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  • Naturopathic Medicine in the District of Columbia

    Posted on July 16th, 2009 Brian 6 comments

    I doubt many of you have heard of B18-0060, the Practices of Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine Amendment Act of 2009.  I hadn’t either, until it was brought to my attention today in my capacity as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.  This bill, which was passed by the DC Council on April 7th, signed by the Mayor on April 28th, and passed the colonial review of Congress on July 6th, essentially re-defines medicine in the District of Columbia to exclude the practices of Naturopathic medicine.  I have been invited to a reception to discuss urging the Council to reconsider “whether there are alternatives to eliminating this source of health care from our city.”

    I was immediately suspicious of a so-called medical term with the prefix naturo- and the suffix -pathic, but I had never heard the term naturopathic before.  I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it turned out my suspicions were right.  Naturopathic medicine is a bag of tricks that includes all the biggest names in woo medicine, including acupuncture, homeopathy, hair analysis, and reflexology.

    To which I say: Nice job DC Council! Thank you for stripping these quacks of governmental imprimatur and the trappings of authenticity.  Citizens who have been fooled into believing these treatments are effective will hopefully think twice about putting their hands into such unscientific techniques, and instead seek treatment from licensed practitioners working with hard evidence.

     

    5 responses to “Naturopathic Medicine in the District of Columbia” RSS icon

    • I’ve actually been to a Naturopath before. They’re not all quacks. There are many good regular doctors that use techniques from these other areas, even. Sadly, like many of those subcategories you mentioned (acupuncture and homeopathy especially) there’s not much of a system to weed out the quacks.

      Our current ideas on “medicine” are so screwed that it makes you wonder who the real quacks are anyways.

    • I’m with HuskyTed. Not all Naturopaths are quacks, although some of them most certainly are. Many of them use scientific methods, blood tests, and reliable forms of herbs for medications. Some of them will tell you to place a tea bag in your sock and wave herbs over a dried lizard. It all depends.

      It also is highly dependent upon the person seeing the Naturopath, and whether or not they will agree that not everything can be cured by ancient medicine. I am one of those that benefitted from both: a Naturopath figured out that something was seriously wrong with my digestive system when I was 25, and had my blood drawn for “intolerances.” Intolerant? Yes. I am intolerant of gluten, and then I was send to a ‘regular’ doctor that verified yes, I have Celiac Disease.

      If not for the Naturopath, I would still be labeled with ‘irritable bowel syndrome’ and would be slowly dying (and not knowing). There is likely a place for both. Think about it- two hundred years ago, someone would have seen a MD of today and thought them insane. And two hundred years from NOW, someone is likely to look at MDs of today… and say exactly the same thing.

    • I’m with HuskyTed, too. They’re not all quacks…some of them are just plain nuts.

    • Dawn: It’s cool that you found out about your Celiac disease, but this testimonial has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

      Any competent GI doc is perfectly capable of diagnosing CD; it sounds like your individual doc did not think to test for it based on your symptoms. I know a lot about this because I’ve had lower-GI issues too and they are HARD to figure out sometimes, especially when they first begin.

      Just because your naturopath hit upon the solution doesn’t vindicate the profession, or mean that they should be given a free pass to be called medical professionals without scientific efficacy or regulation.

      Any med student or person with some expertise in this area could have done a test to figure out your condition too. But we require doctors to go to med school and be licensed for a reason! You wouldn’t go to an unlicensed doctor, would you?

      Similarly, many chiropractors choose to operate with mostly science-based practices and not follow the theories of Chiro. They are basically just unlicensed physical therapy docs. But it’s backwards to take that fact and use it to argue that the theories of Chiropractic have efficacy or safety.

      If naturopaths want to be respected and considered health care professionals, let them publish peer-reviewed studies to show the efficacy of their theories of medicine. If the things they do ACTUALLY WORKED then doctors would be all over that stuff and integrate it into their practices.

    • Let me be clear: If somebody finds relief in a naturopathic solution, they are welcome to seek out a practitioner of such and pay them for services. Within reasonable limits of individual safety, naturopathic “medicine” should not be illegal. If one finds comfort or relief or guidance in drinking expensive water or getting their feet rubbed, have at it! Personally, I would find more comfort drinking a nice whisky and watching some baseball, but that’s me.

      (There is plenty of debate to be had over what is safe and what is not. That is for another discussion.)

      However, the government ought not classify these techniques as medical. Official governmental nomenclature lends a great aura to such regulated industries, especially when the average consumer is at a distinct knowledge disadvantage. Such is the case in the patient-doctor relationship: The patient knows very little about the actual functioning of the human body when compared to the doctor with decades of training and years of experience. We license doctors in no small part because the patient is at risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous practitioners, and their license provides a strong bona fide that the treatment received is effective, according to our current best knowledge.

      So given an effective naturopathic practitioner and a quack naturopathic practitioner, how do we objectively tell the difference if there is no repeatable evidence? How does the government pick who to license in a fashion that is not arbitrary and capricious? Unless the practiced techniques are backed by sound, peer-reviewed science, it is bad policy for the government to sanction them.

      I’m sure there are millions of anecdotes of naturopathic success, but there is strong actual science that they are bunk. The burden of proof is on them, and so far they have been unable to meet it. Unless the results can be experimentally and independently verified, a naturopathic treatment is worthy of no more governmental licensing than any other relaxing or soothing recreational activity.


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