York & North Yorkshire

Family urge 'unlawful killing' verdict over chiropractic death

John Lawler Image copyright Lawler family
Image caption John Lawler died following treatment at the Chiropractic 1st clinic in York

A coroner has been urged to consider a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of a man whose neck broke during chiropractic treatment.

John Lawler died in hospital a day after becoming unresponsive at Chiropractic 1st in York in August 2017.

The 80-year-old had been left paralysed following a single fracture to his cervical spine.

A police investigation into his death ruled out criminal charges.

Mr Richard Copnall, for the family, said the chiropractor's response to Mr Lawler's injury did amount to gross negligence and allows the "possibility" of an unlawful killing verdict.

Mouth-to-mouth

During treatment on 11 August 2017 Mr Lawler suddenly moaned and said he could not feel his arms and then became unresponsive.

The chiropractor, Arleen Scholten, manoeuvred him onto a chair and gave mouth-to-mouth until the ambulance service arrived.

Mr Copnall said Dr James Mackenzie, a member of the Royal College of Pathologists, had given evidence that "on balance" Mr Lawler would have survived if he had been immobilised immediately after the injury.

He also pointed to further evidence from the responding paramedic, Eleanor Davies.

She told the inquest that if she had been given a full account of events from the chiropractor, she would have treated Mr Lawler as a trauma patient and stabilised his neck.

'Detailed' probe

Mrs Scholten had earlier told the inquest she had been in a "complete and utter state of panic" at that point.

Paul Spencer, representing Mrs Scholten, said there had been a "significant and detailed" police investigation following Mr Lawler's death which had "obtained expert reports".

"All of them considered whether the test for gross negligence manslaughter was met," he said.

Mr Spencer said the Crown Prosecution Service had independently concluded there was "no basis to bring criminal proceedings".

The inquest continues.

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