The book Contain and Eliminate reveals the struggles between the Church of Scientology, the American Medical Association, and chiropractic
Last November, Jason Young, DC, of Corvallis, Ore., The director general of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, wrote on The Forward Thinking Chiropractic Alliance Facebook group: “Louis Sportelli sent me a book this weekend. Holy crap … did anyone know how the Church of Scientology saved chiropractic? It’s gorgeous, weird, and funny. “
Young and Louis Sportelli gave a fitting summary of the book Contain and Eliminate: The American Medical Association’s Conspiracy to Destroy Chiropractic.
Sportelli, a well-known chiropractor, commissioned the book almost three years ago. The goal was to record what happened in advance and in the Wilk process before it was forgotten and all participants died. I interviewed 100 people for the book including Chester Wilk, DC, who started the suit, and attorney George McAndrews, son of a chiropractor, who saw his father being persecuted by local doctors calling him a Called quacks. He eventually ruled by winning a 14-year antitrust case against the AMA and the rest of organized medicine on behalf of the DCs.
20 years in the making
The book had been Sportelli’s favorite project for 20 years, but he didn’t seem to be making it. Why did Sportelli reach out to me to tell the story?
I am a Chicago-based medical journalist. I worked for the AMA’s now defunct newspaper, American Medical News.
I first heard from Wilk et al. v. AMA et al. I happened to be hired to cover the Wilk Trial on a cold December day 40 years ago when the rest of the newspaper staff were attending the AMA mid-year in San Francisco.
I reported the case straightforwardly and wrote several stories a week for American Medical News. My boss and the AMA’s deputy general counsel made me aware that the AMA’s top bosses were disappointed with my reporting and wanted to know when I would “our [the AMA] Side of the story.
Little did I know then that McAndrews liked my fair and balanced reporting and shared my stories with prospects remotely after the trial. Wilk et al. Lost the first round of the two-month trial that exposed the AMA Quacks Committee’s campaign to “contain and eradicate” chiropractic care in the 1960s and 1970s due to a mistake in the federal judge’s jury instructions. McAndrews and his chiropractic clients won an appeal and eventually won a lawsuit in 1997. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept an AMA appeal in 1990, so the judge’s decision carried the day.
From AMA vs. DCs to AMA vs. Scientology
I followed the Wilk case to the end when I left the AMA in 1981 to work as a medical reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Over the years, I’ve done a number of exposés about the AMA for the Sun-Times, including AMA tobacco ownership, an AMA president and board member who owned a tobacco farm, and various other financial and ethical scandals leading to two AMA CEOs led to be fired.
In 1994, I co-authored Tom Brune’s book, The Snake on the Bar: The AMA’s Unhealthy Policy, which contained a chapter on the Wilk case. The book was a hit in DC circles. This is how Sportelli found out about me and, through George McAndrews, hunted me down to write “Contain and Eliminate” and keep the record of what happened.
Part of the book is about the Church of Scientology and its founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. He wrote the bestseller Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which was published in May 1950. He expected the AMA and the American Psychiatric Association to refer to him as a conqueror of mental illness. You didn’t do it.
Instead, the AMA wrote a letter to the editor in 1951 criticizing Scientology as a “cult”. The critic said of Scientology: “I am concerned about its growth and popular acceptance, and I fear that the world has had dumped on it a new therapy which will have the staying power of chiropractic, with as little scientific background to support it.”
“Cult” is a throwaway term used by MDs to refer to groups they disliked or viewed as economic competition.
Create Scientology’s “enemy list”
Hubbard was furious and immediately put the AMA on the “list of enemies” in an attempt to level it out. Finally, the IRS, CIA, DOJ, and a long list of other organizations with three letter synonyms also made the list, leaving them vulnerable to espionage, infiltration, break-ins, dirty tricks, wiretapping, propaganda, and everything else on the list’s bag of tricks from the now-defunct Guardian’s bag of tricks Church of Scientology Office.
And in 1975, around the same time Wilk was trying to raise money for a lawsuit against the AMA, a character called “Sore Throat” (a la Watergate’s “Deep Throat,” which forwards government documents to the Washington Post) appeared on The National Stage, who claimed to be a former employee of an AMA doctor, became a whistleblower who released documents about AMA misconduct to the press, government agencies, and eventually Wilk and other chiropractors. Wilk and Sportelli even had rare conversations with the so-called “Dr. Neck, ”as he called himself (he was actually a Scientology employee).
This spy for L. Ron Hubbard attempted to get the chiropractors to file an antitrust lawsuit based on documents Scientology teams received in 1972 and 1974-75 after they infiltrated the AMA executive offices in Chicago and Washington The offices of the AMA’s external lawyer had broken into.
A helping hand for chiropractic
“Contain and Eliminate” tracks the derring-do of Scientology employees who searched for the AMA conspiracy against Scientology but instead uncovered the conspiracy to contain and eliminate chiropractic that “Sore Throat & Co.” used to embarrass the AMA and betray the organization to the IRS, U.S. Postal Service, and other agencies. The book reveals the identity of two “sore throats”.
Sometimes conspiracy theories, as the conspiracy siropractors long believed that the AMA led against them, are true. The book also tells the story of McAndrews, a Chicago patent attorney who risked everything to get revenge on the AMA and organized medicine on his father’s behalf and his father’s profession.
HOWARD WOLINSKY is a Chicago-based writer and journalist. The Chicago Sun-Times nominated him twice for Pulitzer Awards for articles exposing financial and ethical mistakes made by the AMA leadership. He is an Associate Professor of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. The new book can be pre-ordered at ContainandEliminate.com.