Oct. 2, 1907: Patient Dies After Chiropractor Treats Spine With Mallet and Drill

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Oct. 2, 1907
Los Angeles

If you have back problems, you might try this method, used by “Dr.” Thomas H. Storey, an unlicensed chiropractor : Have the patient lie down with his head on one chair and his knees on another. Then get on the patient’s back so all your weight is resting on the spine. Next, put your knee in the small of the patient’s back. Then twist the patient’s neck.

And for good measure, you might put a drill between the vertebrae and whack it with a mallet a few times.

Unfortunately, this treatment didn’t help a San Bernardino farmer named Dominick Premus. In fact, it killed him, according to his widow and the California State Medical Board.

But Storey said: “Just allow me to give a practical demonstration of my simple apparatus. I will show that a treatment could not be injurious. I do not use heavy tools. The mallet with which I drive back adhering vertebrae does not weigh more than half a pound. It really doesn’t hurt to any great extent. I have a drill covered with rubber. That is laid against the vertebrae that are pushed up and a blow with the mallet sends the offending ones back into place. In the Premus case, his vertebrae were apparently immovable. I worked on him for some time but, unfortunately, was unable to dislodge the vertebrae.”

“Why is it any worse to tap a man’s spine lightly with a drill and a mallet than it is to use the knife?”

Storey also noted that another doctor was the last one to treat Premus, giving him an injection close to the heart.

“I do not fear prosecution or persecution,” he told The Times. “Jealousy of other doctors has caused me much annoyance, it is true.”

Storey took an impromptu vacation in Mexico and didn’t return to Los Angeles until the next year, when he surrendered to authorities. He was ordered to pay a $500 fine and serve 60 days in jail for practicing medicine without a license, but the sentence was overturned on appeal in 1909.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1907, 1909, Crime and Courts, Medicine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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