ABC Chiropractor cleared of “karate chopping” patient’s throat

Chiropractor A was alleged to have treated patient A by repeatedly performing a heavy “karate chop” technique on her throat causing internal bleeding and despite the patient asking for it to stop. Further allegations of inadequate reviews and assessment were also made.

This was not an unusual case in that there is often a direct conflict of facts between the patient and the chiropractor. The stark contrast and degree of difference in recollections between the two was however quite unusual.

The technique that was being described by the patient is actually known as a “first rib manoeuvre” and involves placing the fingers in the middle of the clavicle and applying some fast but gentle pressure onto the back of the fingers. It is not a technique that causes bleeding or usually makes the patient feel like they have been “assaulted” as this particular patient described it.

The chiropractor had returned to Australia since this complaint was made and gave evidence throughout the week by way of a video link.

In dismissing all the allegations, the Professional Conduct Committee preferred the account of the chiropractor over the patient and noted in their reasons:

The Committee considered Ms A to have given her evidence in a calm and clear manner. She gave cogent answers to the questions that she was asked and her oral evidence was consistent with her written evidence and her clinical notes.. Ms A also gave credible evidence of how the consultations with Patient A had proceeded and the length of time which she had taken to discuss other matters affecting Patient A’s life with her during the consultations. The Committee considered this evidence to be of assistance in understanding how events had unfolded at the time. The Committee concluded that Ms A was a credible witness upon whose evidence it could rely.

The chiropractor in this case also relied upon a number of character witnesses who spoke both to her general character and to her usual clinical practise at the fact finding stage of the case.

Evidence of good character by way of references and testimonials at the fact finding stages of disciplinary hearings used to be inadmissible, except in limited circumstances such as in cases of dishonesty. That is no longer the position since the case of Wisson v HPC [2013] EWHC 1036 Admin.

This case is a reminder of the importance of character evidence when credibility is an issue between the parties.