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Ban on chiropractic care for infants reinstated

The Bugle App

Diana Timmins

23 June 2024, 9:00 PM

Ban on chiropractic care for infants reinstated

Within the health sector, backflips performed by the Chiropractic Board of Australia (CBA) around parameters relating to spinal manipulation of infants has caused a stir. An interim ban, initially implemented in 2019, was revoked in late 2023, which triggered a public outcry. The interim ban has now been reinstated, following requests for further investigation by the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler.

The CBA initially placed the ban on chiropractic care on infants under the age of two following release of a video, revealing a two-week-old baby being suspended upside down by Melbourne-based chiropractor, Andrew Arnold, who was performing spinal manipulation. Arnold also applied a spring-loaded device, an ‘activator,’ to the baby’s spine.

Victorian Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, considered this footage ‘deeply disturbing’, and called for an investigation into Arnold’s practice by CBA and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). 

Despite ongoing concerns, CBA released a statement on 29 November 2023, permitting chiropractors to resume providing paediatric care. It was stated that the reinstated practice must adhere to specified guidelines, including providing “the parent/guardian with information about the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment and the risks of receiving no treatment.”

However, scientific research yields inconclusive evidence around risks and effectiveness, inhibiting the ability for guardians to provide informed consent. 

Recent studies by Safer Care Victoria (2019) and Cochrane Australia (2022) revealed inconclusive results, which raised questions from Australian health ministers regarding on what grounds the ban was revoked. 

“Health Ministers have now written to the Chiropractic Board, seeking an urgent explanation on their decision to allow a resumption of spinal manipulation of infants under two, in spite of two reviews concluding there was no evidence to support the practice,” Minister Butler released in a statement shortly after the ban was lifted.

Following discussion at the Health Ministers’ Meeting on 14 June, the decision was again reversed. 

A statement released by CBA on 17 June confirmed restrictions inhibiting chiropractors to perform spinal manipulation on infants under two has been reinstated, “until further consultation with Health Ministers can allow for developing a final position.”

Board Chair Dr Wayne Minter stated that while there has been no evidence of serious harm to infants, the Board has a duty to protect the public.

“We look forward to working with Ministers to develop an evidence-based final policy on paediatric care that balances the paramount need to protect patients, with the right for parents and other patients to have a say in the care they choose,” said Dr Minter. 

“The Board is committed to ensuring the public has access to, and receives, safe, ethical and competent care from registered chiropractors.”

The CBA confirmed that the “Board will consider its obligations under the National Law and any further decisions by Health Ministers in developing a final position.”

Until then, the interim policy remains in place. Minister Butler concluded that, “this is the right decision by the CBA”.