By Dr. Christopher Kent
There are few human endeavors where precision in the utilization of language is more important than in the law. As F. Lee Bailey wrote: “The ability to handle language effectively is the trial lawyer’s lifeblood. All of his skills surface through his written or spoken words…the advocate with a solid command of the language has a leg up on any opponent who is less talented, for the language of persuasion is his only tool.”
Like the conduct of a trial, the drafting of statutes and resolutions demands a high level of linguistic skill. Each word must be carefully measured. Ambiguities of interpretation must be anticipated. Redundancies must be eliminated.
Woolever has compared the law to a “seamless web,” writing, “The lawyer-writer must succeed in the difficult task of controlling and protecting the whole web while working on one thread at a time. A good writer will be very sure that each of those threads is connected within the web so the whole thing makes sense. A great writer will see the web from the viewer’s stance and will take care that the web is beautiful and all the threads are crystal clear. This ability to be sure the content is all there — the stuff from which the threads are made and at the same time making the connection and pattern very clear to the reader…requires some very fine skills.”
The drafting of Concurrent Resolution 46 was such an exercise. The interests of subluxation-centered chiropractors and their patients had to be protected. It was essential that the five legislative points of WCA policy be incorporated without compromise. The challenge was to develop language, which did so without encroaching on the state-conferred rights of practitioners utilizing manipulation.
Translating the concepts of the WCA’s five points into legislative language required many revisions. Legislative staffers, legislative attorneys, and WCA leaders worked diligently at crafting a “web” which satisfied the requirements of law. Issues had to be addressed, such as the fact that the phrase and/or is not acceptable in legislative language. Redundancy had to be eliminated. We could not list items that were not included in the resolution, such as a statement that no medical diagnosis or condition was required. Yet, these issues had to be effectively addressed. The result is Concurrent Resolution 46.
Concurrent Resolution 46:
1. Clearly differentiates spinal manipulation practiced by physicians and other providers from chiropractic adjustments to correct vertebral subluxations.
2. Provides for direct access to chiropractic care.
3. States that doctors of chiropractic are the only providers educated and trained specifically to perform chiropractic adjustments to correct vertebral subluxations.
4. Does not require any diagnosis other than vertebral subluxation, while permitting those licensed by the state to treat neuromusculoskeletal disorders to do so.
5. Keeps chiropractic drugless, and excludes surgery.
6. Provides that participation in any federal employees health plan should be open to any licensed doctor of chiropractic who wishes to participate.
Concurrent Resolution 46 exemplifies another important function articulated by Woolever — “Legal writing is the art of using language to make something happen.”
This resolution has the potential of establishing, for the first time, a “sense of Congress” regarding chiropractic benefits. Significantly, it does so without ambiguity or compromise. It is a step toward guarding well our sacred trust.
1. Bailey, F. Lee. “To Be A Trial Lawyer.” John Wiley & Sons. New York. 1985.
2. Woolever, Kristin R. “Untangling the Law: Strategies for Legal Writers.” Wadsworth Pub. Belmont, CA. 1987.