Jerry Kopel

by Jerry Kopel
There WILL be a legislative fight in 2006. Naturopathics vs. the usual suspects plus a mini-crusade in opposition by a large state daily newspaper.
The Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) has approved the application by the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians for regulation under a state statute as either licensure, title protection, or exemption from the Medical Practice Act. DORA's report is a hard read, so this column will try to simplify the issue.
In the report: "Naturopathy is a system of health care based on the philosophy that the human body has the power to heal itself by restoring the natural balance. Naturopathy encompasses an evolving system of natural therapeutics that includes hydrotherapy, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, botanical medicine, psychology, physiotherapy, and spinal manipulation."
"Naturopathic physicians believe that health results from the harmonious functioning of all part of a person. Therapy is directed at the whole person and at the underlying cause of illness, such as the patient's lifestyle, diet habits, and emotional state."
This is the third Colorado try to regulate the profession. The first, in 1993 was opposed by DORA, but it was approved by the-then Joint Legislative Sunrise-Sunset Committee. The bill failed. In 1998. DORA's report stated "While it is not clear whether the...criteria of regulation have been satisfied, there are reasons to consider regulation of naturopathic physicians." It went on to state that licensing under DORA could provide adequate public protection. The bill failed. In 2005, DORA approved regulation for the profession in 2006.
According to DORA "naturopathic medicine has been practiced in the United States and Europe throughout history. Conventional medicine and naturopathy were at one time quite similar in their use of medicinal plants, diet therapies, and hydrotherapy treatments. Only within the last 40-50 years has conventional medicine diverged from this path."
"...the rise of medical technology and the use of "miracle drugs" like antibiotics, were all contributing factors."
DORA and the applicant want to limit regulation to graduates of residential four-year graduate level naturopathic medical schools. The U.S. Dept. of Education through an intermediary recognizes three naturopathic medical colleges in Oregon, Washington, and  Arizona.
In 1993 there were 20 graduates of the accredited colleges practicing in Colorado. Today, according to DORA, there are 84 of whom 74 maintain licenses in states that have a regulatory program.
According to DORA, 13 states plus the District of Columbia presently license naturopathic physicians, although in Florida, regulation is only for those in practice before 1960. Kansas provides registration. The other licensing states are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho,  Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
DORA states "the experience of these states show that the regulatory scheme is successful."
The largest number of regulated practitioners are in Washington, 650; Oregon, 636; and Arizona, 432.
Legislators may be shocked to hear from "naturopaths" urging a "no" vote. They are members of the Coalition for Natural Health. Many of these are graduates of either correspondence schools or college courses not recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education.
In addition, the American Naturopathic Medical Association., claims naturopathic physicians "lack the education to offer anything beyond non-invasive therapies."
If the legislature regulates accredited naturopaths, the others will likely face criminal or civil actions. 
The usual suspects filed statements of opposition: The National Council Against Health Fraud, Colorado Family Physicians, Colorado Dental Association, and the Colorado Chiropractic Association.
The fight, of course, is about competition, which will be dressed up as the good guys vs. the bad guys, depending on which lobbyist you talk to. The only hope of bill passage may be a compromise reached on what constitutes the scope of practice of naturopathy. If this applicant is going to succeed, they must hire some of the best, most experienced lobbyists at the state capitol.
At the least, title protection of the term "naturopathics" would enable law enforcement to concentrate of enjoining non-accredited practitioners.
Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House. 

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