Jun 20 2016

Massachusetts Senate Passes Naturopathic Practice Act

quackOne of the biggest challenges with trying to hold the line against pseudoscience in medicine is that the proponents of pseudoscience are relentless. Since they have a large financial stake in the outcome, they dedicate the time and resources to lobbying state legislatures to get the laws they want.

They lobby for health care freedom laws to weaken the standard of care, to carve out exemptions for particular kinds of quackery (like chronic Lyme quackery), to mandate coverage of worthless treatments through insurance, they fight for licensure of dubious professions, and then to expand their scope of practice. If they fail, they are back the following year, and they have the money to support their efforts.

Often such laws are passed before we even know they exist. There are just too many legislatures to watch, and often the efforts are deliberately under the radar. Every time the side of science wins, the victory is temporary. Every time the side of pseudoscience wins, their victory is permanent, and they slowly ratchet up the laws favorable to quacks and erode the standard of care.

The organizations that should be dedicating time and resources to fighting the advance of pseudoscience in medicine (like the AMA and state professional organizations) usually don’t. They are either gun shy or ideologically soft on pseudoscience. They are being placated with propaganda about how such treatments are harmless, just the soft and fuzzy part of medicine. Nothing to worry about.¬†

Massachusetts Senate passes naturopathic practice act

The latest iteration of this saga is now happening in Massachusetts, where the state Senate just passed a naturopathic practice act which would give naturopaths a broad scope of practice, essentially making them primary care providers.

Naturopaths often present themselves as doctors specializing in natural medicine, herbs, lifestyle and nutrition. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they are is an example of what happens when a health care culture is completely disconnected from reality, because it is not based in science.

Naturopaths practice an eclectic group of treatments that only seem to have in common that they are not based on science (with some basic diet and exercise advice thrown in). They are ideological, based heavily in the appeal to nature fallacy and vitalism (the false notion that there is a mystical life force that keeps us healthy).

Their training is woefully inadequate to the task of being the primary care doctors they want to be. Former naturopath Britt Hermes has documented their low standards for training and accreditation.

Much of their training focuses on pure pseudoscience, like homeopathy, which is a centerpiece of naturopathic practice.

Unfortunately, they are often successful in convincing naive legislators that they are legitimate. They also put forth the bogus argument that if they are licensed then they can do quality control – take care of all the inadequately trained naturopaths out there. This never works, because they have no standard of care. Once licensed, naturopaths essentially regulate themselves, without any external validity.

State licensure definitely is an imprimatur of validity, and that is how the public sees it. Essentially the states are giving naturopaths a license to defraud the public, to pretend to be doctors when they are not, and to inflict upon the public a witches brew of medical pseudoscience that is at best worthless.


Despite the fact that the game is rigged against us, we need to continue to fight against the advancement of pseudoscience in health care. Right now that means fighting the Massachusetts Naturopathic Practice Act. If you live in Massachusetts then write your congressman, and write the governor to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

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