Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Opposition to license naturopathy

Opposition to license naturopathy

This letter was sent to New York State Senator John DeFrancisco on February 18, 2005.

Dear Senator DeFrancisco,

I am a physician who lives and practices in Marcellus. I’m writing as a
follow up to an earlier conversation with Chuck Murphy expressing my
opposition to the licensing of naturopaths in New York State (SB 1617).

Naturopathy is a pseudoscientific system that purports to diagnose and
treat disease; indeed, its practitioners go so far as to refer to
themselves as naturopathic physicians. However, the philosophic
underpinnings, the educational training, and the practice of
naturopathy are far removed from the evidence based scientific
treatment offered by medical doctors. Because of these shortcomings, I
oppose licensing naturopaths, which would lend an aura of credibility
to a practice that has the potential to endanger the health and
pocketbooks of New York State residents.

Naturopathy is rooted in a vitalism, the belief that biological
processes are exempt from known physical and chemical principles.
Naturopaths rely on simplistic theories to explain the causes of
disease, which they couch in modern terms so as to sound scientific,
but which are not supported by scientific study. For example,
naturopathic schools teach that the entire body is represented by the
flecks of color in the iris of the eye, and that examination of these
flecks (iridology) can lead to diagnosis of disease throughout the
body. The end result of iridology and similar worthless diagnostic
tests is that trusting patients risk misdiagnosis of their actual
medical illness, or failure to diagnose serious illnesses that require
treatment. And many of the treatments proffered by naturopaths are
downright worthless to potentially dangerous—such as treating stroke
patients with ice cold compresses over the carotid arteries (worthless,
and leading to a delay in the first few critical minutes when bona fide
medical treatments might reduce stroke severity), colonic irrigation to
remove alleged “toxins” (potentially causing bowel perforation or
spreading infection without any proven benefit), and opposition to the
proven public health measures of vaccination and fluoridation.

I faxed several relevant articles to Mr. Murphy last week, and I hope
that he has been able to share them with you. I won’t repeat all the
points made in those articles here, as the length of those materials,
15 pages plus links to additional material available on the Internet,
gives you an idea of the complexity of this topic.

I firmly believe that licensing naturopathy poses a serious danger to
the health of New York residents. Unsuspecting individuals, unaware
that naturopathy does not meet the modern standards of scientific
evidence and ethical patient care, may be lured into considering
naturopaths as the equivalent of primary care physicians. Indeed, the
New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians makes that claim on
their web page! Licensing naturopaths would give them the stamp of
government approval, which would lead more people to risk their health
by delay in diagnosis and failure to provide state-of-the-art
treatments for serious illnesses. And governmental approval would open
the door to insurance reimbursement, taxing an already overburdened

I would be happy to speak to you further to clarify and elaborate my
position against the licensing of naturopathic physicians.

Eva F. Briggs, M.D.