Why Bill 179 Matters and is a threat to Medical Standards
A Skeptic North Response to the Naturopaths' Rebuttal
I sent the following email to my MPP to explain my views on the subject. I urge everyone to call or write their MPPs before it is too late and any nutjob in a white lab coat can write prescriptions.
We recently read about Bill 179 on the CBC website and were shocked to discover that Ontario is planning to allow naturopaths to prescribe medication. We feel this is a grave mistake.
Naturopathic practitioners are simply not qualified to assess patients and determine which chemicals they should be ingesting. Naturopathy is based on pseudo-scientific philosophy and is not grounded in chemistry or science. It is based on unproven beliefs and untested hypotheses, or worse, disproven theories. Naturopaths are opposed to conventional, evidence-based medicine. They oppose vaccines. They promote homeopathy, which has been proven again and again to be a placebo. In short, naturopathy is not medicine and naturopaths are not proper health-care providers. Someone who is not trained in chemistry and biology should not be able to prescribe a drug.
There is real risk of harm to patients.
Recently a baby girl died because her eczema was treated with homeopathic remedies instead of real medical care. In Ontario a baby died in 1987 due to malnutrition because a naturopathic "doctor" was advising the parents about the proper feeding and care for the baby. In Quebec last year a court ruled that a mother was negligent in withholding her daughter's medication in favour of naturopathic treatments. The website whatistheharm.net documents these and many other cases worldwide where improper treatment and non-medical treatments result in injury or death to patients.
Most people are not qualified to judge their own healthcare. They have little or no understanding of biology or even nutrition. These people are easy prey for people who sell questionable cures. Consider vitamins: there are two kinds of vitamins. One is water-soluble, which means that if you have too much in your body it just dissolves in your urine and you flush it away. Taking these vitamins can cause kidney stones but is usually not harmful (merely wasteful of your money). The other kind of vitamin is fat soluble, which means it builds up in your body. Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins. This means it is actually dangerous for people to take vitamin D supplements because it is very easy to overdose. But the general public is unaware of the danger and they feel that because it's available without a prescription it must be safe and effective. This simply isn't true and the science backs it up. However under Bill 179 naturopaths are going to regain the ability to prescribe high doses of Vitamin D. Most people don't have a vitamin deficiency, but for those with low Vitamin D the standard dose, 1000 IU, can already be prescribed by naturopaths. What basis do naturopaths have for prescribing higher doses?
Finally, another troubling aspect of this bill is that it legitimizes naturopathy. Naturopathy does not work. Homeopathy does not work. This is a simple fact. Some people try to paint a picture of "science" vs "nature" but this is a false dichotomy. Science is about facts. When science proves something, it is a fact. If science proves the opposite, then it is not a fact. Science has proven that homeopathy is no better than placebo, and that naturopathic treatments do not work. If they did work, they would be scientific treatments. After all, what do you call alternative medicine once it's been proven to work? Conventional medicine. Science isn't about taking sides or being political. It is impartial.
Bill 179 expands the scope of practice for many non-physicians. This is not necessarily bad. There is logic to allowing optometrists and pharmacists and other medical professionals the right to prescribe. Presumable an optometrist knows how to prescribe eye-related medications because she has studied the biology, chemistry and physics of the eye. Similarly, a nurse has also studied biology and medicine. Pharmacists too spend a good portion of their school years studying chemistry and biology so that they can understand and evaluate prescriptions. All of these people are trained medical professionals. Naturopaths are by definition not medical. They should not be allowed to prescribe medicine.
When Bill 179 comes up for a third reading we urge you to vote against it unless the expanded scope of practice excludes non-medical practitioners. Don't put the lives of Ontarians at risk.