Paralyzed Alberta woman sues chiropractors, province for $500M
Last Updated: Friday, June 13, 2008 | 9:59 PM MT
The Canadian Press
A woman who says she became paralyzed after having her upper spine manipulated is suing the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors and the provincial government for half a billion dollars.
The class-action lawsuit filed by Sandra Nette involves an alleged incident at an Edmonton chiropractor's office last Sept. 17.
"A perfectly healthy young woman's life has been irreparably and devastatingly damaged as a result of her exposure to a chiropractor's manipulation of the vertebrae in her upper neck to correct alleged subluxations," the statement of claim says.
"The procedure is an ineffective and dangerous one which chiropractors employ routinely. Ideological practitioners of chiropractic masquerading in the white smock of science perpetuate its unregulated, indiscriminate use with the condonation and protection of their supposed regulator against all reason. It has got to be stopped."
In the statement, Nette says the association and the government should have been aware that such spine manipulations are "without scientific justification and pose a threat to people."
The statement also contends the government was aware that chiropractic in Alberta was a confused and poorly regulated set of practices and a major consumer health problem.
Nette was unavailable for comment but outlined her concerns in a video shot last week by her husband from her bed at an Edmonton rehabilitation hospital using a speech synthesizing touchpad.
"[I want] chiropractors to stop neck manipulation," she says in the video posted on YouTube by rabbletv.ca. "Look what you did to me."
The statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proved in court and no statement of defence has been filed.
Officials with the Alberta College of Chiropractors and Alberta Health said they were aware of the lawsuit but have declined comment.
Nette and her husband, David, said if the lawsuit is successful, other Albertans who suffered injuries after undergoing manipulation of the upper cervical spine since June 12, 1998, would share in any financial settlement.
'The closest thing to being buried alive'
In her statement of claim, Nette says she went for a treatment session at the chiropractor's, during which he manipulated her neck.
After the session, she says, she felt dizzy as she was driving home and pulled over, calling her husband for help. As he was carrying her into the hospital emergency bay, she collapsed and went into convulsions, suffering permanent neurological damage.
Nette says she suffers from "locked-In syndrome," an incurable condition that her statement of claim says is akin to being "the closest thing to being buried alive."
She says she cannot move or speak, and uses mechanical devices to help her swallow and breathe.
Lawyers from Fraser Milner Casgrain, the firm hired by Nette to handle the lawsuit, declined comment on Friday.
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