Licensing naturopathic quackery in Mississippi: If at first you don’t succeed…

Here we go again.

Naturopaths crave legitimacy for their brand of pseudoscientific medicine. Basically, they delude themselves into thinking that they are real doctors and can function as primary care providers, despite abundant evidence that they cannot. they One (of several) ways they seek to acquire that legitimacy for naturopathy and themselves is through promoting the passage of laws in states licensing them as health care providers, as they have been repeatedly doing (and, fortunately, thus far failing to achieve) in my home state of Michigan and continuing to attempt in Massachusetts. Once they achieve that licensure in a state, inevitably they keep trying to increase their scope of practice, even to the point of being allowed to prescribe drugs and do minor surgery. Of course, I always wondered why they even want these latter two privileges if naturopathy is as great a system of medicine as they claim, but perhaps, deep down, they realize that conventional medicine works better than their woo. Of cours, another reason is financial, as under the Affordable Care Act, which mandates insurance coverage for any licensed health professional, licensure would open the way for requiring insurance companies to reimburse naturopaths for their services. No wonder supplement companies have been enthusiastically (and financially) supporting naturopathic licensing efforts.

They’re at it again. As is so often the case, whenever a bill licensing naturopaths fails to pass, the push begins immediately to pass another one. For instance, Senate Bill 2290 died in committee in February after another, House Bill 725, failed last year. Never to be deterred, on Wednesday, supporters of naturopathic licensing testified before the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare:

In July 2015, doctors diagnosed Nicole Matis with stage IV breast cancer, telling her the disease was so far advanced, she had no shot of eradicating the disease. She said the best they offered was to “treat the symptoms until (they) couldn’t treat them anymore.”

But in January, Matis’s oncologist found no evidence of active cancer cells. Nine months later she remains cancer-free.

Matis had defied the odds. And on Wednesday, she told members of the Mississippi Senate committee on health and public welfare that she credits her recovery to naturopathic medicine, which she received along with traditional chemotherapy. She said the naturopathic medicine improved her overall health during the rigorous chemotherapy treatments.

“Nurses were constantly amazed at how well I looked and felt (during chemotherapy). I never felt sick or lost my hair. I had little to no side effects, and I attribute that to naturopathic medicine,” Matis said.

Chemotherapy can be rough, certainly, but for breast cancer it’s often not as rough as the common public perception would lead one to believe. The reason is that supportive care has advanced considerably in 25 years. I once saw a talk by an oncologist who’s almost as “insolent” as I am, and he started out by describing how he ad been asked a question: What is the greatest advance in oncology over the last 20 years? His first choice: Zofran, an drug that combats nausea and vomiting, because Zofran and other drugs like it allow people to make it through chemotherapy more readily. Chances are that whatever woo that naturopaths administered to Nicole Matis had little to do with how well she did compared to good, old-fashioned science-based oncology and supportive care. Yet, like alternative medicine cancer cure testimonials in which a patient survives because of conventional treatment, chooses alternative medicine, and then attributes his survival to the alternative medicine instead of conventional treatment, Matis probably would have done just as well without the naturopathy. I could be wrong, but I’m playing the odds, based on what I’ve observed before time and time again.

Oddly enough, unlike the case in Michigan, where so many medical societies didn’t bother to oppose naturopathic licensing, allowing the bill to persist and be referred to the House, in Mississippi, at least Dr. Lee Voulters, president of the Mississippi Medical Association, was willing to testify against licensing. However, that might not be enough, as the “stars” might have aligned to give a new bill a better chance this session. Dr. Voulker might point out that naturopathy is not well regulated (a massive understatement, which makes me wonder if Dr. Voulker, like so many physicians, doesn’t really know what naturopathic medicine is), but this is what he’s up against:

But naturopathic medicine has something many issues in Mississippi don’t — bipartisan support. Both Sen. John Hohrn (D-Jackson) and Sen. Josh Harkins (R-Flowood) have come out as proponents of a bill to license naturopathic doctors.

“I think it’s about having every medical option available to our citizens that’s safe and effective,” Harkins said. “Who can be against that?”

Horhn agreed.

“I’ve always leaned toward an integrated approach in healthcare,” Horhn said. “And I think the stars seemed to be lining up on the Senate side for some serious consideration.”

The story also notes:

Ron Matis, more than most civilians, knows how to get a bill through the legislature. During the last session he was one of the main advocates of a House Bill 1523. The “religious freedom” law garnered national headlines and a fight in federal court after opponents said it discriminated against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Mississippians.

The bill sailed through the House and Senate with almost unanimous Republican support. Matis, who is political director for the United Pentecostal Church of Mississippi, spent months lobbying several key legislators to make sure this happened.

Somehow, that’s not reassuring. Mississippi’s “religious freedom” law was basically a Trojan Horse that, in the name of religious freedom, allowed discrimination against LGBT people. Some of its objectionable consequences would have been that religious groups could fire a single mother who gets pregnant or, in the case of religious adoption agencies, refuse to place a child with a same sex couple. State employees could refuse to sign same sex marriage certificates. You get the idea. No wonder the law was struck down in July. One can look at naturopathic licensing bills as the same sort of Trojan Horse but in a different area.

