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Here we go again: A bill licensing naturopaths rears its ugly head in Michigan

If I’ve pointed it out once, I’ve pointed it out a thousand times. Naturopathy is a cornucopia of almost every quackery you can think of. Be it homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, applied kinesiology, anthroposophical medicine, reflexology, craniosacral therapy, Bowen Technique, and pretty much any other form of unscientific or prescientific medicine that you can imagine, it’s hard to think of a single form of pseudoscientific medicine and quackery that naturopathy doesn’t embrace or at least tolerate. Indeed, as I’ve retorted before to apologists for naturopathy who claim that it is scientific, naturopathy can never be scientific as long as you can’t have naturopathy without homeopathy and naturopaths embrace homeopathy. Unfortunately, naturopaths have over the years been having some success in persuading state legislatures to license naturopaths, in some cases even giving them the privilege of being considered primary care practitioners. It’s part of an organized effort, too, and I don’t expect that effort to let up. True, the governor of Massachusetts did veto a naturopathic licensing bill that came across his desk recently, but no one following this issue expects the naturopaths to let up. As Jann Bellamy put it, the naturopaths will be back. They always are.

Indeed, in the wake of the failure to pass a naturopathic licensing bill in Massachusetts, Michael Cronin, the president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) lamented:

This brings up many thoughts and emotions for me. I feel disappointment over a legislative process that seems slow and unfair. And there is anger at a process that placates the desires of the Massachusetts Medical Society over serving the health needs of the public and the desire of the Commonwealth.

But he also brags:

There are currently licensing laws in 16 states (up from 5 in 1978), the District of Columbia, the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 5 Canadian provinces. We have 7 healthy, accredited North American colleges and there are now 43 state associations.

And urges his fellow naturopaths:

I send the highest kudos to our ND brothers and sisters in Massachusetts. May you heal your wounds and come out fighting.

In the meantime, unfortunately, they seem to be coming out fighting in my home state of Michigan. I just learned from Jann Bellamy over the weekend that a naturopathic licensing bill has been introduced for consideration by the Michigan legislature. I’m referring to Michigan House Bill 4152 (2013), which is now in the House Committee on Health Policy. Apparently it was introduced on January 31 by Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons, who is the Assistant Floor Majority Leader and represents District 86, which encompasses a rural area the Lower Peninsula east of Grand Rapids. I couldn’t find anything about her bill on her House website, but I did find a Facebook post by her congratulating Kelly Hassberger for opening her new Naturopathic Health Clinic in Grand Rapids. One notes that this particular news story notes that Hassberger focuses on “homeopathic medicine,” which shows just how far Lyon’s acceptance and even promotion of quackery goes.

There is, however, a rather interesting bit of information in this story:

While naturopathic doctors are licensed practitioners in the state of Arizona, they are not in Michigan.

Hassberger is working with The Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians and state legislators to get practitioners who graduated from accredited doctorate programs in naturopathic medicine to practice as primary care physicians in the state.

State Reps. Lisa Posthumus, Ellen Lipton and Joseph Haveman introduced House Bill 5594 to the House in May 2012.

The proposed bill outlines what would be required to be a licensed naturopathic physician in Michigan, including defining what an accredited naturopathic medical program entails, creating a naturopathic medical medical board, as well as defining the scope of practice for naturopathic physicians in Michigan.

“It would give us back the ability to use the skills we are trained in, including IV therapy among others, as well as give us the right to accept insurance, run lab testing, diagnose and prescribe prescription drugs when needed,” Hassberger said. “I want to give the public an understanding of the differences between my training and other programs in Michigan. My goal is to be here and develop awareness and help to get that bill through.”

So this is not the first bite at the apple that Lyons has taken. Notice how Hassberger refers to “IV therapy.” Naturopaths shouldn’t be let anywhere near an intravenous line, much less IV therapy, because in the hands of naturopaths IV therapy usually means quackery like high dose intravenous vitamin C or chelation therapy.

Sadly, this is a bipartisan effort, with Lyons being the Republican half of the not-so-dynamic duo of legislators, and Ellen Cogen Lipton being the Democratic half, representing the Michigan 27th House district, which represents Detroit suburbs such as Ferndale, Royal Oak Township, Oak Park, Huntington Woods, and Hazel Park. I know some of these towns. For instance, Ferndale is known as one of the “hipper” cities in the Detroit metropolitan area; it’s not surprising to me that a Representative whose district encompasses Ferndale would be sympathetic to naturopathy to the point of being willing to make repeated attempts to pass a bill that would license naturopaths.

Let’s take a look at MI HB 4152.

