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Important Legislation Affecting Alternative Therapies

There are a number of states that already have laws or regulations that protect patient access to alternative therapies from licensed physicians. Some of these are discussed on our Legislation Already Passed page. To read the complete text, go to Health Lobby's State Laws page.

As we hear about states working on legislation that affects alternative therapies, we will add the information to this page. Two sites that track each states legislation are http://www.healthlobby.com/news2.html and http://www.citizenshealth.org/.

If you need help locating a Senator or member of the House of Representatives, see Your Representatives, or if you just need their e-mail address, see e-mail links. You should be writing or calling your representatives to encourage their vote in the right direction or to let them know how you feel about how they voted on a particular bill.

  • Thomas Navarro FDA Patient Rights Act (H.R. 3677) gives patients, rather than the Food and Drug Administration, the power to choose the method of medical treatment. The Act reforms the powers of the FDA so that the agency provides full disclosure of treatment options and cannot block patient access to treatments. The Act also assures that scientific research can advance based on safety and efficacy. Urge your representatives to support this important bill, named for a young boy fighting cancer, that would empower patients to choose their own medical treatment. For more information, go to Cancer Busters website.

     

  • AMTA - the Access to Medical Treatment Act
    To allow patients access to drugs and medical devices recommended and provided by health-care practitioners that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and for other purposes. This will allow state-licensed health-care providers to utilize safe, non-FDA approved, alternative therapies that have a reasonable expectation of therapeutic gain if the patient has been fully informed about the treatment. It is being supported by many and would permit health-care practitioners to provide "any medical treatment that the individual desires" that does not violate licensing laws. It states that practitioners may provide the treatment if: (a) it is not known to be directly harmful, (b) the patient is given written notice that the treatment is not government approved, and (c) written information is provided about the nature, anticipated benefits, and foreseeable side effects of the treatment. The Act would also require that dangerous outcomes be reported to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and that beneficial outcomes be reported to the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine.

    This legislation will allow those health professionals (with appropriate training) who wish to use complementary and alternative therapies to do so free from harassment, censure, or disciplinary actions and significantly broaden the healing options available to American consumers. Again this year an AMTA bill has been introduced in the House and the Senate. The House bill is HR1964. The Senate bill is S1378. The American Preventive Medical Association has been a major player promoting this important legislation. Periodically check their web site (http://apma.net) under Federal Affairs. They currently have a link to a Library of Congress site where you can enter the bill number - HR1964 - and get to inspect the actual wording of the bill and a list of sponsors.

    For more information, contact:

    Candace Campbell, Executive Director
    American Preventive Medical Association
    P.O. Box 458 Great Falls, Virginia 22066
    800-230-APMA  Fax 703-759-6711
    candace@apma.net
     
  • PBOR -  Patient's Bills of Rights - There are several Patient's Bills of Rights before the senate and house - HR 2563 would mandate that insurance companies cover the cost of clinical trials. For more information, go to http://olpa.od.nih.gov/Legislation/accessclintrial.htm.  

California:

The Problem

Millions of California citizens visit alternative health care providers each year. However, few know that their freedom to access these services is under potential threat.

According to California's Medical Practices Act, anyone who "treats" for any "ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental condition of any person" without the benefit of state licensure may, at least technically, be practicing medicine without a license. 

As a result, most practitioners of massage, naturopathy, homeopathy, Chinese and other forms of herbalism, ayurveda, reiki, and dozens of other beneficial healing modalities face the potential threat of prosecution, even if they cause no one harm.

The laws that govern medical practice in California (as well as in most states) are extremely broad in scope -- i.e. they prohibit virtually any kind of treatment or diagnosis except by a licensed medical practitioner. In particular, California's Business and Professions Code Section 2052 states that:

Any person who practices or attempts to practice, or who advertises or holds himself or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental condition of any person, without having at the time of so doing a valid, unrevoked, or unsuspended certificate as provided in this chapter, or without being authorized to perform such act pursuant to a certificate obtained in accordance with some other provision of law, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Because of this law, almost all of the alternative practitioners in California face the very real threat of being prosecuted for "practicing medicine without a license," even if there is no claim of harm or irresponsibility against them. This is why legislation in our state is so important.

