While many sectors in Ontario are closed as a result of COVID-19, the College of Chiropractors of Ontario (the "CCO") continues to diligently regulate the practice of chiropractic. The CCO has recently taken action against chiropractors whom it believes have authored inappropriate advertisements and/or inappropriate social media postings concerning COVID-19. Should chiropractors fail to abide by the relevant regulatory obligations, they could be sanctioned by the CCO. Information about the sanctions could be generally available to the public and, as a matter of practicality, may well follow a chiropractor throughout their career.
The CCO maintains detailed rules and regulations on how chiropractors may advertise. For instance, an advertisement cannot contain anything "false or misleading" or "an express or implied guaranteed success of care". Such rules are of general application and are not in any way relaxed when it comes to advertisements concerning COVID-19. Indeed, the CCO has expressly warned chiropractors that they "should not make any unsubstantiated claims concerning chiropractic care and COVID-19."
True to its word, the CCO has taken action against chiropractors who have inappropriately advertised their services as being able to manage or treat COVID-19. Since March 2, 2020 the CCO has sent 74 cease and desist letters concerning such advertising.
From March 20 to April 20, 2020, the CCO received no fewer than 158 complaints about advertisements. Many related to advertising chiropractic's purported benefit to a patient's immune system, with the clear implication being that chiropractic care can be used to prevent or manage COVID-19. The CCO's Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee is active in adjudicating these complaints. Indeed, in some cases it has commenced broadly-based investigations into the professional conduct of the chiropractors whose advertisements are at issue. In other cases, it has issued formal "cautions", which are reflected on the CCO's website for all to see. Certainly, each of these outcomes carries serious ramifications for the chiropractor.
Clearly, chiropractors must pay careful attention to their regulatory requirements. Even the suggestion in social media or elsewhere that a chiropractor has the ability to in any way prevent or treat COVID-19 or its symptoms will surely give rise to regulatory involvement and will expose the chiropractor to sanction. Any chiropractor who is unsure of the propriety of their advertising should either check with the CCO's advertising committee or obtain independent legal advice. Of course, when in doubt, the safest course is to not publish the advertisement.
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