Alberta Chiropractor Settles Vertebral Subluxation Claim
Sandra Gay Nette, who was injured by her chiropractor, Gregory John Stiles, recently settled her claim. She received $3.9 million, and her husband, David Nette, received $1.17 million. The couple attempted a class-action lawsuit against Stiles, but was denied certification over their inability to act as representative plaintiffs due to their catastrophic injuries.
The couple claimed that sessions involving vertebral subluxation treatment to the cervical vertebrae disrupted blood flow to her brain, causing stroke and neurological damage rendering her a tetraplegic. Court documents also demonstrated that Stiles forged Sandra Nette’s signature on an informed consent form provided to the Canadian Chiropractic Protective Association (CCPA).
The claim questions the scientific basis of the subluxation treatments and claims they are dangerous. It cites other cases such as the 1998 death of Laurie Mathiason following neck manipulations, and the subsequent coroner’s inquest that concluded the cause of death was due to stroke from trauma to the left vertebral artery. The claim also cites a 1981 article in Malpractice Alert, which states:
Evidence has now accumulated to the point that the chiropractic profession can no longer ignore the increasing incidents of strokes occurring concomitant with cervical manipulation. The reports of chiropractors, the statements of patients, and the results of medical examinations and autopsies cumulatively compel serious consideration of the problem. Possible injury to the patient overshadows the cost element and demands that we take immediate and decisive action to curtail the number and severity of these incidents.
Almost all techniques in the atlas-axis region have been the subject of stroke complaints. A few cases have been reported involving the HIO technique and one case, the mild Grostic technique. Far more often, however, accusing fmgers have been pointed to the cervical break and rotary maneuvers, done by other practitioners as well as D.C.s
The claim names the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors as defendants who should have known of the risk of the treatment.
The impact on the plaintiff as a result of this treatmeent was described in the claim as follows:
Sandra has Locked-In syndrome. She is cognitively not impaired and she is aware that other than very limited function in her right ann, she cannot move or communicate due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in her body. It is a condition that has been described as “the closest thing to being buried alive”. There is no treatment nor is there a cure. She has retained sensation throughout her body by which she perceives pain. She cannot swallow, speak or breathe without regular mechanical ventilations and suctioning of her secretions. She cannot attend to her own personal care. She has survived a number of emergency crises in her condition solely as a result of the expert, dedicated 2417 efforts of the finest medical, nursing and technical hospital personnel available who have treated her since Stiles’ procedure at Life Stiles.
After the claim was not certified as a class action, the couple proceeded against Stiles independently, resulting in the current settlement.
The Statement of Claim in Nette v. Stiles follows, as well as the certification judgement.