Naturopathic Licensing

Background information:  Currently, eleven states license naturopathic medicine (Alaska, Arizona, Conneticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington).  Other states have naturopathic licensing bills pending. Also, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have licensing laws. If you have a specific question about a particular state, you can contact AANP (The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians) Board Member Julie Taylor, ND, at  mainedocs@gwi.net.

There’s some controversy in the alternative health care community regarding naturopathic state licensing bills.  Naturopathic licensing bills apply to individuals who have received a naturopathic doctorate from an accredited naturopathic university.  These schools are only available in states that currently license naturopathic medicine. 

Those arguing in favor of these bills say they are needed to allow ND’s that have been trained to do medical practices (such as giving an intravenous drip (IV), stitching a wound, or lancing a boil) the freedom to practice to the full scope of their training.  In states in which naturopathy is not licensed, ND’s are prohibited from these practices – thus limiting the nature of the care they can provide to individuals with advanced illness.  This is especially true in cancer care, in which IV’s with high concentrations of vitamin C, antioxidants, and other immune system support supplements are commonly used.

Those arguing against these licensing bills argue that most licensing bills include an exclusivity clause, which, if the bill passes, would preclude other complementary and alternative health care practitioners from practicing.  This would include all traditionally trained naturopaths, aroma-therapists, nutritionists, homeopaths, and herbalists who have not graduated from an accredited naturopathic university.  In addition, opposition groups argue that the healing arts should remain within the public domain, and that because most modalities are extremely safe, their practice should not be subject to regulation.  Some  

Obviously, both groups have valid concerns.   Having said this, Cancer Cure Foundation includes mention here of the California naturopathic licensing bill.  For information on other state licensing bills, see www.naturopathic.org.

California ND Licensing:  “The California Association of Naturopathic Physician’s (CANP's) proposed legislation to license Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) to practice in California was released in October 2001 in the form of a pre-print bill, submitted by Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland). A pre-print bill allows the CANP to negotiate details of the proposed legislation with various stakeholders before formal introduction next session. The bill accomplishes these major goals:”

1. “Defines the qualifications for a practitioner to use the title Naturopathic Doctor/Physician.”
2. “Defines a scope of practice based on education and examination”
3. “Provides the ability to legally prevent, diagnose and treat patients”
4. “Provides an independent practice status”
5. “Does not restrict access to any practitioner or therapy”

For more details, see the CANP website, www.canp.org

S.B. 577 – California Health Freedom Bill was introduced by Democratic Senator John Burton in April of 2001.  The bill supports the consumers right to access alternative health care practitioners by allowing alternative practitioners to legally practice under certain restrictions.  In particular, it explicitly defines those practices that are prohibited to unlicensed practitioners.

The bill states that as long as a practitioner refrains from certain activities reserved for medical doctors (that is, they do not call themselves a physician, perform surgery, recommend of comment on the recommendation of prescription drugs, perform radiation, puncture the skin or harmfully invade the body, or diagnose and treat in a way that causes great bodily harm), that practitioner is legally allowed to offer their services as a healer/health care provider.

For more information on SB577 and/or to register your support, see the California Health Freedom Coalition website, www.californiahealthfreedom.org, or email info@californiahealthfreedom.org.

S.B. 577 Update December 2001 – “The CHFC made an excellent and well-received presentation of their bill, SB577, during a Senate Hearing on alternative medicine that took place on October 23 in Sacramento. CHFC secretary David Palmer first presented the overall rationale and approach behind SB577. Namely, that as long as a person does not perform a potentially dangerous medical procedure or harm anyone, he or she should not be considered to be practicing medicine without a license. In essence, SB577 would narrow the scope of the Medical Practice Act -- which currently covers anything that anyone could possibly do to heal someone -- to only those medical practices that are potentially dangerous. David's presentation was followed by that of board member Amy Lansky, who described her son's recovery from autism due to homeopathic treatment. Amy made a strong and stirring case for how alternative healing therapies are truly needed in California.” 

“The October 23 hearing was called by Senator Liz Figueroa, chair of the Senate Business and Professions Committee -- the committee that regulates medical practice in the state. She initiated the hearing because she has strong interest in complementary and alternative medicine and recognizes that there are currently problems surrounding this issue in California. During the hearing, testimony was given by various groups including: the naturopathic physicians who are seeking a licensing law for their form of practice; groups who are opposed to licensing approaches to alternative medicine; the CHFC; insurance industry representatives; and a few doctors who feel they have been unfairly prosecuted by the medical board because they use alternative methods.”  (from the CHFC website)

The CHFC expects SB 577 to be reviewed by the Senate Business and Professions Committee in late January/early February 2002.  See the CHFC website for more details – www.californiahealthfreedom.org

SB 2100 "Physicians' Right to Practice" was signed by the governor on September 25, 2000. This is a study law that will generate a legislative report that will influence legislation in the future.

