Chiropractor forged consent form after patient's stroke
Published Wednesday, October 3, 2012 9:50PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 3, 2012 10:37PM EDT
A chiropractor forged the signature of an Edmonton woman on a patient consent form, after she suffered a massive stroke that her family blamed on a neck adjustment, CTV News has learned.
In early September 2007, Sandra Nette was left in so-called “locked in syndrome,” meaning she was so severely disabled that she was unable to walk and barely able to speak or swallow. Tests appeared to show tears in the arteries at the back of her neck.
Nette and her husband, David, told CTV News she suffered the injuries after a neck adjustment by chiropractor Gregory John Stiles, from whom she had received treatment for years.
The couple said Nette was not properly warned of the risks of the neck adjustment, and filed a $5 million lawsuit.
The lawsuit came to a conclusion with an out of court “satisfaction of judgement” that the Nettes cannot discuss.
However, as Sandra Nette’s condition improves, documents from the lawsuit obtained by CTV News show that she had indeed not been warned of the risks.
The court documents reveal that Stiles admitted to lawyers that he “forged” Nette’s signature --- after her stroke -- on a consent form that patients usually sign after they have been advised of the risks of therapy.
A lawyer said the act was “contrary to the criminal code.”
Stiles’ website says he is currently not practicing due to an “injury.”
“I don’t think that’s anything I can talk about,” he told CTV Edmonton in a telephone interview, citing a confidentiality clause.
The Alberta Chiropractic Association suspended his licence to practice chiropractic medicine for 90 days.
While the Nettes cannot say exactly how the lawsuit concluded, they can say that they can now repay debts they incurred while paying for rehabilitation and equipment that Sandra required.
And she can now articulate just how difficult her rehabilitation has been.
“I was scared, really scared,” Nette says. “I felt all alone, even though I wasn’t.”
Nette said it was difficult for her to depend on others, “and that really isn’t who I am.”
David Nette likened his wife’s condition to “being buried alive.” She was aware of everything going on around, including the physical pain, but couldn’t help herself.
“It’s so good to have my wife back,” he said.
The couple decided together in 2008 to file a statement of claim naming Stiles, the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, and Alberta’s Minister of Health and Wellness as defendants. The couple claimed that the procedure Stiles performed on Nette has no medical value, and that both he and the ACAC knew it was dangerous.
The couple said Sandra was healthy at the time of her stroke, and was treated by Stiles for what the couple described as preventative maintenance.
David Nette said the couple filed the lawsuit because they wanted “the word to get out” about Sandra’s experience.
Neck adjustments have faced increased scrutiny for more than a decade, since the death of 22-year-old Laurie Mathiason, who suffered a fatal stroke after a chiropractic neck treatment in Saskatoon.
But some studies have found the procedure to be safe. And the chiropractic community, including the Canadian Chiropractic Association, has said that the risk of stroke or serious injury from neck manipulation is very small.
Sandra’s rehabilitation is not over, as she continues to relearn to walk. She must have one more operation, to rebuild the flap in her throat, and must also learn to live without her peripheral vision.
Despite this, Sandra says she can “see the future,” and has plans to travel the world.
“You can take a situation like mine and you can be depressed, or you can turn it around and see the positive in it, you know? And I have.”
With a report from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and Elizabeth St. Philip