MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The use of the doctor title by chiropractors has long been a controversial issue. A recent statement from the UK General Chiropractic Council (GCC) is aimed at creating clarity for UK chiropractors. It is directly from the website of the GCC:

Recently, the GCC has received some queries regarding the use of ‘Doctor’ for chiropractors.

As a reminder, if the courtesy title of ‘Doctor’, or its abbreviation ‘Dr’ or ‘DC’ is used, any public-facing content must state clearly that this is not as a registered medical practitioner, but a ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’.

We urge all registrants to review their public-facing materials, on- and offline, to ensure that they fully comply with these requirements. To assist, we have published three communication-focussed toolkits on social mediaadvertising and websites, providing useful guidance and advice on how best to remain compliant to GCC and Advertising Standards Authority requirements.

Internationally, chiropractors seem keen on the doctor title. So much so, that they even claim that DD and BJ Palmer, the inventors of chiropractic, were doctors:

Chiropractic as a profession was established by Dr. D. D. Palmer in 1895 … The International Chiropractors Association (ICA) is here to serve the chiropractic community worldwide.  Established in 1926 in Davenport, Iowa, USA by Dr. B.J. Palmer, the ICA is the world’s oldest international chiropractic professional organization representing practitioners, students, chiropractic assistants, educators and lay persons globally.

In the US, it seems therefore entirely normal that chiropractors use the doctor title. In the UK, however, it is less common.

Remember the tragic case of John Lawler? He consulted a ‘Dr.’ thinking she was a medical doctor. She turned out to be a chiro and the patient paid with his life. Recently, the GCC found that the chiro was not guilty of any wrongdoing. It took me less than 10 minutes on the Internet to find plenty who do use the doctor title or allow it to be used on their website:

  •  Thanks to Dr Jasper for helping me to get rid of the terrible back pain
  • Dr. Mo is a chiropractor in Manchester and Stockport helping with back pain, sciatica, neck pain, headaches.
  • Dr Maria Madge is an experienced chiropractor working in Norfolk.
  • Dr James Shervell has 25 years’ experience to help with your pain…

So, in the spirit of goodwill and constructive criticism, may I make a suggestion to the GCC? Instead of issuing reminders like the one above, could you please invest a little time (a few hours would probably suffice), identify all of those of your members who still misuse the title, and instruct them to stop? It just might prevent tragedies like the above-mentioned Lawler case from happening again!

 

 

27 Responses to Use of the doctor title by UK chiropractors

  • The problem is that in the UK, there is no bar or law to anyone using any title they wish.
    Lord Sutch was one example.
    Many dentists style themselves ‘doctor’ though they are manifestly not doctors in the regular sense (unless doubly qualified).

    However, unless a person is a registered medical practitioner (which status confers the right to use the title ‘Dr’ by tradition, and application of the Anatomy Act), or has been awarded the degree of ‘doctor’ by a reputable university (e.g. PhD, DD, MD) – I can see no reason why a healthcare practitioner of any sort would use the title ‘Dr’ unless they wished to pass themselves off and have their patients or potential patients believe or think they were indeed medically qualified. As poor Mr Lawler thought.

    Why else would chiropractors use such a title? What is their motive for using such a title?

    For the GCC to assert that use of the title ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’ is acceptable and enough to avoid a charge of wilful misrepresentation is specious.
    And that is why the medical profession finds it so hard to deal with UK chiropractors – many are seeking to mislead patients, and that is to be deprecated.

    The GCC ‘s remit is to regulate chiropractors, not doctors, and the GCC should simply bar their registrants from using misleading titles such as ‘doctor’. Simple.
    Why not? What is GCC’s problem with that?

    A chiropractor should use the title as ‘Chiropractor X’ or the abbreviated title ‘Ch X’.
    What is wrong with that?
    Are they not proud of their profession?
    Why do they wish to use a title used by another?
    They don’t use titles such as ‘Prince’, ‘Major’ or ‘Captain’ – why use a title associated with the regulated medical profession?

    Unless to pass off?

    • Wait! Lord Sutch was not a member of the House of Lords? But then neither is the potty peer (Lord Moncton) though he is a legit viscount.

      In my province of Ontario “nutritionist” is not a designated “profession” so as a joke while printing up some business cards I printed up a few describing myself as an “Applied Nutritionist” , slogan “Feed me and I’ll critique the meal”. I was shocked that one or two people seemed to think it was real.

  • That text from their website seems mealy-mouthed to me (springing no doubt from an equivocal and mealy-mouthed mindset).

    In my opinion, the majority of persons in the UK, unless they have a specific interest and are widely-read on SCAM, are going to be like Mr Lawler, and assume when they see “Dr” in a treatment context, that the practitioner is listed on the General Medical Council’s medical register.

