Source Adelaide Now

Some of Australia’s most eminent scientists have their noses, at least, out of joint after learning that a Queensland university will offer a “chiropractic science” degree next year.

A letter made public this week, signed by 34 scientists and doctors, including eight from Adelaide, urges Central Queensland University to reconsider.

“Our concerns are not limited to chiropractic but extend to all tertiary institutions that are involved in legitimising anti-science,” the letter says.

“It would be most regrettable to find that financial pressures may be tempting universities to betray their academic heritage.

“We appeal to you as fellow academics to reconsider your plans.”

The signatories are a who’s who of medical science, including former Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer, who created the cervical cancer vaccine.

Professor Alastair MacLennan, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Adelaide is one leading the charge.

He wants the public protected from alternative therapy. “We are trying to encourage universities not to introduce or continue anti-science nonsense degree courses in quackery (such as) naturopathy, homeopathy, iridology, acupuncture, energy medicine and chiropractic,” he says.

“By offering these fee-paying courses, universities are undermining the academic integrity of their university and are potentially undermining public health by giving their imprimatur to superstition and potentially unhealthy medical practices.”

Among the other South Australian signatories is science communicator Dr Rob Morrison, a professorial fellow at Flinders University.

He says he is not trying to stop people consulting “crystal-rubbers” but believes they should be made aware of the lack of evidence for certain therapies.

“It is extraordinary that, in this most scientific and technologically advanced age of any time, when accurate information about disease and its effective treatment is available as never before, we should be reverting to pseudoscientific nonsense when it comes to the health and safety of ourselves and the people that we love, and paying dearly for it in the process,” he says. “When that is encouraged by institutions that should be among our most trusted advocates of evidence-based heath science, and the governments that fund them, it must be time for some serious evaluation of what has gone wrong.”

AUSTRALIAN Medical Association SA president Dr Peter Sharley says there are some very good chiropractors doing musculoskeletal work who are dismayed at some of their peers.

“There is a divide in the chiropractic community,” he says.

“There are some good people trying to do the right thing but there are a significant number of the anti-vaccine network who are chiropractic-based.”

Neurophysiology professor Marcello Costa, from Flinders University, says any benefits gained from chiropractic manipulation amount to physiotherapy.

He says the harm comes from unsubstantiated claims that chiropractic can cure a range of ills.

“Our fight is against the profession that is slowly trying to dislodge scientific medicine,” he says.

“Their plan is to become the first (professional) that people call for any ailments, before they go to a GP.”

Australian Chiropractors Association president Lawrence Tassell says people are voting with their backs.

More than 215,000 a week visit a chiropractor. “It’s probably close to a billion-dollar industry,” he says.

He says there is good evidence for chiropractic care, including its use on children.

In the past year, legislation has given chiropractors the right to use the title of doctor, their X-ray referrals are covered by Medicare, Veterans Affairs covers chiropractic for veterans and many health funds cover therapy for their members.

He points to these developments as proof the industry is recognised on many levels as legitimate.

They are all points that worry the objectors.

“You’ve got three university programs and a fourth one starting; that speaks by itself,” Dr Tassell says.

“We have more university-based programs than any other country in the world. Four in one country is significant.”

RMIT, Macquarie and Murdoch universities have established chiropractic science degrees.

Dr Tassell says it is nonsense to suggest chiropractors are trying to take over the medical world.

There are only 4000 of them in Australia.

He also dismisses suggestions chiropractors are anti-immunisation.

“We don’t recommend for or against vaccination; we simply say it’s a choice factor,” he says.

“I’m not sure why this attack has come forward – it’s a little bit of a mystery.

“I think it’s partly territorial. It’s partly because chiropractors are not afraid to say their piece and we look at things differently.”