Judge Backs TMA on Patient Safety Issue

For Immediate Release
Dec. 20, 2011

Contact: Pam Udall  

phone: (512) 370-1382 
cell: (512) 413-6807  

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320 

State District Judge Rhonda Hurley signed her final judgment in favor of the Texas Medical Association and the patients it works to protect Monday. The judgment invalidates the Texas State Board of Chiropractic Examiners’ (TBCE) vestibular testing rule by declaring the test is beyond chiropractors’ lawful scope of chiropractic.   

 “It’s a great relief,” said TMA President C. Bruce Malone, MD. “We’re glad the Texas courts protected Texas patients from a complex test that only those who have the skills, training, and expertise should provide.”  

TMA argued that state law does not authorize chiropractors to perform vestibular testing. The vestibular system is a component of the inner ear and communicates with the central nervous system. Tests of vestibular function are diagnostic tests designed to evaluate the function and structure of the inner ear and/or brain, and they include hearing evaluations because the hearing and balance functions of the inner ear are closely related. 

“The vestibular apparatus is not part of the musculoskeletal system because the muscles that connect the eyes to the skull do not ‘move the body’ or ‘maintain its form,’ ” TMA said in its motion. “Chiropractors are not authorized to diagnose medical conditions, including defects in the vestibular apparatus, because the Chiropractic Act does not include the diagnosis of diseases within the definition of chiropractic. Even if chiropractors can use the word ‘diagnosis’ in a rule, any such diagnosis must be limited to the biomechanical condition of the spine and musculoskeletal system.” 

TMA took TBCE to court to protect patient safety after TBCE adopted rules allowing chiropractors to perform the procedure.  

This is the fourth part of TBCE’s Scope of Practice Rule that a court has declared invalid and void because it exceeded the scope of chiropractic as defined by law. The first three parts of the rule unlawfully authorized chiropractors to perform manipulation under anesthesia and needle electromyography, and to diagnose diseases.  

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 45,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. 

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