Man ‘broke neck during chiropractor treatment’ in York

John Lawler

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Lawler family

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John Lawler died following treatment at the Chiropractic 1st clinic in York

A man who broke his neck as he was treated by a chiropractor shouted “You are hurting me,” his widow told an inquest.

John Lawler, 80, was attending Chiropractic 1st in York in August 2017 when he said he could not feel his arms and became like a “ragdoll”.

Mr Lawler was taken to York Hospital and later transferred to Leeds General Infirmary where he died the next day.

A police investigation into his death ruled out any criminal charges.

Giving evidence, Joan Lawler, said her husband had been a fit and healthy man.

They had booked a series of chiropractic treatments after an initial assessment with Dr Arleen Scholten.

“She said his shoulders and back were out of line and by gentle manipulation she could make his life much happier,” Mrs Lawler said.

The first two appointments went well and they returned for a third appointment on Friday 11 August, , Mrs Lawler added.

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Paramedics were called to Chiropractic 1st in York when Mr Lawler became unwell

“She started on the shoulders and went round his body…. Then the table dropped and he shouted ‘You’re hurting me. You are hurting me. I can’t feel my arms,'” Mrs Lawler told the inquest.

She said Dr Scholten carried on treating her husband for a moment but then realised he was unresponsive and asked him to turn over.

He did not respond and the chiropractor manoeuvred him into a chair.

“She got John on to the chair but he was like a ragdoll,” Mrs Lawler said.

“He wasn’t moving and he wasn’t speaking.”

She said when paramedics arrived Dr Scholten did not inform them of the table drop element during the treatment only that she had been applying “gentle manipulation”.

He was initially taken to York Hospital where the family was told he had a broken neck.

“They said unfortunately John was a paraplegic and needed to be moved to a special unit,” Mrs Lawler said.

The following day, at Leeds General Infirmary, she was told Mr Lawler had multiple spinal injuries and a broken neck and would need a 14-hour operation to install a neck brace.

It would be a traumatic operation and they were told it “might kill him anyway”, she said.

She said during this discussion her husband made some mumbling noises.

“We decided he was saying no [to the operation],” she said.

“There was nothing they could do. He lay there and just faded away,” she added.

The inquest continues.

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