An Australian chiropractor treating a baby kangaroo makes as much sense as treating a human child

Before I begin this brief update to my recent post on Australian baby chiropractor Ian Rossborough’s “crack heard round the world,” I want to give a quick thanks to Jann Bellamy for organizing our day of Science-Based Medicine at NECSS last week. It was an amazing experience sharing the stage with the SBM crew for my first public presentation, and finally getting to meet Scott, John, and Saul. I’ve given hundreds of lectures to residents and students, and even a grand rounds or two, but this was orders of magnitude more exciting and stressful. I may be biased, but I think we nailed it.

With NECSS prep taking up a significant percentage of my time and a rough current work week making up for days off, my post today is a little shorter than usual. My overall average word count still gives Gorski a run for his money however. Well, that’s not actually true. Gorski is in another league.

Rossborough provides an undertaking?

Chiropractor Ian Rossborough, who I recently discussed in a post on the backlash against pediatric chiropractic in Australia, has received the slap on the wrist I sadly expected. According to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website, which has jurisdiction over the Chiropractic Board of Australia when it comes to “professional conduct, performance or health of registered health practitioners,” Rossborough has promised to leave them kids alone:

Dr Ian Rossborough provides the following undertaking to the Chiropractic Board of Australia (the Board):

1. The practitioner undertakes not to perform any chiropractic treatment of patients up to the age of 18 years from the end of today [being 13 May 2016] until and including 2 June 2016.

2. For the purposes of this undertaking, chiropractic treatment of patients up to the age of 18 years includes assessment, undertaking a diagnosis/clinical impression, formulating and implementing a management plan, the provision of any manual therapy (including manipulation of the spine), monitoring or reviewing care and facilitating coordination or continuity of care.

I didn’t even need a calculator to figure out that this promise to behave is for 20 days. That’s it. 20 days for blatantly ignoring advertising laws by engaging in “false, deceptive or misleading advertising” and giving parents the expectation that his manipulations of the spine will provide benefit for their child.

The chiropractic board will be investigating the claims made against Rossborough and at some point between now and June 2nd a hearing will be held. He may suffer the indignity of a reprimand or, unlikely as it would be, even more significant penalties. My prediction is that he will be tasked with “educational requirements” in order to continue treating children and nothing will change.

Rossborough may stop advertising the treatment of children for a bit, but nothing is likely going to keep him and his ilk from performing spinal adjustments on newborns in the future unless there is a major change to the current regulations. He certainly hasn’t demonstrated one iota of understanding or remorse for hurting the infant in this video. I hope I’m wrong.

Not that you need another example of chiropractors breaking the rules

Although not a new phenomenon, the recent focus on chiropractic care of young children in Australia has led to more reports such as this, which demonstrate the fact that some chiropractors feel that they are not obligated to play by anyone’s rules. Chiropractors have been sneaking into Australian hospitals despite this being forbidden by the facilities, in order to adjust the spines of newborn infants. The most recent incident provided this gem of a justification:

It was an awesome experience checking [the baby’s] spine for the first time. As I gently laid my hands on his spine, without even waking, he did his first poo!

I have seen roughly 30 newborn infants so far this week and probably a third of them urinated or passed meconium while I was examining them. But I’m not attributing this to my stethoscope’s aura or my powers of colonic reiki. And I won’t be posting any pictures on Facebook or YouTube videos of my taking credit for random bodily functions.

Of course not all baby poo is random. Sometimes it is a sign from God.

Conclusion: Make that crack a crack down

The AHPRA is charged with numerous objectives, most importantly to protect the Australian public from potentially dangerous nonsense. Allowing the continued chiropractic “treatment” of children fails that objective. Although I won’t be holding my breath, I’m really hoping that a true crack down takes place that can serve as an inspiration for policy makers in other parts of the world.




Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.