Blind chiropractor who fiddled whilst patient lay dying suspended for 12 months

Dr Forte’s title of Doctor does not imply that he has any academic medical qualification. He does not. It is a courtesy title only and, ethically, is only utilised in the context of his chiropractic practice.

From Inquest finding into death of James Halloran, S.A. April 1st 2010

Mario Forte progressively lost his sight over many years.

Although holding a diploma in sports massage and working part time for himself, his loss of vision demanded a professional downgrade. By the mid 1980’s he would see only shades of light and dark. By the late 1990’s he would be totally blind. As a masseuse he would be subject to reviews, retraining, infrequent accreditation and occasional inspection. There would be… standards. Problems were foreseen (no pun intended).

Could there possibly be a related discipline that allowed contact with patients whilst you pretend to be doing something but actually do nothing? Where you just make stuff up and claim it is of the highest standard? Of course – Chiropractic! In 1978 he began training with a qualified chiropractor for a period of three years.

In the same year he began his own practice at home, whilst still working part time with his trainer. In 1979 he was accepted as a member of the United Chiropractors’ Association of Australasia Limited. When the Chiropractors Act 1981 popped up he became registered under it and has remained so ever since.

In December 2006 Mr. James Halloran visited Forte at his practice at the rear of Forte’s elderly father’s address. At some point Mr. Halloran collapsed and became “convulsive, unconscious [and] unresponsive” on the floor. Australian Doctor report that Forte rang a colleague (4 minutes) discussing options. He then rang a local doctor’s practice, whereupon he was advised to call 000. He ignored this advice.

Three minutes later he tried to call another general practice without success. Then he called 000. Time wasted: 9 Minutes. He fetched his elderly father and Forte claims they did their best to administer “late and inadequately executed” CPR.

Forte had guessed Mr. Halloran was suffering an epileptic fit. As he is totally blind and chose to work alone, a couple of problems with this spring to mind. Although he had no idea of Mr. Halloran’s medical history, for my money, if you’ve got to pick something along the spectrum from “practical joke” to “massive stroke or other cardiovascular event”, then epileptic fit is as good as any.

However, the S.A. Health Practitioners Tribunal, past whom no detail no matter how small shall pass without scrutiny noted that Forte was:

… effectively unable to monitor the patient’s vital signs because he was blind

Yay verily. They continue their astonishing insight:

In other words he did nothing effective towards assisting his patient during this time… He could not check pupil dilation and the other things that would depend upon vision, such as skin pallor or foaming at the mouth. The fact that he could not do so and had that limitation should have occurred to him.

Combining up to the minute health practice knowledge and 2 years hindsight of a 37 page Coronial Inquest Report they offer with blistering understatement:

[Even] if Mr Halloran was to die, Dr Forte’s negligence and incompetence remains just as grave, not in respect of the outcome but in respect of the fact that he did nothing.

This last statement is made due to the fact that Forte was cleared of contributing to Mr. Halloran’s death despite the Deputy State Coroner noting:

Dr Forte at times in his evidence had a reluctance to give a responsive answer to the question asked of him and was unduly intractable and argumentative. […]

In the event, I have not needed to resort to the evidence of the admission to make any finding about whether Dr Forte applied force to the cervical spine, but I do say that [“an impressive professional individual and indeed an impressive witness” – an attending paramedic’s] evidence raises a nagging doubt in my mind as to whether Dr Forte was being completely frank with the Court.

In short Forte had admitted manipulating the spine to paramedics yet testified that no such conversation took place and denied manipulation. As it eventuated the cause of death could not be isolated to having originated from his manipulation. There was pathology evidence pointing to a vertebral artery embolus that had originated elsewhere. This could have caused a respiratory arrest followed by a cardiac arrest. But this cannot be determined. The rare event of vagal inhibition leading to cardiac arrest was raised and dismissed.

In any event death resulted from lack of oxygen to the brain as a probable and direct consequence of Forte’s apathy. From the Inquest finding:

One thing that Dr Gilbert was certain about was that the global brain injury suffered by Mr Halloran was entirely consistent with his cardiac arrest and the consequent lack of oxygen delivery to the brain during that hypoxic period. Dr Gilbert suggested that a brain could survive without oxygen and not be damaged for a period of the order of 2 to 3 minutes. […]

If he was obtaining effective CPR, the 9 minutes that had been suggested might not be regarded as a full 9 minutes of hypoxia. The damage to the brain might not be as extensive as it would be if there had been a period of 9 minutes without CPR. Nine minutes of deprivation of oxygen would, however, involve a lethal insult to the brain and would cause a global severe anoxic injury incompatible with life. […]

All that said, it will be remembered that whatever the position was, Mr Halloran did suffer a severe global anoxic brain injury which signifies very strongly that there was a significant period of time following his cardiac arrest during which he was receiving no oxygen regardless of the competence of any CPR.

It must be noted that the emergency dispatch operator had offered to give CPR instructions to Forte’s parents who were present. Forte agrees with this. CPR was not commenced until 19 minutes after Forte called the other chiropractor to discuss options. At a minimum Forte spent 13 minutes alone with the deceased before physically going to fetch his parents.

However long beforehand Forte had taken guessing an epileptic fit is simply not known. His information is, for whatever reason, flawed. There were two emergency calls, the second including the offer of CPR instructions, yet he at first insisted there had been only one. The paramendic observed “very, very blue” extremities suggesting no effective CPR had taken place. Forte holds a lapsed St. John’s First Aid certificate.

This tragic event highlights much of what is wrong with the pseudoscience of chiropractic masquerading as a health provision service. There is no question of Forte’s ability to manage and triumph over his blindness. Yet one must seriously query exactly what support or interventions were instigated on behalf of the Chiropractic Association and the more responsible Chiropractic Board of Australia to address Mario Forte’s obvious needs and the consequential risk to each and every of his patients. This in turn raises serious questions about accreditation and basic standards.

Let me spell it out. How the hell can a practising chiropractor not hold a current First Aid certificate? There is simply no excuse.

Ill people are fooled by the abuse of the title “Dr.” and the absurdly ambitious claims made by this careless, arrogant and woefully trained sham discipline. Had proper CPR been administered and anoxic brain injury averted Mr. Halloran may likely be alive today. A method for coping adequately with such events should have been available and well drilled. Despite Forte’s shortfalls as an honest witness he has certainly been failed by his profession.

As for the cause of Mr. Halloran’s cardiac arrest we can only glean a possible hint from 3.6 of the Inquest report:

Mr Halloran had not consulted Dr Forte prior to the occasion in question. It is not known whether, at any time prior to Mr Halloran’s arrival at Dr Forte’s clinic, Mr Halloran had any appreciation of the fact that Dr Forte was blind, but it would have been obvious once he arrived.

Obvious indeed.



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