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What does it take to convince legislators with a negligible understanding of science or ignorance of alternative medicine to kill a bill that would allow parents to choose Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) providers and “natural remedies” for their infants? Linda Rosa takes a look at the many attempts naturopathic “doctors” have made seeking recognition as the equivalent of physicians. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 19.3 (2014).

Linda Rosa is a Colorado registered nurse who currently serves as Executive Director for the Institute for Science in Medicine. Ms. Rosa acknowledges the contributions of Maureen Maker and Larry Sarner, citizen lobbyists for Colorado Citizens for Science in Medicine.

Draw Them A Picture
How Skeptic Activists and a Cartoon Kept Quacks Away from Infants

by Linda Rosa

For over two decades a few dozen “degreed” naturopathic “doctors” (DNDs) in Colorado repeatedly failed to achieve, through political means, the recognition they craved as “the equivalent of physicians.” But in the last two years, a change in the local political landscape has given Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) unprecedented leeway in the state.

Since the early 1990s, a total of eight bills proposing Naturopathic Doctor (ND) licensure were voted down by Republican-controlled legislatures, even though these bills went largely unopposed by the state’s medical societies. A lobbyist for the Colorado Medical Society (CMS) claimed licensure would allow MDs to “keep an eye” on DNDs. Other issues took priority with the CMS leadership. They could hardly be bothered by a handful of fringe practitioners—less than a hundred—even though they kept practicing in the state in spite of their unlicensed status.

The DNDs kept losing even though they had the financial backing of numerous alternative supplement companies. Even in the growing healthcare market, they required outside recognition in order to appear legitimate and useful to a wary public.

There were a number of reasons legislators rejected licensure over the years. Many Republicans recognized the additional budgetary burden of including DNDs in the healthcare system. Some legislators had their doubts about naturopathy after consulting their own physicians. One Democrat saw licensing DNDs as a threat to the state’s Hispanic curanderos (traditional healers).

Additionally, a few legislators heeded the testimony of skeptics, specifically Mark Johnson, MD, the articulate medical director of the Jefferson County Health Department, serving one of Colorado’s largest counties. Dr. Johnson was, at the time, president of the American College of Preventive Medicine. He had grown up with naturopathy in his family and knew its foibles well. He testified about naturopathy’s undefined scope of practice and about a litany of serious medical procedures not prohibited by the bill’s language—procedures that DNDs are dangerously unqualified to perform. But he could charm everyone, as when he thanked the DNDs for introducing so many bills that he had come to discover the best parking and restaurants near the Capitol. […]

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7 Comments »

7 Comments

  1. abdul Basit khakwany says:

    Why skeptic in the presence of Quran! Awake!!
    Quran is God’s verbatim conversation with mankind consisting of more than 500 pages. God introduces Himself to mankind and tells us that He created us and this entire creation and what dos He want from us. And what is His future plan? Without reading and understanding and following Quran, one is deaf, dumb and blind.

    • Alan says:

      What is the Evidence?

    • Jon Richfield says:

      Not so dumb, I think.
      For a start, where in the sacred text does it say that you should abandon your intelligence in evaluating the evidence of your senses and logic?
      And as soon as you engage evidence and logic, you are in the field of science, and texts asserted to be sacred either must conform or thereby show themselves to be in error.
      Alternatively, if they are not in error, then if it seems to you that they conflict with the world and logic as created according to the texts, then the error must lie with you and your perceptions and interpretations of your readings, not with the world, the texts, science, or scientific scepticism.
      In short, if only you would follow the Word and Wisdom of God, you would see that without reading and understanding and following science, one is deaf, dumb and blind

  2. Phetole Kubjane says:

    The claims that are made in the Quran or any other “revealed” book or text are made on the assumption that there is a God, which is a fundamental flaw of any engagement on religion since there is no evidence of a God in the first place.

  3. Daniel Lynch says:

    Excuse me, but has this thread been hijacked?

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      Yah. I was going to ask the same thing. Here we had a nice account of some positive, substantial impact achieved under the umbrella of “skepticism” and the conversation shifts to that old non-topic.

      I am really happy that informed experts are able to guide our laws to keep CAM on the fringes. I have no problem with people using _complementary_ medicine for things that Western medicine does not solve (e.g. meditation for chronic pain management). However, when folks like Steve Jobs think they can ‘woo’ their way out of cancer there is a problem.

      I have long felt that the true attraction of CAM is that western medicine views people as big bags of biology – and mainly treats the ‘bad biology’ in that bag. CAM often has a better bedside manner (maybe because it relies so heavily on the placebo effect it must do) – so when a person has little luck from a physician, going to someone who can provide (false) hope and sympathy is tempting. The problem is when Real medicine can treat the ailment and people still seek the alternatives. That is why ensuring that the government doesn’t endorse these unproven (or proven false) treatments is so important.

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