When I went to chiropractic school, I was told that the biggest threat to chiropractic was accepting rights to prescribe drugs. We were told to look at the osteopathic profession in the US and see how it had been absorbed by the medical profession and consider what might happen to us if we accepted these rights. At the time, I accepted the arguments against prescribing without question. Today, many years later, I still hear these arguments advanced when the subject of prescription rights is discussed. But is it really true that gaining limited prescription rights is the biggest threat to our profession? I doubt it.
There seem to be two major debates raging within the profession at the moment. The first of these is chiropractors seeking limited prescription rights. This is issue that will be heavily debated during the WFC conference in Rio de Janeiro in April, with speakers that will include those from ECU member nations. The second debate surrounds the concept of the vertebral subluxation complex, which historically has been inextricably linked to the chiropractic profession. The reality is, however, that in our European educational institutions, it is no longer considered to be the mother of all diseases and forms no part of the modern European undergraduate teaching model. These two debates are most interesting. We will no doubt continue to follow them closely and ongoing discussion will almost certainly find its way on to future pages of Backspace.
The biggest threat to chiropractic in Europe, however, is neither achieving limited prescription rights nor the profession’s belief about the vertebral subluxation complex. The biggest threat to the chiropractic profession today is that in most of Europe we do not exist, and in most of Europe we do not grow. If we are to survive as a unique and distinct profession, this situation must change.
As of today, there are only a few countries in Europe that have dedicated legislation to regulate the chiropractic profession. The rest of Europe has either only partial legislation or no legal recognition of chiropractic at all. Because chiropractors have tended to be individually successful and have derived a good living from what they do, many of us have lived in a comfort zone for too long. I attended my first ECU meeting back in the eighties. Disappointingly, many of the problems we discussed all those years ago remain with us today. Back then, three decades ago, I saw national associations that failed to recruit students to the profession and had no future strategy for how the profession should grow and prosper to enable chiropractic to become a household word among millions of Europeans. Today, we can see a shift in attitudes, where more national associations take measures to seek legislation, encourage recruitment to the profession and seek academic recognition by looking to establish undergraduate educational programmes within their own nations. This is all very positive, yet the pace of actual change is frustratingly slow. This relative stasis also makes us vulnerable as a profession and we are now seeing attempts by the physiotherapy profession to take over the chiropractic profession in some European nations. At the same time, the numbers of osteopaths in Europe grow in number by thousands every year.
These facts alone should be a wake up call for many national associations. Our destiny is in our hands. We still have time to take positive action and make a change, but that time is running out. I strongly encourage all chiropractors to get out of their comfort zone and re-examine the belief that the world will always stay the same. In a fast-paced world, we must adapt or we shall die as a profession. We all have a responsibility to unite in serving the profession, in strengthening the profession and in recognising that the future of chiropractic in Europe depends on positive action.
The General Council of the ECU has started a visioning process which will help all national associations to set common goals. In Zurich, we will present a document setting out a joint vision for the chiropractic profession in Europe. Our aim is for all national associations to adopt this document, set common goals and have clear strategies for how these goals will be reached. This document will serve as a guide for the national associations in their quest for professional and public recognition.
It is also my belief that if chiropractic is to become a major player in the health care system in Europe, it needs to grow in areas where it is non-existent or only marginal. The Executive Council of the ECU has therefore called for a conference where chiropractic educationalists will explore ways of expanding the establishment of chiropractic programmes in European universities where chiropractic has never previously had a presence. I will tell you more about these exciting developments and much more when I see you during the ECU Convention in Zurich in June.
Until then, all the best.
This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of the Backspace.