George McAndrews, the attorney recognized for his efforts as lead counsel in the landmark legal case of Wilk v. American Medical Association (AMA), died April 7, 2023, at age 87. The 1987 pro-chiropractic verdict in the antitrust case was a pivotal moment in the profession’s history. It occurred in an era when chiropractors in the United States were subjected to prejudice and discrimination by the AMA and 10 co-defendants acting as part of coalition within political medicine.
McAndrews’ epic battle was detailed in the 2021 book, “Contain and Eliminate: the American Medical Association’s Conspiracy to Destroy Chiropractic,” written by Howard Wolinsky.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) President, Dr. Carl S. Cleveland III, acknowledged the enormity of the challenge that McAndrews was willing to pursue on behalf of the profession he loved and respected.
“While our professional forefathers campaigned for ‘health freedom’ and the ‘right of the sick to get well’ by the doctor of their choice, political medicine branded chiropractors as ‘rabid dogs,’ and spent millions on false publicity campaigns to convince patients that chiropractors were a menace to public health,” Cleveland said. “We will never know just how many patients lingered in pain and suffering because political medicine had frightened them away from seeing a doctor of chiropractic.”
The legal battle began in 1976, and culminated in a 1987 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge, Susan Getzendanner, that the AMA, along with its co-defendants, had engaged in an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade “to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.” The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the judgment in 1990.
“The patients whose lives have been changed by chiropractic are the true beneficiaries of this landmark legal victory,” Cleveland said.
The impact of Wilk v. AMA was massive, as the verdict helped open doors that had been locked against chiropractors for years.
“Since that landmark legal victory,” Cleveland said, “there has been substantial collaboration among doctors of chiropractic and the various healthcare professions throughout the world.”
A key outcome of the case was the change in the AMA’s code of ethics that now allows its members to be free to choose to refer patients to doctors of chiropractic.
Cleveland witnessed chiropractic’s struggle; he watched his grandparents and parents, among other chiropractic leaders, strive to advance the profession in the face of relentless opposition from political medicine.
“George McAndrews stood up, spoke out, and fought in the courts against the injustice of the AMA’s anti-chiropractic propaganda,” Cleveland said. “The chiropractic profession will always be grateful for his leadership.”
McAndrews was a frequent visitor to the CUKC campus, and a true friend. In 2017, he donated his collection of legal papers from the Wilk v. AMA case to the CUKC archives, where they will serve to educate future generations about the monumental efforts of McAndrews and colleagues to end political medicine’s discrimination against chiropractic.
“The Wilk case challenged the anticompetitive barriers of that time, and has since resulted in increased patient referrals, interdisciplinary practice relationships, and professional association and cooperation between doctors of chiropractic and medical practitioners,” Cleveland said. “Today, the result translates to better health care for patients.”
Today these collaborative patient-care settings are varied, occurring in private practices, occupational health, and rehabilitation centers, and multidisciplinary corporate centers, with national sports medicine teams, including members of the U.S. Olympic medical team, and U.S. military and veterans’ hospitals. This collaboration could not have been possible today without the perseverance of attorney George McAndrews.