California bill kills traditional naturopathic practice but creates snafu for naturopathic "medical" schools

California bill kills traditional naturopathic practice but creates snafu for naturopathic "medical" schools

California has the opportunity to remove the scourge of naturopathic practice from the state this year. Instead, the state legislature has chosen to kill off only traditional naturopaths, leaving naturopathic "doctors" with degrees from naturopathic "medical schools" eligible to practice their ersatz form of primary care.

On January 2, 2018, the California Naturopathic Doctors Act will be automatically repealed unless the California Legislature deletes or extends that date during the 2017 session. State law also requires a legislative review of the Naturopathic Medicine Committee (NMC) of the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, which regulates naturopathic doctors.

Unfortunately, instead of getting rid of naturopathic practice, a bill just passed in the California Senate (Senate Bill 796) that would continue the licensing of naturopathic "doctors" to 2022. There was an apparently cursory review of the NMC, an organization that appears to be sorely in need of some legislative oversight. The NMC takes far longer to resolve complaints against naturopaths than any other California healthcare practitioner regulatory authority, leaving NDs under investigation free to practice for months, or even years. This glacial pace may have contributed to the death of a patient from an IV turmeric injection given by an ND already under investigation for another dangerous practice. None of this was addressed in any legislative report.

Instead of stopping naturopathic "doctors," who are licensed to perform the most dangerous quackery, like IV injections of dubious substances (such as hydrogen peroxide)prescribing so-called "bio-identical hormones, escharotic therapy for cervical dysplasia, hyperbaric oxygen therapy for unproven uses, HCG injections for weight loss, ozone therapy, colon hydrotherapy and chelation therapy "to remove toxic metals" (to name a few), the California Senate thinks traditional naturopaths are the real threat.

The NMC says it receives about 100 complaints a year alleging unlicensed practice. However, according to one legislative report, in most of those cases, the person was not using the title "naturopathic doctor," but rather calling herself a "naturopathic practitioner," which is permitted under current law. One strongly suspects these traditional practitioners were turned in by NDs.

Under Senate Bill 796, only licensed naturopaths, who must have graduated from naturopathic "medical" school, would be able to use the term "naturopath," "traditional naturopathic practitioner" or "traditional naturopath," effectively ending the practice of traditional naturopathy.

The California Naturopathic Doctors Association testified in favor of the bill:

"Licensure and regulation of the California naturopathic doctor profession by the Naturopathic Medicine Committee provides the citizens of California safe access to well-trained primary care providers that specialize in affordable, effective healthcare."

This is not true. Naturopathic doctors are neither "well-trained" nor are they adequate "primary care providers." Their education and training is far inferior to that of MDs and DOs and, when someone actually bothers to look into what they are doing in a methodical way, their care proves substandard. What they offer to the public are boutique-type practices specializing in various forms of pseudo-medicine. And there is not a shred of evidence that naturopathic doctors reliably provide primary care that is either "affordable" or "effective."

The American Naturopathic Medical Association, which represents traditional naturopaths, came much closer to the truth in opposing SB 796:

"The state of California already regulates primary care doctors and these naturopathic physicians could not possibly meet those requirements so they have come to you seeking a back door into practicing as primary care physicians without going to a real medical school. The cost to the citizens of California for administration of such a board could possibly be their lives or that of a loved one."

Unfortunately, the while the California Medical Association and other physician groups opposed licensing of naturopaths initially, they did not bother to show up and urge that the state's ill-advised experiment in licensing naturopaths be abandoned.

The legislative review did turn up the NMC's non-compliance with state law when it comes to giving credit for military service. That law requires healthcare practitioner regulatory boards to have methods of evaluating military education, training and experience, so that appropriate credit can be awarded toward licensing requirements. The NMC has not done so, its excuse being that the military doesn't offer educational credits that could be applied towards obtaining an ND degree. This didn't fly with the legislative committee, which pointed to basic biology or anatomy courses or clinical training or experience in the military that could contribute to credits earned in an ND program.

Under current law, to be eligible for licensure in California, applicants must have graduated from a Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME)-accredited school. If this bill becomes law, that will no longer suffice. The NMC can recognize only those schools that

"evaluate an applicant's education, training, and experience obtained in the armed services . . . and provide course credit where applicable."

The upshot of this will be that all CNME-accredited schools will have to start giving credit for military education, training and experience if they want their grads to be eligible for practice in California. Perhaps military courses in "battlefield acupuncture" will meet the schools' criteria.

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Points of Interest 05/30/2017