Posted on Oct 26, 2016

Playboy model Katie May died in early 2016 as a result of a stroke. The Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner recently cited “neck manipulation by a chiropractor” as the cause of an injury that resulted in a deadly stroke.

According to the Huffington Post, the model fell during a photo shoot and subsequently visited a chiropractor’s office. During this routine visit, the chiropractor performed a neck manipulation that tore her vertebral artery and subsequently stopped the flow of blood to her brain. This led to her stroke and ultimately her death. The vertebral arteries are major arteries of the neck that are part of the system that supplies blood to the upper spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, and posterior part of brain She was only 34 years old.

A Washington Post article from 2014 examined whether neck manipulations performed by a chiropractor are safe. The paper noted that a 2010 study of deaths after spinal manipulations found a total of 33 cases in which death occurred. Most of these were due to a tear or “dissection of vertebral artery,” the same which led to Katie May’s stroke and death. A 2013 survey found that between 2001 and 2011 there were 707 incidents of stroke associated with cervical spine manipulation therapy, where the authors of the survey noted it could be more because reporting does not always occur.

The American Chiropractic Association says that these neck manipulations are a safe procedure.

Should You Forego Going to the Chiropractor?

The answer is not so simple. These injuries appear to be rare, and they may be just as likely to occur in a routine fall as during a chiropractic procedure. Whether the chiropractor who performed the neck manipulation on Katie May breached a safety rule is yet to be known, and maybe will never be known. If he did breach a safety rule, and this failure to follow a safety rule was the approximate cause of her death, he may be liable to her family. At Holland & Usry we recommend talking to your doctors and asking them about risks. If you visit a chiropractor and that chiropractor is unwilling to discuss risks associated with his or her treatment, it may be time to find a new chiropractor.

Katie May’s death is tragic. It is a stark reminder of how fragile life is.

If you or a family member have suffered an injury or death as a result of a doctor’s care and would like the attorneys at Holland & Usry to review your circumstances to help determine if medical malpractice has occurred, please call us toll-free at 877-230-1841 for your free, confidential consultation.


John Holland
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John Holland is a Spartanburg Family law attorney, practicing since 2012.