A Legal Test for Chiropractic

An appellate ruling could clarify the profession’s status in Taiwan.

Year after year for more than a decade, AmCham’s White Paper has pointed out Taiwan’s near uniqueness among the countries of the world in denying legal status for the healthcare profession of chiropractic. The foreign-educated, foreign-licensed doctors of chiropractic practicing in Taiwan have had to do so in a state of legal limbo – tolerated as long as they refrain from advertising their services and from making any claims of medical therapeutic efficacy. 

But a recent court ruling demonstrates the extent to which that uncertain status leaves these highly trained professionals subject to harassment and possibly criminal liability. After four and a half years of judicial proceedings, a Taipei district court judge in June found Dr. Edward Chen guilty of practicing physical therapy without a license, sentencing him to five months’ imprisonment. Chen has rejected the option of paying a fine of NT$150,000 in lieu of serving prison time, regarding it as an admission of guilt and a precedent that would effectively prevent any chiropractor from continuing to practice in Taiwan. Instead, Chen plans to appeal the decision to a higher court, which he hopes will take a broader scope of evidence into account.

The case has attracted more than the usual amount of attention because Chen has long been the Taiwan chiropractor best known to the public. In the past, the media reported on his treatment of prominent clients such as Foxconn founder Terry Gou, as well as on his family connections as the son-in-law of the late P.K. Chiang, who served in such high-level positions as Minister of Economic Affairs, Vice President of the Legislative Yuan, and Acting Chairman of the Kuomintang. Chen is the only chiropractor included on the list of healthcare resources published on the American Institute in Taiwan website, and he has been providing volunteer professional services to Taiwan’s Olympics baseball team and Boy Scouts. 

The significance of the appellate judge’s ruling will be wider than a single court case. Until Taiwan finds a way to extend formal legitimacy to the chiropractic profession, its practitioners will be working under a cloud of constant apprehension and Taiwan’s patients will be deprived of the full benefits of a widely recognized form of healthcare.