Chiropractor suspended for promoting antivaccination material

23 Sep 2021

A Victorian chiropractor has been suspended for six months for professional misconduct which included linking childhood vaccination to poison and permitting an antivaccination movie to be shown in his clinic.

Chiropractic Board of Australia Chair Dr Wayne Minter AM welcomed the finding. ‘Chiropractors are trusted members of Australia’s health workforce,’ he said. ‘It is a breach of that trust when they share or promote information that isn’t evidence-based or in line with the best available health advice.’

The Chiropractic Board of Australia (the Board) referred chiropractor Dr Simon Floreani to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for professional misconduct on 29 March 2019.

The Board alleged that Dr Floreani:

  • participated in an interview called Nazi vaccine regime in Australia, which was published on YouTube. In the interview, among other things, Dr Floreani, who identified himself as a chiropractor:
    • stated 'we could not find one shred of evidence to show the efficacy of childhood vaccination'
    • stated ‘under my regulation and registration requirements, [I’m] not allowed to talk about vaccination. But under the laws of this country I have to do what’s right…’
    • likened childhood vaccination to poison, and
    • stated ‘the evidence is not there to suggest that people are safe and our kids are safe’.
  • facilitated or knowingly permitted a screening of the film Vaxxed: From cover-up to catastrophe (Vaxxed) at his clinic on 10 December 2016. Vaxxed contains material which is contrary to the Code of conduct for chiropractors (the Code of conduct) and the Board’s Statement on advertising, and Dr Floreani was aware of the content of the film before the screening occurred.

The allegations were admitted in full by Dr Floreani, and were found proven by the tribunal.

In reaching its decision, the tribunal stated that it had ‘no hesitation’ in making a finding of professional misconduct, given the ‘flawed, inaccurate and dangerous statements’ that Dr Floreani had made and endorsed during the interview, in full knowledge that those statements were entirely inconsistent with the Code of conduct and the Statement.

It also found that even if Dr Floreani did not actively promote the screening at his clinic, the very fact of the screening being held at his clinic aligned Dr Floreani to the content of the film, given his past comments on vaccination. The tribunal further considered that when Dr Floreani made the relevant arrangements for the screening, he was engaged in providing information about a public matter and was making an implicit public statement discouraging vaccination. Especially as Dr Floreani did not provide any other evidence-based information on vaccination to provide balanced information to attendees.

Accordingly, on 21 September 2021, the tribunal reprimanded Dr Floreani and suspended him from practice for a period of six months (with effect from 18 October 2021). It also placed the following conditions on Dr Floreani’s registration: 

  • he must not display, promote or provide materials, information or advice that is anti-vaccination in nature to patients
  • he must not make public comment discouraging vaccination
  • if asked by a patient or prospective patient for information about vaccination, he must refer that person to an appropriately qualified health professional, and
  • he must display signs at his place of practice stating that he does not provide patients with advice regarding vaccination.

The conditions are the same as the immediate action conditions that Dr Floreani has been subject to since March 2018.

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher noted that the finding was an important one especially given the current concerns around the spreading of information related to COVID-19 and vaccines. 

‘While this matter predates the pandemic, I note the tribunal’s consideration of the responsibility of chiropractors and other health practitioners in public discourse and that “there is a potential for significant harm to the community when false claims are made which can directly impact public health.”

‘This is something that Ahpra and the National Boards are acutely aware of, as is reflected in our Vaccination position statement,’ he said.

The full tribunal decision is available on Austlii.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 23/09/2021