A FAMILY have paid tribute to a “much-loved” husband, father and grandfather who suffered a broken neck while being treated by a chiropractor for an aching leg.

An inquest has been held into the death of John Lawler, aged 80, who fell dangerously ill at the Chiropractor 1st clinic on The Mount in August 2017 during treatment from Dr Arleen Scholten.

The coroner Jonathan Heath returned a narrative conclusion that Mr Lawler suffered a fractured neck and spinal cord injury while undergoing treatment. This led to respiratory depression from which he died, Mr Heath added.

He said he intends to send a report to the General Chiropractic Council, first to request a review of chiropractic guidance for pre-treatment imaging, and secondly to request making first aid treatment mandatory for chiropractors.

Mr Lawler’s family paid tribute to him following the inquest.

His daughter Clare said: “We were devastated to lose John in such tragic and unforeseen circumstances two years ago. A much-loved husband, father, grandfather, he continues to be greatly missed by us all.

“Having to re-live the circumstances of his death has been particularly difficult for us but we are grateful to have a clearer picture of the events that led to John’s death.”

His widow Joan added: “He was a quiet, unassuming, very religious man and he loved us all deeply. His grandchildren miss him desperately and we all miss him.”

A representative for Dr Scholten said: “Arleen Scholten wishes to express her deepest sympathies to the family of Mr Lawler for their loss. This was an extremely rare and unusual incident, which has been thoroughly investigated by the coroner during the course of the inquest. She will take on board the coroner’s findings, and has already made changes to her practice since the incident.”

The inquest heard that Mr Lawler had gone to Dr Scholten’s Chiropractic 1st clinic in August 2017 after suffering an aching leg that was keeping him awake at night.

Joan said he started shouting at the chiropractor that she was hurting him, then began moaning and then said he couldn’t feel his arms.

Mrs Lawler said Dr Scholten tried to turn him over and then manoeuvred him into a chair next to the treatment table but he had become unresponsive.

“He was like a rag doll,” she said.

“His lips looked a little bit blue but I knew he was breathing.

“I said: ‘Has he had a stroke?’ She put his head back and said ‘no, his features are symmetrical’.

“She started shouting to get an ambulance.”

However, Dr Scholten told the inquest that she initially thought that Mr Lawler had actually had a stroke.

The inquest heard that paramedics arrived, treated John and took him downstairs in a chair and to York Hospital, and he was later transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

He was given an MRI scan and a doctor told Mrs Lawler he had suffered a broken neck.

She said she was subsequently told that her husband was a paraplegic and he could undergo a 14-hour operation which would be traumatic, but he “just faded away”, and died the day after the incident.

The inquest was told that Mr Lawler had a history of lumbar degenerative disease and had metal rods in his lower back.

Dr Scholten said she had no idea of his injury when she lifted him off a treatment table into a chair and attempted to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

She was speaking as it emerged that since his death, investigations had shown that the retired York bank manager had been suffering from ‘ossified longitudinal ligament’ adjacent to the spinal cord in his neck.

The inquest heard that the ligament had fractured during treatment, leading to the rupture of a disc and injury to the spinal cord which caused his death. Dr Scholten said she had treated thousands of patients at her Chiropractic 1st clinic and never come across anyone suffering Mr Lawler’s injury.

Under cross-examination from Richard Copnall, counsel for Mr Lawler’s family, she accepted that, with hindsight, it had been dangerous to move him from the table to the chair.

However, she said: “I was in a complete state of shock. I have treated thousands of people and had never experienced anything like this in the past... I didn’t know what was going on.

“A stroke was the only thing that came to mind at that point.

“His mouth started turning a bit blue. He started to lose consciousness. I started to give rescue breath. I believed it was helping because the colour started to come back.”

The inquest was told Dr Scholten used an ‘activator’, a small, hand-held instrument which delivered a gentle force to the spine, and a chiropractic ‘drop table’, a treatment table with sections that could drop away to assist with spinal manipulation.

The chiropractor, who earned a Doctor of Chiropractic degree at Northwestern College of Chiropractic in Canada, conceded that, under British rules, she should not be styled as ‘Dr’ but as ‘Mrs’.

The Press reported last year that a woman who was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with Mr Lawler’s death had been released without charge, following a police investigation.