VOCA Victims of Chiropractic Abuse
Judge rules in chiropractic rules case
Chiropractors can diagnose patients, within limits, but can't perform two procedures doctors sued them over, Travis judge says.

Weighing in on a 4-year-old battle between physicians and chiropractors, a Travis County district judge this week invalidated a rule by the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners that allows chiropractors to diagnose patients, saying the rule was too broad. But he wrote in a separate memo that chiropractors have the authority to diagnose within limits.

District Judge Stephen Yelenosky said in the memo that chiropractors can diagnose "the biomechanical condition of the spine and the musculoskeletal system."

His ruling also prohibits chiropractors from performing two disputed procedures: manipulation of the spine while under anesthesia and needle electromyography, a diagnostic test involving the insertion of a thin needle into a muscle to record the its electrical activity. Neither is commonly done by chiropractors, said Scott Parker, director of enforcement at the chiropractic board.

The Texas Medical Association, which represents physicians, and the Texas Medical Board, a state agency that regulates physicians, sued the chiropractic board over the rule allowing the two procedures and diagnosis. The doctors argued that chiropractors can't diagnose patients because the word "diagnose" isn't mentioned in the law. Yelenosky disagreed.

"The statute authorizes chiropractors to 'analyze, examine or evaluate' and therefore 'diagnose'\u2009" certain conditions, the judge wrote in the memo.

"When I saw that letter, that is a lot of what we contend," said Jennifer Riggs, the attorney for the Texas Chiropractic Association, which joined in the case. "I've never been so happy to lose a case."

The parties have 30 days from the date of the ruling to appeal, and if appeals are filed, the order would automatically be suspended, Riggs said.

Riggs and spokesmen for the chiropractic board said they were deciding whether to appeal.

David Bragg, a lawyer for the Texas Medical Association, and officials with the medical board applauded the judge's decision.

"We got the relief we were looking for," Bragg said. "People who practice medicine should go to school and obtain a medical license, and the judge's rule helps protect that."

Bragg said the chiropractic board will have to write a new rule for chiropractors to diagnose patients, but Riggs disputed that a rule was required, though it would bring clarity, she said.

Parker said he anticipated that "we will have to do some rewriting of the rule" in light of the judge's order.

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