While one can’t help but sympathize with Nicole Matis and her husband Ron because of her battle with stage IV breast cancer and understand their motivation for promoting naturopathic licensure, when it comes to public policy personal anecdote cannot be allowed to triumph over science. Yes, I know that frequently personal anecdote trumps science and other policy considerations, but in medicine I like to hope that such tendencies can be minimized. (One can say this while continuing to hope that Ms. Matis continues to do well.) For instance, Mississippi is one of only three states that do not permit nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates; so the state can get it right at times. Be that as it may, in the name of “health freedom,” the licensing of naturopaths promoted by Matis and woo-friendly legislators would legitimize all sorts of outrageous quackery and eliminate a lot of consumer protections that prevent bogus health care providers from plying their quackery. don’t believe me? Take a look at the text of Senate Bill 2290:

(1) A naturopathic physician may order and perform physical and laboratory examinations consistent with naturopathic education and training, for diagnostic purposes, including, but not limited to, phlebotomy, clinical laboratory tests, orificial examinations and physiological function tests.

(2) A naturopathic physician may order diagnostic imaging studies consistent with naturopathic training.

(3) A naturopathic physician may dispense, administer, order, and prescribe or perform the following:

(a) Food, extracts of food, nutraceuticals, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, enzymes, botanicals and their extracts, botanical medicines, homeopathic medicines, all dietary supplements and nonprescription drugs as defined by the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act;

(b) Prescription substances as determined by the Naturopathic Formulary Council;

(c) Hot or cold hydrotherapy, naturopathic physical medicine, electromagnetic energy, colon hydrotherapy, therapeutic exercise;

(d) Devices, including, but not limited to, therapeutic devices, barrier contraception, and durable medical equipment;

(e) Health education and health counseling;

(f) Repair and care incidental to superficial lacerations and abrasions;

(g) Removal of foreign bodies located in the superficial tissues; and

(h) Musculoskeletal manipulation consistent with naturopathic education and training.

(4) A naturopathic physician may utilize routes of administration that include oral, nasal, auricular, ocular, rectal, vaginal, transdermal, intradermal, subcutaneous, intravenous, and intramuscular consistent with the education and training of a naturopathic physician.

(5) A naturopathic physician may perform those therapies as trained and educated, and approved by the board.

As most of these bills would do if passed into law, Senate Bill 2290 would form a naturopathic licensing board, in this case consisting of three naturopaths and two members of the public. Even more frightening:

(1) The board shall establish a Naturopathic Childbirth Attendance Advisory Committee to issue recommendations concerning the practice of naturopathic childbirth attendance based upon a review of naturopathic medical education and training.

(2) The committee shall be composed of representation from each of the following: one (1) medical doctor with clinical specialty or board certification in obstetrics, one (1) certified nurse midwife or certified midwife, and two (2) naturopathic physicians with clinical experience in natural childbirth.

(3) The committee shall review naturopathic education and training and make specific recommendations to the board regarding the qualifications to practice naturopathic childbirth attendance.

(4) Graduation from a naturopathic midwifery or naturopathic obstetrics program that is offered by an approved naturopathic medical program as defined in paragraph (e) of Section 3 of this act will be required to practice naturopathic childbirth attendance.

That’s right. Naturopaths would be allowed to deliver babies.

As is usually the case, when I see a licensing bill for naturopaths in a state, I like to see what naturopaths are doing there. There are naturopaths in Mississippi, but they are not licensed, just as there are in Michigan and Massachusetts. (I also like to refer to my Sh*t Naturopaths Say series.)

For example, Elizabeth Cox, who is also an acupuncturist, would be eligible to be licensed. Interestingly, she got rid of part of her website quoted by Jann Bellamy:

Offering far infrared heat waves and negative ionization, the amethyst biomat can be used for balancing and maintaining health as well as detoxification. It is paired with select meditative and brain wave altering headset audio to help change habit patterns, achieve relaxation and optimize health. As this quantum energetic is cumulative, three and six session packages are available. Amethyst can be added on to any treatment. Both the mini mat and full length professional mat are available for rental.

The link Jann quoted regarding the amethyst “biomat” therapy is now dead, but the almighty Wayback Machine remembers all:

A BioMat healing session is deeply detoxifying and relaxing as negative ions are introduced, infrared rays penetrate and the brainwaves shift to theta. The biomat

Assists in purging pesticides, PCBs and heavy metal toxins thru the skin.
Reduces stress and fatigue:

  • Anti-aging
  • Relieves anxiety and promotes relaxation
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Eases joint pain and stiffness
  • Provides warm, soothing pain relief
  • Eliminates toxins in the body
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Alleviates migraines and tension headaches
  • Reduces allergy symptoms
  • Improves immune system function
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Burns calories and controls weight
  • Improves muscle tone and skin quality

Of course, right now, there aren’t a lot of naturopaths in Mississippi, although there are a lot of “holistic” clinics. Likely that is due to a lack of naturopathic licensing. Clearly naturopaths aim to change that, and, as in other states, they will not give up. I liken naturopaths to the Terminator paraphrasing Kyle Reese: They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear (for medicine). And they absolutely will not stop… ever, until they are licensed (and medical standards are dead)!