A long time ago now, I was walking up the mountains in north Italy with an uncle of mine. I was about 14 years old.
I remember asking him (in Flemish): “dad is a GP and you are a chiropractor, what do you do differently?” To which he slowly replied: “We are both trying to make people better. Your dad does it by giving them something they’re missing, I do it by taking away the reason why they are not giving it themselves.”
There was no conflict between the two philosophies, because sometimes my dad would tell me about how the human body is the greatest healer and my uncle would tell me about how great medicine is (an auntie of mine had and survived pancreatic cancer). I deduced from this that the relation between chiropractic and medicine is not “either/or” but rather “at the right time, at the right place”. I soon felt I knew my place as a chiropractor and that there was no real argument. I was tempted by a career in medicine until that walk up in the mountains. The answer I got made perfect sense to me. It was entirely harmonious with what I knew of the natural world and it painted a deep appreciation for the body’s ability to heal.
Even before I began my studies, I realised that noone in health care holds all the answers but that there is a filtration process, a spectrum through which a person may walk on their path to being well or unwell and that there were different stallwarts looking over different segments of the spectrum applying their knowledge to that segment. On the one end of the spectrum there were those who needed nothing, further along the line there were those who needed low-level interventions like a hug, a kind word, a nice meal, some exercise. Further down the line there were those who needed more intrusive changes enabling changes in mechanical, emotional, nutritional behaviour. Further still there were those who needed high level interventions and who literally had to be forcefully changed, induced, rebuilt. This all made perfect sense to me as it was evidenced by what was out there in the world already.
What I hadn’t accounted for was the human element of those stalwarts and their conscious and subconscious ability to undermine the greater good for personal, emotional and/or financial gain. In a nutshell I approached the topic naively. I continue to support such naive notions, by choice now, but I have made further observations which protect this idealised view from the obscene levels of stupidity and arrogance entertained by some.
But back to what matters: I have come to the conclusion that the chiropractic profession, as a group of people rather than a therapeutic ethos, has embarked on a downwards spiral. Two observations I must add to that statement: it embarked on it a long time ago and the negative annotation “downwards” is in respect and relative to what I personally understand to be the correct direction of the “chiropractic profession”. All very subjective, personal and nobody’s concern other than my own. But I am telling you anyway. Because I can. I am not the first to have come to this conclusion and nor does it matter if I were. What does matter is that I have decided that it was a movement I did not wish to be part of.
Firstly; the BCA does not represent me and what I do in my practice. Or more precisely what the BCA pretends to represent does not represent me and what I do. I could tell you why they don’t represent me but I would just largely duplicate what I am writing about the GCC further down. So you will have to wait a little longer but for those reasons I have handed my resignation in. I wrote to them with the detail, explained where I was coming from and said my piece.
I could have gone to another association, but there seems to be a lot of muppetting in any place, group or organisation where politics and power are on the menu.There seems to be no real leadership anyway. Leadership seems to be all about how many people will like an opinion,… a popularity contest, not a learning experience. Richard Brown could of course argue that his choices have been unpopular. Richard, for your benefit: if you’d known in advance exactly how unpopular it would have made you,… would you still have done it? Anyway, it’s not your fault. It is in fact no-ones fault. It is all of our faults.
Secondly: the GCC is not regulating the profession in a way that I believe it to be conducive to helping the profession develop in the direction I believe it should go in. I am positive that it is going in a direction but I believe it is, as I stated before, a direction I am not interested in. I had a brief internal debate as to whether I should then not engage with the politics and make it better (in my view) rather than abandon ship like a “giver-upperer”. But I am not a political animal. In fact I would make a terrible politician. The other question I really had to ask myself was: what is the point of teaming up with people I don’t fully agree with? This is in fact turned out to be far more relevant than I initially considered. On the one hand the point of meeting with people you don’t agree with is that of expanding your horizons and challenging your beliefs. People have been known to become complacent before… on the other hand it is about accruing power by means of oration and reasoning. As I am personally not interested in the latter (I was much loved as a child) I decided that there must be a more intelligent and more productive way of achieving the former but without such wide margin for human error. Ultimately the problem is that a health care profession is not about being right/wrong/indifferent, it is about one thing only; results for patients. So the problem was simply how to build a profession around results and patients.
So I went looking for a solution. And I found one.
Now, finding one and implementing one,… two different ballgames, I know, but in a petulant fit of the Fuck You’s when the PCC finally realised last week (after 18 months and Darwin-knows how many thousands of pounds in admin and legal fees) that Simon Perry’s claim that I had behaved in an “unprofessional manner” was ridiculous (they didn’t even get as far as the third point), I, in return, decided that it had nothing to do with Simon Perry (nice guy, had him over at the office, put some BCA colic leaflets in the waiting room for a laff) but everything to do with the GCC ‘s desire to persue a case where no case existed (details on the GCC website). The good news: I haven’t paid the GCC for two years now. That said, and for clarity: I have CPD’ed the hell out of 2009-2011 and have no issues with the premise of a vexatious case-the GCC had no choice but to act on them. The manner in which they acted on them… well let’s say that that left to be desired. Nor am I a “subluxation-station” kindaguy. It makes me want to vomit yesterday’s breakfast when I hear mindless drones talk about lesions visible on X-rays or thermal scanners,… malpositions/heat discrepancies: they are the end product, not the cause! Nor do I feel “misunderstood…man” (pronounce “man” as if high on illegal substances and theorising about having found the reason for existence) and nor have I “outgrown the chiropractic label”…
It is just that my understanding of the chiropractic label is too big for the people that exist in it (including myself by the way-I know I can make a good impression of being arrogant). It is just that some of the people within any given profession but particularly the cottage industry that is chiropractic have fragile egos and happened to have manoeuvred themselves into positions of power and have redefined what the label stands for. It is just that the democratic process allows the majority to decide what a label means. It is just that the label, no longer reflects the meaning I oroginally signed up for. And because I value democracy I must honour this changed reflection and concede that if that is the majority decision it should be I who removes themselves. And that is why I have no longer any use for calling myself a chiropractor… my patients come to me because I am a “Stefaan“. It is just that it has no commercial value for me to be labelled a “chiropractor”. In the public eye it does not impart respect or expertise for my professional being. The perception of our profession has not really evolved from “back-cracking-some-are-good-some-are-bad”-status of pre-1994 despite the GCC’s existence. The public still doesn’t know that I know my stuff when it comes to back pain. GP’s still take the proverbial out of us unless they have heard for the umpteenth time that you helped one of their patients. The number one question is still “so what’s the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath then?”
And for all these and probably some other reasons, I am leaving the UK chiropractic profession. Because I still am passionate about what I believe chiropractic philosophy and ethos stand for and love it so much that I see no other way to save it than to leave it.
Stefaan Vossen, Human Being
This is only the beginning
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