    “Doctor of Chiropractic” is also unhelpful, in my view, because who is going to actually check the academic status of the institution awarding the Doctorate, and the course content leading to the award? It is still, in my opinion, a misleading use of the word “Doctor” in a context that will make people think they are getting treatment from a medically qualified person.

    There should be a much stronger position against this equivocation. In my opinion, any sign that says Doctor of Chiropractic should be legally required also to have on it “Not on the medical register”. And similar, for other countries.

  • I recently conducted a survey of 20 randomly selected chiropractors in the London area. 9 out of the 20 gave the impression that they are a doctor or equivalent to a doctor: https://complementaryandalternative.wordpress.com/2021/11/30/zero-out-of-twenty-chiropractors-compliant-with-regulatory-advertising-guidance/ This is clearly a widespread issue within the profession. Like you, I don’t see why the GCC doesn’t take more direct action to stop it

  • It’s not a controversial issue unless you are motivated by your own ego and the fact others can take charge of human’s health is deeply unbalancing you.

    That is the reason why you have no problems with dentists or vets since both grounds the medical profession decided to leave for others.

    Chiropractors step on your toes… well I suggest you get strong shoes.

    Here in Israel this nonsense has been cleared by the courts and DC’s can call themselves as Doctors as long as the state at the same sentence they are Chiropractors.
    If you are so troubled by it ask yourselves WHY???

    • So, John Lawler died because he was motivated by his own ego and the fact others can take charge of human’s health which deeply unbalanced him?

      • “A doctorate degree signifies the highest level of academic achievement in most professional fields in the U.S. Professionals commonly recognized for their doctoral title include university professors (EdD), doctors of medicine (MD), doctors of law (JD), social work, theology, psychology, and so on.”Geteducated.com

        (Apparently, unless it’s chiropractic)

        The issue isn’t the title per se, the (potential) issue is: is the quality and quantity of their education sufficient for them to perform their respective duties as a healthcare provider?

        Finding some examples of practitioner incompetence reflects on those individuals, not necessarily on the whole educational or professional system.

        Yes, they are required in most places to identify themselves as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Failure to do so should/does come with some type of recourse.

        • ““A doctorate degree signifies the highest level of academic achievement in most professional fields in the U.S. Professionals commonly recognized for their doctoral title include university professors (EdD), doctors of medicine (MD), doctors of law (JD), social work, theology, psychology, and so on.”Geteducated.com

          (Apparently, unless it’s chiropractic)”

          And what, then, is the level of academic achievement in Chiropractic Doctorates? Which academic institutions are recognised by the government to award these Doctorates? Where are the details of the course curricula published? How long is the period of study for the Doctorate? What is the degree of academic rigour of the examinations? How many hours of clinical practice are incorporated in the Doctoral courses?

          If I have occasion to visit my GP, or inded my Dentist, and in the course of consultation or treatment, some medical emergency happens to me, I feel confident that my GP or Dentist will know what steps to take, having qualified via a rigorous medical training in a recognised medical school.

          As the case of poor Mr. John Lawler indicates, one cannot be sure that a Chiropracter will know what to do in a medical emergency.

          I’ve posted this link before, and perhaps it is pertinent to do so again: https://youtu.be/qTtNFEMPktU

          • I feel confident that my GP or Dentist will know what steps to take,

            “That her death was caused by obstruction of the airway, that the airway should not have become obstructed if these two professional men were acting competently and properly, but that even if it did, had they been adequate and competent in the art of resuscitation she could have been held back from the danger she found herself in.” https://amp.theguardian.com/uk/2001/jan/30/1

            “In this article we reviewed more than 20 studies with adequate data focusing on death associated with dental procedures since 1955 and found 218 deaths out of 71,435,282 patients (3 deaths per 1,000,000 persons) with the mortality rate of 1:327,684.” J Clin Diagn Res. 2017 Jun; 11(6): ZE07–ZE09.

          • the difference, it seems to me, is that real doctors and dentists have to thoroughly learn ‘the art of resuscitation’, while chiros in the UK don’t. that’s why the GCC later stated that it ought to be included in the curriculum.
            that A FEW dentists and docs nevertheless fail at the task is sad but not all that surprising.

          • EE that’s why the GCC later stated that it ought to be included in the curriculum.

            So the chiropractic profession is taking steps to improve profession. That’s a good thing, unless one just hates chiropractors.

          • it’s a good thing, yes.
            far from me to hate anyone!

    • To answer Ch Almog’s question: Because scamming and misleading patients is unprofessional.

      Why are not chiropractors sufficiently proud of their profession to style themselves as e.g. Ch. G. Almog?
      What’s wrong with that?

