Blog | Monday, July 18, 2016

Naturopaths (unfortunately) just took a small step toward legitimacy

As I wrote, across the country naturopaths are trying to become licensed as primary care doctors. While we do have a shortage of primary care docs, the solution isn't to license unqualified people. It's like saying there's a commercial pilot shortage and reaching out to BASE jumpers to help fill the gap. Sure, they both deal in altitude, but the similarity stops there.

In Massachusetts last week, the fake doctors scored a victory as the state senate approved a licensing bill.

It's fair to say that most doctors are motivated by the desire to help people, as, I think, are most fake doctors, like naturopaths and others who sell questionable medical services. But being motivated by good isn't the same as actually being good. Given that it's hard to get doctors together to do any real lobbying, how are naturopaths gaining so much ground on the state level?

Luckily, journalists at STAT News are on it.

Doctors (the real kind, like me) don't really have any bodies that represent them politically. Most of us do not belong to the AMA or other lobbying groups. Drug makers certainly don't support legislation to help us out. What reporter Rebecca Robbins found is disturbing. While real doctors rarely sell anything but their own services, naturopaths nearly always sell various supplements. Guess who is supporting legislation to license naturopaths? Vitamin and supplement makers like Emerson Ecologics have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into naturopaths' battle to get licensed to practice medicine.

Not only are naturopaths not qualified to practice medicine, but their main backers are companies that make supplements of questionable value (at best). If naturopaths are licensed to practice, not only will people be fooled into getting poor medical care, but they will empty their wallets into the pockets of naturopaths and the supplement companies that support them.

This is one of those times you really should contact your state representatives. This link provides the information you will need, including if your state is at risk. Please protect yourself and your neighbors and fight the licensing of fake doctors.

Peter A. Lipson, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. After graduating from Rush Medical College in Chicago, he completed his internal medicine residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This post first appeared at his blog at Forbes. His blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers "musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture." His writing focuses on the difference between science-based medicine and "everything else," but also speaks to the day-to-day practice of medicine, fatherhood, and whatever else migrates from his head to his keyboard.