this pleading, the following definitions apply:…
3 (c ) "Inappropriate and Non-beneficial Adjustment" means
(i) diagnostic procedures or chiropractic adjustment of the spinal column rendered to asymptomatic persons, persons without an identifiable medical condition or persons with vertebral subluxations: (ii) any chiropractic adjustment of the spinal column other than chiropractic adjustment of the lumbar spine based on objective patient assessment finding(s) of mechanical disability in a joint of the lumbar spine, to treat a diagnosis made a the time the adjustment is administered of acute or sub-acute uncomplicated low back pain in an adult…
[11.] The Class Defendants owed the Class Members a duty to
(a) not advise unsubstantiated procedures that lacked scientific justification or plausible rationale, or disproven procedures, to the Class Members who sought health care services from them nor subject them to such procedures;
(b) fairly disclose the demonstrated benefits and the material risks associated with the interventions they advised to the class Members who sought health care services from them, the comparative risks and benefits of other forms of service(s), or of non-treatment, and to obtain their informed consent to the services(s) provided to them;
(c) not to charge them a fee for services that cannot restore, maintain or enhance human health.
[Click on the link to read the complete 81-page Statement of Claim — pdf]
"Minutes after visiting an Edmonton, Alberta chiropractor for a routine neck adjustment on September 13th 2007, Sandy Nette suffered a paralysing stroke. From her hospital bed she answers questions about her experience using a speech synthesising touch pad." (YouTube video — 7 mins 57 secs)
Alberta lawyers Daryl Wilson and Philip Tinkler have taken the risky, yet inspiring and necessary legal action to go after the head of the snake, the regulators and the government. Their motivation is not financial; it is simple humanity and pain at the unnecessary suffering of their client. These lawyers will not go away. Chiropractic subluxations will be on trial. If they are shown not to exist, which they do not, chiropractic will be reduced to simple manipulation therapy for the almost negligible instances where it is helpful. Chiropractic highest neck manipulation in particular will be gone. Article by John William Kinsinger, MD, The Calgary Herald [2-pages]
Full details of the lawsuit, which is seeking more than $525 million in damages, are available via this link to Chirobase.