Chiropractic: A Profession Coming of Age ~
An Interview with David Chapman-Smith, LL.B.
SOURCE: Health Insights Today
David Chapman-Smith, the Secretary-General of the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC), is a New Zealand-born attorney who now resides in Toronto, Canada. Chapman-Smith’s introduction to chiropractic came when he represented the New Zealand Chiropractic Association before that nation’s Commission on Inquiry into Chiropractic in the late 1970s. The Commission’s report was the world’s first major independent evaluation of chiropractic and set the stage for many later advances.
For Chapman-Smith, the whirlwind years of the New Zealand Commission were a prelude to what has become a career-long mission on behalf of chiropractic. He has served the WFC since its inception in the late 1980s and is widely recognized as the world’s leading non-chiropractor advocate for the profession.
As an attorney, you represented the New Zealand Chiropractic Association during the New Zealand government’s Commission on Inquiry into Chiropractic. The outcome was a report that was distributed around the globe that had tremendous impact for the chiropractic profession. Share your experience and tell us about the conclusions of that Commission.
There was a Commission in 1978–1979 and it had an influence internationally partly because the Commission visited North America, England, Australia as well as sitting in New Zealand. The commissioners visited chiropractic colleges, workers’ compensation boards, medical schools and associations to get a wider picture of the profession. That contributed to its findings and its international significance.
Its findings were basically that the chiropractic profession was occupying a place within overall health care services that was missing in medical education and practice. It used the language of musculoskeletal problems, functional problems, and manual care to correct those. The Commission looked both at the philosophy and the principles of the profession and its approach to treatment, in saying that the chiropractic profession was offering a valuable service, something that no one else could offer, and that it should be an important part of the health care system in the country.
Why a Commission on Inquiry into Chiropractic?
The reason there was a commission in the first place was a large public petition. In fact, it was the second largest public petition in the history of the country at the time. Chiropractic was known in the country but there were only about 120 chiropractors. It was regulated by law, but New Zealand had a socialized medical system in which medical care was partially reimbursed by the government but chiropractic care was not. So patients were essentially asking for coverage under the national system. There was a commission because when that petition was presented to government, and it was faced with essentially a financial issue—the public asking for more money—it passed it off to a commission to look into the whole philosophy, principles, education and practice of chiropractic. Really, what had been a very positive petition for chiropractic ended up in a commission that threatened it.
So this commission came about because reimbursement for chiropractic services was not part of the New Zealand socialized medical system, and public demand wanted that corrected.
That’s right, and you’re talking about the late 1970s, so this was a stage where there was very little cooperation between the professions, with chiropractic practices very much in isolation from the mainstream system. But, as it had elsewhere in the world, chiropractic had found its place because it delivered a service that people needed and wanted.
Read the rest of this fascinating interview at Health Insights Today
Read portions of the New Zealand Report