John Lawler (pictured), 80, died after his neck was broken and he suffered ‘irreversible’ spinal damage which left him a quadriplegic
A chiropractor who fatally broke a retired Barclays bank manager’s neck when she treated him for a leg injury has been blasted by his family after his inquest.
John Lawler, 80, died after his neck was broken and he suffered ‘irreversible’ spinal damage which left him a quadriplegic.
Coroner Jonathan Heath will ask the alternative therapy’s governing body to consider compulsory first aid training for chiropractors.
He is also calling on the General Chiropractic Council to bring in pre treatment imaging, such as Xrays and other scans, to protect vulnerable patients.
But he stopped short of calling for measures to prevent chiropractors calling themselves doctors, as the victim’s family wanted.
Mr Lawler’s neck was ‘snapped like a rigid stick’ on Dr Arleen Scholten’s treatment table, the inquest heard.
Mr Heath had been asked by Mr Lawler’s family to consider concluding the pensioner had been unlawfully killed.
Mr Lawler’s (left) neck was ‘snapped like a rigid stick’ on Dr Arleen Scholten’s (right) treatment table, the inquest heard
They claimed Mrs Scholten tipping Mr Lawler’s head back to give him the kiss of life, moving him from the table to a chair and failing to give the paramedics a full account of what happened amounted to ‘gross negligence’.
But the coroner recorded a narrative conclusion that Mr Lawler suffered spinal injuries while undergoing chiropractor adjustment and died from respiratory depression.
Yet he underlined that it was not known at the time Mr Lawler was suffering from a calcifying condition, which is common in old age, which meant his spine was much more rigid.
The inquest heard Mrs Scholten, 40, boss of Chiropractic 1st in York (pictured), was in ‘a state of utter and complete shock’ at what happened
The inquest heard treatments on such a back would have been like ‘bending a spoon back and forwards’ until it broke in two.
The six-day inquest at York Race Course heard Mrs Scholten was not trained in first aid at the time of the tragedy but had since completed a course.
Are Chiropractors doctors?
Chiropractors are not medically trained doctors and do not have medical degrees.
But they are thoroughly trained in chiropractic care and have to have a licence.
Some specialise in a particular field – of which there are one 100 – which sees them do an extra residency after their degree which takes two to three years.
Yet some specialise in a number of different areas, meaning they can describe themselves as using ‘diversified’ or ‘integrated’ techniques.
All chiropractors have to have a licence, which they get through taking an exam.
On top of this they have to keep on top of the field by going to regular contiuing education classes.
After the hearing, daughter Claire Lawler said the family hoped ‘lessons would be learned’.
She said: ‘We are devastated to lose John in such tragic unforeseen circumstances.
‘A much loved husband father and grandfather he is greatly missed by us all. There are several events that went very wrong in John’s treatment.
‘He thought he was being treated by medically qualified doctor when he was not.’
The inquest was told the chiropractor had not asked for any x-rays or images before treatment which might have revealed his condition.
The family believe Mr Lawler might have been spared had the chiropractor given a ‘full and accurate’ account of the events leading up to his injury.
She added: ‘We hope the publicity surrounding this event will highlight the dangers of Chiropractic, especially among the elderly and those with already compromised spines.
‘We would urge the regulator to take immediate measures to ensure the profession is properly controlled.’
Widow Joan said: ‘He was a quiet unassuming very religious man who loved us all deeply.
‘His grandchildren miss him desperately.’
Mr Lawler was lying face down when she lowered a section of the couch 2cm while also giving him a slight push.
Mrs Scholten, a Canadian qualified Doctor of Chiropractic, has admitted calling herself a doctor in the UK when her correct legal title is Mrs.
Widow Joan (pictured) said: ‘He was a quiet unassuming very religious man who loved us all deeply. His grandchildren miss him desperately’
She was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after Mr Lawler died on August 12, 2017, the day after the session and three days after his 80th birthday.
The inquest heard Mrs Scholten, 40, boss of Chiropractic 1st in York, was in ‘a state of utter and complete shock’ at what happened.
She found herself under investigation for manslaughter when she returned home after a week long beach holiday at an unspecified resort.
Police called at her house in Tollerton, North Yorkshire, and she was immediately taken into custody, spending five hours in a cell.
North Yorkshire Police concluded a year later that no charges would be brought.
Paul Spencer, for Mrs Scholten, said there had already been a detailed police investigation – Operation Coriander.
A number of experts had been consulted and there had been an independent review of the evidence by the Crown Prosecution Service.
He added: ‘All these experts considered with North Yorkshire Police whether the test for Gross Negligence Manslaughter was met – and concluded it was not.’
The family’s barrister Richard Connall had called for the new guidelines to include stopping chiropractors ‘styling themselves’ as doctors.
Mr Connall said Mrs Scholten had done this and the Lawlers had believed her to be one.
A spokesman for Arleen Scholten said: ‘Arleen Scholten wishes to express her deepest sympathies to the family of Mr Lawler for their loss.
‘This was an extremely rare and unusual incident, which has been thoroughly investigated by the Coroner during the course of the inquest.
‘She will take on board the Coroner’s findings, and has already made changes to her practice since the incident.’