National call

Dishonest Practitioners and Naturopathic Practices: A National Call for Normalization

Naturopathic practices

Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is defined by two fundamental philosophies and seven naturopathic principles and practices which are guided by twelve distinct naturopathic theories. According to the World Naturopathic Federation (2021), direct risks associated with naturopathic care have been reported very rarely and the vast majority are minor.

A call for standardization

Panesar et al., (2016) and Nabhan et al., (2012) are of the opinion that the main types of risks associated with the practice of naturopathy are similar to those of any other health profession that employs a wide field of practice and results primarily from the tools of the trade and the primary care setting in which they work.

Ghana is currently recognized as a key player in the global naturopathic community, by the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) in its latest book on naturopathy, due to the hard work of the Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine and Technology in modern Naturopathic Medical.

Minimum qualification

There can be no normalization policy without education. The WHO recommends a minimum of 1,500 hours for naturopaths and a maximum of 4,500 for naturopathic doctor training. This requirement is used by accredited naturopathic medical schools around the world and supported by the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF), Canada.

Naturopathic medical knowledge

The full spectrum of naturopathic knowledge covered in naturopathic educational programs as recommended by the WHO standard includes: 1) Naturopathic history, philosophies, principles and theories. 2) Naturopathic medical knowledge, including basic science, clinical science, laboratory and diagnostic testing, naturopathic assessment, and naturopathic diagnosis. 3) Naturopathic modalities, practices and treatments. 4) Supervised clinical practice. 5) Ethics and business practices. 6) Research.

Dishonest practitioners

In USA vs Dr Mazi 3:21-mj-71156 MAG[2021], a California-based naturopathic doctor is the first person in the United States to face charges of offering fake ‘homeoprophylactic vaccination’ coronavirus vaccines and falsifying COVID-19 vaccination cards claiming that people purchasers of the pellets had received doses of the Moderna vaccine and also spread misinformation regarding the vaccine.

Also in United States v. Feingold, 416 F. Supp. 627 (EDNY 1976, US courts have upheld the conviction of a naturopathic physician in Arizona for illegally distributing narcotic (opioid) drugs, which naturopathic physicians in that state were specifically prohibited from doing. Another case in point is the United States vs. Livdahl, 459 F. Supp. 2d 1255, (SD Fla. 2005). In this case, US courts upheld the conviction of another Arizona naturopath selling unapproved botulinum toxin type A, misrepresenting the product as an FDA-approved drug. Even in jurisdictions where the practice of naturopathy is authorized, competent courts have found that a few practitioners endanger the public by practicing outside their scope of practice, by presenting themselves as medical specialists when they did not have no training – for example in the Australian case of Malaguti c. Orchard [2020] QDC 242, where a regulatory call prohibiting a naturopath from identifying themselves as a medical oncologist without a specialist qualification was upheld.

In addition, Judgment of the Regional Court of Bonn (landgericht bonn) 9 0 234/14 of 19 June 2015, also treated practitioners for unprofessional conduct and malpractice. In this case, German courts found naturopaths occasionally liable for failing to warn patients of potential secondary harm from treatments; for example, blisters that can form on the skin during moxibustion.

In the case of the United States Bailey v. Arkansas CR #97-1442[1964], an acquitted of insanity on parole based on taking prescribed medication had relapsed, prompting legal action after the medication was stopped on the advice of a naturopathic doctor, with courts pointing to the act as a malpractice, although no action was taken as the practitioner was outside the jurisdiction of the case. Courts have also dealt with criminal offenses committed by naturopaths. An Australian naturopath (Wilson case) was found guilty of multiple counts of sexually assaulting and raping patients. Wilson will spend up to 16 years in prison for sexually assaulting 13 patients over nearly two decades.

Doctors practicing under the disguise of Naturopathy

the Health Care Complaints Commission against Bao-Queen Nguyen Phuoc [2015] NSWCATOD 81, provides an illustrative example of the courts having to take specific measures prohibiting an individual from practicing as a naturopath, after he has been struck off as a conventional medical practitioner for misconduct and has attempted to resume the practice of medicine under the guise of providing naturopathic services.

In a Slovenian case, Pravnik: Revija za Pravno Teorijo in Prakso, 2018. 135(11-12): p. 823-858, courts have recognized that developing standards of practice for naturopathy reduce the impact of inappropriate practice in this country. In Ghana, the practice of naturopathy is growing even faster than legislative and regulatory tools. Á Vivanco Martínez (2009) argues that in Chile, for example, courts have held that naturopathic treatment is a valid option for those who reject other treatments (e.g. cancer treatments), as well as to complement these treatments, but that these treatments must adhere to codes of conduct similar to those of conventional medical practice.

Conclusion

Just as proper regulation is necessary to minimize the risks of practicing naturopathy, improper regulation can increase the risks of practicing naturopathy. I hope that the Council for the Practice of Traditional Medicine will develop appropriate regulatory provisions for standards of practice for naturopathy and other alternative medicine. This is likely to improve safety and reduce the number of cases involving naturopaths and other alternative medicine practitioners going to court systems to avoid liability.

The author is honorary professor and student in the last semester of the LLB. E-mail: [email protected]

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