      • RR Because scamming and misleading patients is unprofessional.

        Yes it is. And as you know we can find plenty of examples of this in other health professions that use the title doctor.

        How about we punish the person and not the profession.

        • “How about we punish the person and not the profession.”
          GOOD IDEA!
          However, I fear that, in the chiro profession, very few would remain unpunished.

    • Sorry you plead this..

    • Dr. G. Almog, DC wrote: “Here in Israel this nonsense has been cleared by the courts and DC’s can call themselves as Doctors as long as the state at the same sentence they are Chiropractors.”

      So, why have you written many comments on this website using the name Dr. G. Almog without stating that you are a chiropractor? For example:
      https://edzardernst.com/2020/07/the-clinical-utility-of-routine-spinal-radiographs-by-chiropractors/#comment-124784

      BTW, the noun “chiropractor” and its plural are not capitalized — “unless you are motivated by your own ego” 😂
      https://www.lexico.com/definition/chiropractor

      • Once it is established in a conversation that one is a doctor of chiropractic it is not necessary to mention it again thus one can simply state Dr. xyz (at least here in the states, not sure about other countries).

  • John Lawler case is a private legal case with claims flying all over.

    If there was a misconduct / malpractice the court will rule and the GCC will follow with NO discounts.

    We can bring many other cases but to discreadit an entire profession is unjust.

    The issue here is not Mr. Lawler, the fact is MD’s have been annoyed by the Chiropractic title for decades. For the wrong reasons.

    • John Lawler went to consult the practitioner because she used the doctor title and he thought she was a medical doctor

      • Which is why they are REQUIRED to let people know they are chiropractors.

        Just as dentists are required to let people know they are a doctor of dentistry, same for physical therapists, osteopaths, optometrists, etc. (where they are allowed to use the title doctor)

        If she misled him or wasn’t clear that she was a chiropractor, that is on her.

        It seems that is what the GCC is addressing.

        Or is this another example of damned if they do, damned if they don’t?

  • Dr. Almog: [T]he fact is MD’s have been annoyed by the Chiropractic title for decades. For the wrong reasons.

    And what would be the right reasons MD’s should be annoyed, Doctor?

    ~TEO.

  • Using improperly assumed titles seems to be a pandemic disease in all those fields of medicine which depend on people’s belief more than on medical evidence. For example, the world of TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) is full of frauds, and therefore naturally also full of false titles. Each and every Chinese who hopes to earn money by treating patients in Western countries calls himself “Doctor” or “Professor of Chinese medicine”, and many Westerners preaching TCM do the same. In Britain there was, for example, the famous self-styled “Professor” J.R. Worsley, who invented and taught the notorious “Five Elements acupuncture”. Another example in England is Mrs. Rada Thambirajah from Sri Lanka who, when teaching or publishing her “energetic acupuncture”, assumes the title “(medical) Doctor” which according to her curriculum should have been awarded to her by a Shanghai military hospital when she was 16 – in the midst of the Cultural Revolution when all academic activities were suspended.
    German TCM circles are full of TCM “professors”, for example Johannes Greten in Heidelberg who uses this title because he once was a part-time teacher at a Portuguese university, where like in Spain “professor” is the word for ordinary teachers. There are dozens of “Heilpraktiker” like a certain Andreas Noll in Berlin and Dieter Kummer in Kulmbach who claim to have been awarded the title “professor” by a Chinese TCM university. In the USA, a person like Miriam Lee without any qualification called herself “Dr. Lee”. Other Western TCM prophets decided to take a detour and founded institutions which claim to award academic titles, the first title of course reserved for the founder, so that Heiner Frühauf can call himself “Founding Professor of the College of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland”.
    Funnily, even some “real” German universities have capitulated to the claims of TCM being a treasure house of holistic medicine and wisdom, so that for example the Munich Technical University made a certain Dr. Hempen (though unable to use a Chinese dictionary or speak two sentences in Chinese) “Honorarprofessor Studiengang M.Sc. Traditionelle Chinesische Medizin”.
    It should be worthwhile to start a collection of all these false or pompous titles, offering a prize for the most pompous one.

    • “It should be worthwhile to start a collection of all these false or pompous titles, offering a prize for the most pompous one.”
      Good idea!
      Please do it – I offer you this blog as a platform to publish about it.

      • Years ago I studied for, and gained, with The Open University (www.open.ac.uk) a Diploma in European Humanities. This entitles me to put, perfectly legitimately should I choose to do so, which I do not, after my name, the designation “Dip Eur Hum (Open)”. Said aloud, it sounds vaguely rude……

  • That’s so informative and helpful!

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