Issues and Concerns

Freedom of Choice in Healthcare

Licensing Natural Health Good or Bad Medicine?

Current concerns in natural medicine are both technical, in terms of the availability and use of treatments; and regulatory, in terms of legislative reforms affecting the provision of health care, and facilitating choice and insurance coverage of individuals seeking treatment. Recent developments aimed at empowering specific groups of specialists require particular attention. Doctors of Traditional Natural Medicine respect boundaries in health care and do not condone the practice of so-called "medicalized naturopaths," who are actually allopaths practicing under the guise of Natural Medicine.

Health freedom is about consumer choice, expanding the scope of existing practice laws, and obtaining holistic insurance coverage. Regulating "naturopathy" restricts access to trained holistic consultants. Inferior medical attention is not synonymous with natural health or common sense healthcare reform.

Legislating the licensing of "Modern naturopathic physicians" (NP's) and dietitians, for example, will detract from the quality and affordability of health care. In the United States, dieticians and NP's are pursuing licensure on a state-by-state basis in order to monopolize the fields of nutrition and natural medicine, respectively. Advocates of traditional naturopathy and traditional natural medicine oppose licensure for the following reasons:

· Modern Naturopathic Doctors and physicians seek the status of primary care physicians through licensure, and they mix naturopathic and allopathic medicine, without sufficient medical training, hospital experience, or trauma education.

· Dietitians seek the status of nutrition counselors without sufficient education in holistic nutrition.

· Modern Naturopathic Doctors, physicians and dietitians advocate diagnostic care, while traditional naturopaths "naturotherapy practitioners" (Doctors of Natural Medicine) and holistic nutrition counselors emphasize healthy lifestyle choices and wellness care.

· Consumers will no longer have access to traditional natural medicine consultants. Choices will be increasingly limited to special interest groups and low-tech, insufficiently-trained medical doctors.

· Licensing dietitians as nutrition counselors will severely limit public access to personal choices such as macrobiotic foods, vegetarianism, organic and whole foods diets, and Ayurvedic nutrition.

It is in the public interest to clarify both the standards of training of these professionals and their commitment to a philosophy of natural healing. A Natural Medicine education is accredited academically, not by the medical profession and their accrediting body, the American Medical Association's Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Elevating Modern Naturopaths to primary care status will distort the practice and philosophy of true natural healing, and will increase the cost of consultation and natural substances to that of conventional medical pricing. In the absence of clear advocacy on their behalf, licensing makes the practices of traditional natural medicine and holistic nutritional counseling illegal. BDNMP-NA continues to advocate on behalf of Doctors and Practitioners of Natural Medicine.

    What's In A Name?

    The name “NATUROPATH” in fact, is controversial and its true origin is unclear. It is known that the word was coined, possibly from "nature" and "homeopathy," a system of healing that Naturopaths had begun to use. Many early Naturopaths objected to the name because, in literal translation, it means ‘natural disease.’ However, Lust credited its coining with helping to end his persecution.

    "The prosecution became so intense that we could not use the words cure, healing, therapy, therapist, physician, doctor, or any similar title. We were all in despair. Finally, we decided to use the word 'Naturopath' as being the only safe term by which we could designate ourselves as having to do with "the nature cure" and disease (Lust, 1921: 479)."

    The term ‘doctor’ originated in 1303, and stems ultimately from the Latin, doctor "teacher," from doct- stem ofdocere "to show, teach," originally "make to appear right." The familiar form of "medical professional" dates from 1377, though was not common until the late 16th century. Thus, the term ‘doctor’ cannot be appropriated by any one group. In 1998 a group of natural medicine practitioners reclaimed their rights to traditional natural medicine by use of the title, DNM-Doctors of Natural Medicine or Doctorate of Natural Medicine(PhD-DNM)-level) in honour of Dr. Lust’s original intentions. They are dedicated to upholding the principles articulated by Dr. Benedict Lust and to preserving traditional natural medicine health care for future generations.

    Natural Medicine in Ontario

    The shifting tides of regulation in health care are a constant matter of concern for the Natural Medicine profession. Several years ago, the Ontario government undertook to improve public safety in the health care system for the citizens of Ontario by exploring the regulation of natural healing. As laudable as this aim sounds, in establishing new colleges in Naturopathy and Homeopathy, the Health System Improvements Act, 2007 (the former Bill 171) grants pre-eminence to Ontario Naturopaths, and excludes other highly educated and qualified Natural Health Practitioners. It is part of Natural Medicine Practitioner Association of Ontario, a subgroup of the Natural Medicine Certification Council (Canada) ongoing mission to attempt to re-establish the balance, with due consideration to the contribution of all Natural Health Practitioners, so as to ensure public choice and maintenance of the public interest.

    The new Ontario legislation exclusively assigns titles and scopes of practice that are currently shared by other overlapping long-standing groups of Natural Health Practitioners and their various modalities including, but not limited to nutrition, herbalism, non-manipulative body work etc.

    Through a letter-writing campaign enlisting the help of its members, NMPAO ensured that, prior to enacting these new measures, the legislature was made aware of the efficacy and degree of popularity of our treatments; quoting, for example, the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council’s (HPRAC) statement, in its November 2005 report, that “Alternative Medicine is the new mainstream”. According to HPRAC's statistics, one in four people were attending Natural Health Practitioners, not including those visiting chiropractors.

    The campaign included representations as to the rigour of our training; the fact that the system of education for Natural Medicine Practitioners has developed into a comprehensive training program that consists of an undergraduate degree and 4000 hours of post-graduate training for the Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) designation. In Ontario, the Practitioner level has post-secondary education of over 2000 hours of Natural Health training. Over time, our numbers have grown to well over 1000 registered practicing Natural Health Practitioners in Ontario, who have been working safely with a large percentage of the public. This training is recognized and accredited by the American Naturopathic Association, the American Naturopathic Medical Association, the World Organization of Natural Medicine Practitioners and the International Parliament for Safety and Peace.

    In fact, DNM’s and RNP’s do not diagnose or treat disease, and have no desire to engage in diagnosing disease, the dispensing of drugs, or performing surgeries as set out in the legislation in question for modern “Naturopathic Doctors.” Diagnosing disease, dispensing drugs, or performing surgeries should be done only by licensed, trained and competent medical professionals. The public must be protected from groups seeking protection for a medical scope of practice as “Modern Naturopaths.”

    In addition, the legislature was asked to eliminate all provisions for exclusivity for remedies under the Natural Health Product Act, from the Modern Naturopath’s scope or practice. While “Modern Naturopaths” seek to diagnose and dispense drugs, or to perform surgery as set out in the subject legislation, Traditional Natural Medicine Doctors and Practitioners strongly oppose enshrining such a scope of practice in distinction to the rubric of natural medicine. In the view of BNMDP-NA, appropriate regulation would protect the public from “Naturopaths” seeking a "Medical" scope of practice without actual medical training.

    Consequently, this new legislation restricts the right to practice as a Doctor of Natural Medicine or Practitioner of Natural Medicine and challenges their right to fair trade in the marketplace. Appropriate regulation would aim to safeguard unregulated health professions and modalities, ensuring their healthy co-existence and rights to practice until such time that they can be considered for their contribution to the health care system and systematically integrated. 


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