Practicing Medicine Without a License California

In People v. Fowler (1938) 32 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 737, a chiropractor was charged with practicing medicine without a valid license authorizing him to do so. (Fowler, supra, 32 Cal. App. 2d at pp. Supp. 739-740.) Fowler's defense was that he was a duly licensed chiropractor, and his practice of medicine was within the scope of chiropractic practice allowed under the Chiropractic Act. (32 Cal.App.2d at p. Supp. 740.) The court concluded that section 7 of the act defining the scope of chiropractic practice authorized two things: "first, 'to practice chiropractic as taught in chiropractic schools or colleges,' and second, 'to use all necessary mechanical, and hygienic and sanitary measures incident to the care of the body.' " (32 Cal.App.2d at p. Supp. 745.) As to the first clause, the Fowler court began by referring to several commonly used dictionaries available at the time the Chiropractic Act was enacted, including the "Standard Dictionary, 1913 edition," which defined "chiropractic" as " 'A drugless method of treating disease chiefly by manipulation of the spinal column.' " (Fowler, supra, 32 Cal. App. 2d at p. Supp. 745.) In addition to general philological references, the court went on to cite numerous appellate opinions from such disparate states as South Carolina, Montana, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Kansas, and Utah, which defined the scope of chiropractic in essentially the same way. This survey necessarily led the court to find that the "general consensus of definitions, current at and before the time the Chiropractic Act was adopted, shows what was meant by the term 'chiropractic' when used in that act." (32 Cal.App.2d at p. Supp. 746.) Because there existed a consensus as to what was commonly known to be "chiropractic" in that day and time, the Fowler court rejected the defendant's view that the phrase "as taught in chiropractic schools or colleges" was vague or ambiguous: "Were the word 'chiropractic' of unknown, ambiguous or doubtful meaning, this clause, 'as taught' etc., might serve to provide a means of defining or fixing its signification, but there is here no such lack of clarity. The scope of chiropractic being well known, the schools and colleges, so far as the authorization of the chiropractor's license is concerned, must stay within its boundaries; they cannot exceed or enlarge them. The matter left to them is merely the ascertainment and selection of such among the possible modes of doing what is comprehended within that term as may seem to them best and most desirable, and so the fixing of the standards of action in that respect to be followed by chiropractic licensees." (Fowler, supra, 32 Cal. App. 2d at p. Supp. 747.) As to the second clause, the court concluded that the phrase " 'to use all necessary mechanical, and hygienic and sanitary measures incident to the care of the body' " was not intended to change the scope of "chiropractic." (Ibid.) As important, the court also determined that the limiting language at the end of this second clause did not constitute surplusage. It provides that a chiropractic license " 'shall not authorize the practice of medicine, surgery, osteopathy, dentistry or optometry, nor the use of any drug or medicine now or hereafter included in materia medica.' " (Fowler, supra, 32 Cal. App. 2d at p. Supp. 748.) The court stated that the characterization of this limiting language as surplusage "was certainly not the position taken by the writer of the above-mentioned argument addressed to the voters; nor did the people have any such intent in adopting the act, if they paid any attention to the positive assurance given them by that argument, as we must suppose they did." (Ibid.) Instead, the apparent purpose for including this last phrase was to ensure that a chiropractor's employment of "mechanical, and hygienic and sanitary measures" did not otherwise evade the prohibition against practicing medicine or surgery, including the forbidden use of drugs, medical preparations, and the severing or penetrating of human tissue. (Id. at pp. Supp. 749-750.)