The bill defines “naturopathy” and “naturopathic physicians” thusly:

(3) “NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE” MEANS A SYSTEM OF PRACTICE THAT IS BASED ON THE NATURAL HEALING CAPACITY OF INDIVIDUALS FOR THE DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT, AND PREVENTION OF DISEASES

(4) “NATUROPATHIC PHYSICIAN” MEANS AN INDIVIDUAL WHO ENGAGES IN THE PRACTICE OF NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE AND WHO IS REQUIRED TO BE LICENSED OR OTHERWISE AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS PART TO ENGAGE IN THAT PRACTICE.

The wag in me can’t help but point out how stupid this definition is. Let me just put it this way. Science-based medicine relies on the natural healing capacity of individuals for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. Think about it. Setting broken bones would be useless if the body weren’t able to heal itself naturally. Surgery itself relies on the ability of the body to heal itself; otherwise cutting into the body to rearrange its anatomy for therapeutic intent would be the gravest of folly. The very definition of naturopathy is a false dichotomy between conventional medicine and “natural healing.”

So what does this law authorize “naturopathic physicians” to do? The list is disturbing:

(A) ORDER AND PERFORM PHYSICAL AND LABORATORY EXAMINATIONS FOR DIAGNOSTIC
PURPOSES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PHLEBOTOMY, CLINICAL LABORATORY TESTS,
ORIFICIAL EXAMINATIONS, OR PHYSIOLOGICAL FUNCTION TESTS.
(B) ORDER DIAGNOSTIC IMAGING STUDIES.
(C) DISPENSE, ADMINISTER, ORDER, OR PRESCRIBE OR PERFORM ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

(I) FOOD, EXTRACTS OF FOOD, NUTRACEUTICALS, VITAMINS, AMINO ACIDS, MINERALS,
ENZYMES, BOTANICALS AND THEIR EXTRACTS, BOTANICAL MEDICINES, HOMEOPATHIC
MEDICINES, ALL DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS, OR NONPRESCRIPTION DRUGS AS DEFINED BY THE
FEDERAL FOOD, DRUG, AND COSMETIC ACT, 21 USC 301 TO 399D.
(II) PRESCRIPTION OR NONPRESCRIPTION MEDICINES AS DESIGNATED BY THE
NATUROPATHIC FORMULARY COUNCIL.
(III) HOT OR COLD HYDROTHERAPY; NATUROPATHIC PHYSICAL MEDICINE;
ELECTROMAGNETIC ENERGY; OR THERAPEUTIC EXERCISE.
(IV) DEVICES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THERAPEUTIC DEVICES, BARRIER
CONTRACEPTION, OR DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT.
(V) HEALTH EDUCATION OR HEALTH COUNSELING.
(VI) REPAIR AND CARE INCIDENTAL TO SUPERFICIAL LACERATIONS OR ABRASIONS.
(VII) MUSCULOSKELETAL MANIPULATION.
(D) UTILIZE ROUTES OF ADMINISTRATION THAT INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, ORAL,
NASAL, AURICULAR, OCULAR, RECTAL, VAGINAL, TRANSDERMAL, INTRADERMAL,
SUBCUTANEOUS, INTRAVENOUS, OR INTRAMUSCULAR CONSISTENT WITH HIS OR HER
NATUROPATHIC EDUCATION AND TRAINING.
(E) OTHER NATUROPATHIC THERAPIES AS APPROVED BY THE BOARD.

I suppose I should be relieved that the law would not allow naturopaths (I refuse to use the term “naturopathic physician”) to prescribe controlled substances. administer ionizing radioactive substances, perform chiropractic adjustments, do acupuncture, or perform very minor surgical procedures, or to do anything encompassed in the scope of practice of physicians.

Not surprisingly, the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians is very much behind this effort. Hilariously, the MANP frames their effort as being driven by a concern protecting patients, arguing that “Without licensure, it is difficult for health consumers to discern between natural health consultants and naturopathic doctors. State licensure is the only way to protect the public by providing regulation to verify the credentials of their naturopathic physicians.” Never mind that those credentials are fairy dust, what Harriet Hall so aptly described as “tooth fairy science.” Seriously, on its blog, the MANP is referencing articles on Mike Adams’ NaturalNews.com, which is about as good a sign that it is not science-based as I can think of. Be that as it may, the MANP also argues that if the Michigan legislature doesn’t pass a naturopathic licensing law, then Michigan residents seeking “natural healing” will go across state lines to get it.

Funny, they say that as if it were a bad thing.

It would appear that there’s a situation here that is in desperate need of monitoring and action in my state, and I plan on doing just that. Here’s hoping that in 2013 the fate of this bill is the same as it was in 2012: Oblivion.

Posted in: Naturopathy, Politics and Regulation

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