Nevada Legislature passes "Quack Full Employment Act"

Nevada Legislature passes "Quack Full Employment Act"

The Nevada Legislature just passed a "Quack Full Employment Act." The official purpose of this legislation is to protect purveyors of "wellness services" from prosecution for the unlicensed practice of medicine or some other health care practice, like chiropractic or massage, for which a state license is required. But the actual effect will be to prevent the state from bringing charlatans to justice for their actions. It's not the law until the Governor signs it, but it passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly and Senate, so we have no reason to think he won't.

And what are these "wellness services?" Some are simply worthless, but likely benign, the most pernicious side effect being lightening of the wallet, like: 

 

But, wait, isn't the whole purpose of iridology diagnostic, or, should I say, "diagnostic," often as a pretense to sell dietary supplements? Maybe in nondiagnostic iridology you use "noninvasive instruments," which is another thing on the list of permitted wellness services. Now, that sort of open-ended category -- "noninvasive instruments" --  practically screams for creativity. And I'll bet that's exactly what Nevadans will get. 

Others, though, have the potential for harm, or are harmful in and of themselves. One of these is Gerson therapy, which is often touted as a cancer treatment. Gerson therapy includes a highly restrictive diet, coffee enemas, dietary supplements, dessicated animal glands and hydrogen peroxide, among other things. "Detoxification practices and therapies" is also on the list of permitted practices, which presumably includes colon hydrotherapy.  Providers can practice "herbology and herbalism" and use food, dietary supplements and "nutrients." And there's nothing to prevent them from selling this stuff to their clients.

What are the qualifications for becoming a wellness services provider? There are none. If you have any credentials -- say, an online degree in iridology or a one-day course in reiki -- you can tell the client about these "qualifications."  You have to tell clients you aren't a licensed health care provider and get them to sign a statement recommending that they tell their primary care physician about their "wellness plan" before getting started. The statement also recommends that the client ask the PCP 

about any potential drug interactions, side effects, risks or conflicts between any medications or treatments prescribed by your primary care physicians or other licensed providers of health care and the wellness services you intend to receive.

That's fair, right? Let the wellness services provider pump the patient up with the illusion that this or that nostrum, or a whole menu of nostrums, as in Gerson therapy, will boost her immune system and detoxify her and get to the root cause of her problem and other such nonsense. Maybe the wellness services provider offering Gerson therapy has shown the client The Beautiful Truth propaganda film movie.  Then let the overworked family doctor be the one to burst her balloon, plus run around looking up the literature on whether this or that dietary supplement or herb will cause harm or interfere with her medications.

According to the legislation, as long as the wellness services provider doesn't skate too close to practicing medicine, such as surgery, drug prescription, or diagnosis of a real disease, he can offer sheer quackery to his clients with little consequence unless he

treats a person's health condition in a manner that intentionally or recklessly causes that person recognizable and imminent risk of serious or permanent physical or mental health.

In which case he can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, although "a notification, educational or mediative approach" must be tried by the regulatory authorities first. Note that if you actually have the credentials to get a real health care practitioner license, such as education and training, you can be hauled before your regulatory board if you fall below the standard of care for your practice -- in other words, if you are negligent. But as long as you are uneducated and untrained and are providing bogus health care, the state can't touch you if you don't act intentionally or recklessly.

Even at that, if the harm you cause isn't serious or permanent, you're not in trouble. Is a painful rash from some irritant-containing herbal poultice serious or permanent? No? Too bad for you. Or, if it's not imminent -- say your particular form of snake oil causes heart disease or cancer, diseases that don't immediately manifest themselves -- no problem. And the statute says nothing about civil liability, nor does it contain any requirement that the wellness services provider carry insurance. 

In sum, practitioners of pseudoscience will be protected from criminal liability for all but the most egregious conduct. Injured clients will be stuck with the bill for medical care and other consequences of these so-called wellness services. If the Legislature set out to design a system that rewards the fruits of quackery at the expense of the gullible, they could hardly have come up with a better effort than this legislation. 

UPDATE: Nevada's Governor signed the "Quack Full Employment Act." The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015. 

 

Points of Interest 05/31/2015
Stillborn Supplement