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Medical error can have devastating effects. Here, in their own words, Connecticut families tell the stories of how medical error changed their lives forever.

Britt Harwe

My name is Brittmarie Harwe from Wethersfield and I am the co-founder of the Chiropractic Stroke Awareness Group which consists of hundreds of young people, most between the ages of 25 and 48 who have been injured by chiropractic adjustments. I am testifying in support of

Almost 15 years ago, I went to a chiropractor because I had a sore shoulder and neck. I had a stroke immediately following a chiropractic cervical adjustment. The chiropractor called 911 and reported his patient was having a “reaction”. He didn’t mention he had just performed a neck adjustment. Nor did he mention that I immediately became so dizzy, I was unable to sit without his assistance, I couldn’t speak and I wasn’t able focus my eyes. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital and tests revealed that one of my vertebral arteries was damaged during the chiropractic adjustment which caused a stroke. I was left with many neurological disabilities including left side weakness, paralyzed vocal cord and worst of all; I lost of the ability to swallow. Since I couldn't swallow without aspirating, a feeding tube was surgically placed in my stomach. For the past 15 years I have not been able to eat anything except the liquid nutrition that is pored directly through my tube. This stroke has forever changed my life and the lives of my family.

Later I learned, from my attorney, this chiropractor had not only hurt me but had a previous large malpractice settlement. A large settlement usually involves severe injury or death. Had this information been available, it would have raised a red flag since chiropractic treatment is advertised as safe and natural – no risks are ever mentioned. As a matter of fact, I asked the chiropractor before beginning treatment if there were any risks with neck manipulation. I will never forget his response – “Some people have reactions”. The next time I heard the word “reaction” was when he called 911. He called it a “reaction”, but it was a stroke and I almost died.

Many of the victims I have spoken with had an artery torn during the neck adjustment and immediately experienced symptoms of stroke, only to delay seeking the necessary emergency medical care needed because they were told by their chiropractors - not to worry, that their bodies are “just releasing toxins” or that it is just a “reaction”. When an artery is torn there can be a delay of hours, days or weeks between the original injury during the adjustment and the impending stroke, therefore, it is under-reported and many malpractice claims are not filed. The chiropractors claim that their low malpractice insurance rates are a reflection of the safety of their profession. This is not true. How can chiropractors know how rare strokes are, if they don’t even recognize the symptoms in their own patients? If strokes do not happen at the chiropractor’s office but instead happen days or even weeks later after the artery is torn by the chiropractic adjustment and no one relates it back to the chiropractic adjustment, again, how do they know it is rare? By judging by the number of people that I have heard from, I don’t think that hundreds of people can be considered rare or insignificant.

Chiropractors, who are called physicians and use the title, “Dr.”, must be included in the Physician’s Profile system.


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