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Whiplash away

MagazineAugust 2003 (Vol. 14 Issue 5)Whiplash away

What is one of the most common causes of illness in the West? Diet? Contagion? Genetics? No, lawyers

What is one of the most common causes of illness in the West? Diet? Contagion? Genetics? No, lawyers.

Lawyers have been pinpointed as the agent behind epidemics of illnesses and conditions. Take, for instance, the problem of whiplash. It first appeared as a recognisable condition in 1928, when eight special neck-injury cases were investigated by orthopaedic surgeon Harold Crowe. Today, whiplash cases cost Americans $18bn in insurance claims.

Or take repetitive strain injury, a prevalent condition 10 or more years ago. It went away when laws that allowed for compensation claims were revoked in the US.

'Railway spine' suffered a similar fate, although very few of us know what that is today, even though it reached epidemic levels at one stage.

So, how do you treat the vast numbers of cases of whiplash? Just get rid of the lawyers (N Engl J Med, 2003; 348: 1413-4).

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