Naturopaths and the creep of pseudo-science | Toronto Star

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If provincial governments grant naturopaths their wish and make them a self-regulating profession, they will be putting patients' well-being at risk.

Ontario naturopaths are pushing hard to become a self-regulating profession, with expanded rights to prescribe drugs and order tests. Thankfully, the Ontario Medical Association is pushing back.

This is not a turf war — there are more than enough patients out there. Nor is the resistance from the medical community founded on a fear of loss of professional status. This is about patient safety and, more fundamentally, the role of science in the Canadian health care system.

Naturopathic medicine, despite its claims to the contrary, is not evidence-based. Given this reality, provincial health ministries need to carefully consider the long-term implications — including the legal and ethical challenges — of formally legitimizing the pseudo-scientific.

If naturopathic medicine were governed by science, as practitioners increasingly claim, they would not provide: detoxification services, homeopathic remedies, most herbal remedies, and cosmetic facial acupuncture. But these types of services are the core of naturopathic medicine.

If you don’t believe me, I invite you to Google “detoxification and naturopath.” You will get a list of clinics offering things like colon cleanses (useless, potentially harmful, and a bit disgusting), ionic foot baths that create an “energy field similar to that found in the human body” (so scientifically ridiculous that it borders on parody), and infrared sauna therapy (ditto).

 

Lucky for naturopaths they are not bound by science. I do not mean that the laws of physics do not apply to the things that happen within the walls of naturopathic clinics. I am fairly certain an apple will still fall, the Earth still orbits the Sun, and the application of the scientific method would still nudge us closer to the truth about the therapies they deploy.

Rather, I mean that the profession is not wedded to a scientific world view. It is a practice built on a philosophy based in the “healing power of nature” or, to quote theCanadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, the “principle of healing through the co-operative power of nature” and the “individual's inherent self-healing mechanisms.” This kind of rhetoric may sound inviting, but it is scientifically meaningless.

Written By: Timothy Caulfield
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16 COMMENTS

  1. I guess there will always be sick people so if you want to set up in a pseudo-business, medicine is a good one to go for.
    But you don’t see this in other professions. Lawyers are well paid, but try defending a mass murderer with “Oh, go on Gov, let him off, he’s really a nice chap” or even getting near a courtroom without the right qualifications.
    Can you imagine someone “inventing” a different way to fly a plane. Not qualified, but self regulated. Would anyone get in the plane with such a “pilot”?
    Why, oh why do people accept to play with their health.

    • In reply to #1 by Rosbif:
      >

      Can you imagine someone “inventing” a different way to fly a plane. Not qualified, but self regulated. Would anyone get in the plane with such a “pilot”? Why, oh why do people accept to play with their health.

      Probably not if they were told the truth! . . . However:- The concept of “self regulation” and “self accreditation”, has been tested and independently confirmed:-

      Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash: Flight crew wasn’t entitled to fly, pilot had falsified documents, investigators say

      The crew of a Russian airliner that crashed one year ago Friday, killing 44 people including an entire hockey team, “flew illegally:” Report:

      Vadim Timofeyev, former deputy director of now-defunct Yak Service Airlines, has been charged with “a violation of the rules for transport safety and operation of air transport” for allowing two unqualified pilots to fly the plane that crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all but one on board on Sept. 7, 2011.

      http://www.dvorak.org/blog/2009/05/12/tapes-reveal-unqualified-pilot-of-crashed-buffalo-flight-was-flirting-with-co-pilot-prior-to-crash/

      Tapes Reveal Unqualified Pilot of Crashed Buffalo Flight was “flirting” with Co-Pilot Prior to Crash

      Renslow, 47, was never properly trained on the Dash 8-Q400 Bombardier’s anti-stall stick-pusher, sources said. The safety feature automatically points the plane’s nose into a dive to allow it to gain speed to prevent a stall if the plane slows down. Pilots should push the stick forward to gain speed if this happens, but Renslow apparently yanked back, causing the crash.

      Colgan, the Manassas, Va.-based airline that contracts with Continental, never provided proper training on the stick-pusher or de-icing system, sources said.

      Renslow had also failed numerous competency exams, called check rides, throughout his short career as a pilot. He graduated from pilot school in 2005 and had already failed three proficiency tests on general aviation aircraft administered by the FAA. At Colgan, he failed two more accreditation exams on turboprop planes. He bombed in his first bid to qualify as a co-pilot on the Beech 1900 aircraft. Then he failed in his first try for Saab 340 pilot certification.

  2. The (apocryphal) saying of G.K.Chesterton applies here. ‘ When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They’ll believe anything..’ There’s a collapse of religious belief in developed societies but there’s a great rise in the commercialisation of woo.

  3. a U.S. study found that only 24 per cent of naturopaths found the “results of randomized controlled trials as ‘very useful.’”

    Bonkers.

    I don’t know how it is Next Door, but here in the States there is always the need for at least one (sym)pathetic legislator to get the Quack Board motion rolling. This might just be a peripheral rattling with no politician on board yet, but to get anywhere it will need one.

    When that happens, defenders of science need to find out who the politician is and vote them out.

    Mike

  4. G.K.Chesterton—
    ‘ When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They’ll believe anything..’

    Bulls***!! Typical of the religiot mindset, accusing others of their own failings. To believe in God it is essential to ‘believe anything’

  5. Thanks, but no.I’ll take evidence based medicine every time.
    These woo-peddlers are proliferating and the numbers of gullible people are rather dismaying.

    Come to think of it, these woo-peddlers are so full of it that colonic cleansing might be just what the doctor ordered for them

    • In reply to #7 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      Thanks, but no.I’ll take evidence based medicine every time.
      These woo-peddlers are proliferating and the numbers of gullible people are rather dismaying.

      Come to think of it, these woo-peddlers are so full of it that colonic cleansing might be just what the doctor ordered for them

      It seems to me that they themselves need some cerebral cortical cleansing?

      • That too!In reply to #15 by Blasphemyman:

        In reply to #7 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

        Thanks, but no.I’ll take evidence based medicine every time.
        These woo-peddlers are proliferating and the numbers of gullible people are rather dismaying.

        Come to think of it, these woo-peddlers are so full of it that colonic cleansing might be just…

  6. I always wondered what ‘Naturopathy’ means. Does it just mean, ‘let the disease run it’s natural course without human intervention?’ What could be more ‘natural’ than that? For most day to day complaints this works fine, though personally I’d check with a physician that it’s not actually something serious.

    • In reply to #10 by Stuart Coyle:

      I always wondered what ‘Naturopathy’ means.

      Quite a good piece from Wiki, shows what a bunch of complete twerps these people are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturopathy

      From the Wiki piece:

      Naturopaths do not generally recommend vaccines and antibiotics, and may provide alternative remedies even in cases where evidence-based medicine has been shown effective.[47][48] “All forms of naturopathic education include concepts incompatible with basic science, and do not necessarily prepare a practitioner to make appropriate diagnosis or referrals.”[46][48][49]

      Think that just about sums up why these people should not be allowed self-regulation.

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