Wilk v. AMA 25 Years Later:
Why It Still Isn’t Over
SOURCE: ACA News ~ March 2012
By Lori A. Burkhart
The future of the chiropractic profession changed on Aug. 27, 1987, when federal court judge Susan Getzendanner found the American Medical Association (AMA) guilty of conspiring to destroy chiropractic. 
The nefarious plot was hatched in 1962 when the Iowa Plan was adopted by the Iowa Medical Society with the goal of eradicating chiropractic in that state. The Iowa Plan is summed up in the plaintiffs’ 132-page aid to the court, submitted June 25, 1987, in the Wilk case.
The Iowa Plan’s section “What Medicine Should Do About The Chiropractic Menace” includes a Part G titled “Undertake a positive program of ‘containment’” in which an often quoted phrase in chiropractic literature can be found: “If this program is successfully pursued, it is entirely likely that chiropractic as a profession will ‘wither on the vine’ and the chiropractic menace will die a natural but somewhat undramatic death. This policy of ‘containment’ might well be pursued along the following lines:
- Encourage ethical complaints against doctors of chiropractic;
- Oppose chiropractic inroads in health insurance;
- Oppose chiropractic inroads in workmen’s compensation;
- Oppose chiropractic inroads into labor unions;
- Oppose chiropractic inroads into hospitals; and
- Contain chiropractic schools.
The Iowa Plan states that such actions taken by the medical profession should be persistent and behind-the-scenes whenever possible. The medical community should never give professional recognition to doctors of chiropractic (DCs), and thus a successful program of containment will result in the decline of chiropractic.
In Wilk v. AMA, Judge Getzendanner explains that the AMA hired as its general counsel Robert B. Throckmorton, the author of the Iowa Plan, and that “as early as September 1963, the AMA’s objective was the complete elimination of the chiropractic profession.” Two months later, the AMA formed the Committee on Quackery under its Department of Investigation (DOI), and by 1964 its goal was to do away with chiropractic throughout the United States.
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Judge Getzendanner noted that during the 1960s and 1970s, H. Doyl Taylor, the AMA DOI chairman, and the Committee on Quackery worked aggressively to achieve its goals by:
- Conducting nationwide conferences on chiropractic;
- Distributing publications critical of chiropractic;
- Assisting others in preparation of anti-chiropractic literature;
- Warning that professional association between medical physicians and chiropractors was unethical; and
- Discouraging colleges, universities and faculty from cooperating with chiropractic schools.
In 1966, the AMA adopted a resolution calling chiropractic an “unscientific cult.” That label implicitly invoked AMA’s Principle 3, making it unethical for a physician to associate with an “unscientific practitioner.” In 1967, the AMA Judicial Council issued an opinion under Principle 3 specifically making it unethical for physicians to associate with chiropractors. That included making referrals; accepting referrals; providing diagnostic, laboratory or radiology services; teaching chiropractors or practicing together in any form. The opinion was sent to 56 medical specialty boards and associations.