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Cleveland University-Kansas City Receives Wilk vs. AMA Court Papers
Cleveland University-Kansas City Receives Wilk vs. AMA Court Papers

Chiropractic institution to house documents from landmark court case won by profession.

Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is now the permanent home for some of the most important documents in the history of the chiropractic profession. In the fall of 2017, lead attorney, George McAndrews, donated to CUKC his legal papers from the landmark 1976 Wilk v. American Medical Association (AMA) et al. court case. The court documents can now be used for educational reference to illuminate the past while shaping the practitioners of the future.

McAndrews argued during the case that the AMA had been engaged for many years in a conspiracy to destroy the chiropractic profession. In 1987 a federal appellate judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, which earned McAndrews a historic victory for the profession.

The judge ruled that the AMA had, in fact, been involved in a "lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott," to restrict cooperation between medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic through a variety of tactics. The goal was to undermine the effectiveness of chiropractic, and ultimately, to eliminate the profession as a source of competition in the United States health care system. Co-defendants in the case were the American Hospital Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Physicians, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals.

McAndrews is revered by many in the chiropractic community for his successful work on the case. His legal triumph 31 years ago was historic for the discipline. As a result, it was important to McAndrews that the documents associated with the case be housed in a place with a similar enduring connection to chiropractic history.

"I concluded that the entire chiropractic profession, medical physicians, historians, and even patients should have ready access to the historical information that resulted in the sea-change in professional cooperation between medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic," McAndrews said.

The Cleveland name has been associated with chiropractic since the earliest days of the profession. Dr. Carl S. Cleveland III is a fourth generation chiropractor who serves as the president of CUKC. The grandson of the founders, Cleveland III is the only founding-family member still leading a chiropractic educational institution today. As they are considered one of the first families of the profession, McAndrews chose to entrust CUKC with the historic documents.

"It is a privilege and honor for the University that Mr. George McAndrews, lead attorney for Wilk v. AMA et al., has entrusted our Cleveland library to serve as custodian of the transcripts and court documents from this historic and unprecedented legal case for future generations.," Cleveland III said. "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. Today, the result translates to better health care for patients."

The 1987 verdict was a landmark decision for the chiropractic profession. Since the legal victory, chiropractic care has continued to grow in popularity as a non-invasive and drug-free approach for management of disorders of the spine and other parts of the musculoskeletal system.

While most chiropractic services are community-based in private offices, interdisciplinary and integrated practices are now common, with doctors of chiropractic, medical doctors and physical therapists, working as partners in private practices, occupation health and rehabilitation centers, multidisciplinary corporate centers and with national sports medicine teams, including as members of the U.S. Olympic medical team. Doctors of chiropractic provide care to the U.S. military and in veterans' hospitals.