"On or before January 1, 2002, the board shall establish guidelines for licensed physicians and surgeons to use if they choose to practice alternative, complementary, or integrative medicine. The board shall solicit the participation of interested parties in the development and preparation of these guidelines and shall consult technical advisors as necessary to fulfill the purposes of this article. The guidelines shall include, but need not be limited to …Particular training requirements for physicians needed to practice specific types of alternative medicine."

Further provisions mandate the CBM (California Medical Board) . The most optimistic view would have them adopting progressive regulations similar to those adopted by Texas in 1998.

California statute forbids prescribing, giving, or even having cancer treatments not approved by the FDA or California state. [Sect.1707.1] 

S.B. 2100 Update December 2001 – California Citizens for Health presented testimony at the October 23rd California Senate Business & Professional Committee Hearing on Alternative Medicine.  (This was an informational hearing organized by Senator Liz Figueroa’s office and included testimony from a number of groups on a range of issues related to alternative medicine in California.  (e.g. MD right to practice alternative medicine (SB2100), naturopathic physician licensing, and narrowing the scope of the Medical Practice Act (SB 577).  Most likely additional informational hearings on legislative issues related to alternative medicine in California will follow in the coming year.  To order a videotape of the hearing, see www.citizenshealth.org/video.htm.

California Citizens for Health also submitted a list of recommendations to the California Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee on December 4, 2001.  The recommendations pertain to the California Medical Board’s policies for dealing with physicians in private practice that are using alternative methods.  Citizens for Health Director Frank Cuny says the review committee will be considering recommendations from testimony and submitted written material in the coming months. Their report is expected in March of 2002. To To order a videotape of the Sunset Review hearing, see www.citizenshealth.org/sunvideo.htm.

On May 10, 2002, Gary Gitnick, M.D. was elected president of the California Medical Board at their quarterly meeting. In accepting this role, he stated what he considers priorities for the board. He talked about several issues important to legislation in California:

  1. The first issue he talked about was the right of physicians to practice alternative medicine.  He believes the Board needs to see that physicians are given the right and protection to practice good medicine, alternative and conventional.  Also, the Board needs to discipline physicians, alternative and conventional, who practice bad medicine.        
  2. He discussed supporting a bill that would provide greater information to consumers on licensed physicians, i.e., malpractice suits, discipline action etc.
  3. The need to make quality medicine available to all citizens of California.
  4. Having the Medical Board become a more effective organization.

The Board’s quarterly meeting in May was held in Newport Beach.  SB-2100, the bill sponsored by our California Citizens For Health organization, required the Board to establish a Committee on Alternative Medicine.  This Committee was to make recommendations to the legislature on changes of Board policies that would enable physicians to more freely practice alternative medicine.  This Committee was also asked to formulate changes that should be made in the current state regulations. The Board at the recommendation of the Committee adopted the following two policy changes:

  1. A physician whose practice is not conventional must have a complaint filed against him prior to being investigated.
  2. A physician whose practice involves CAM shall have his case sent to two expert reviewers, one in the same specialty area as the physician and one who is an expert in the CAM modality being practiced.

Florida

Legislation was passed March 2001. Go to our legislation passed page for details.


Georgia:

H.B. 749 - Complementary & Alternative Health Care Freedom
Introduced by Pam Bohannon, author.

 

This bill protects the right of individuals to treat themselves or to be treated by the health care of their choice to allow them to secure individual physical or mental wellness without legal restrictions.

 

The complementary and alternative health care practitioner would have the right to practice after providing disclosures, notices and informed consent to the patient before treatment begins and the patient has returned the consent form to the practitioner.

 

The informed consent form provided to the patient must include the practitioner’s title, health care philosophy, and services available, as well as the practitioner’s education, experience, training and credentials, continuing education and professional affiliations related to the complementary and alternative health care he practices. It must, also, state that the patient must see a licensed allopathic practitioner if he desires medical diagnosis or services. Allopathy is conventional medicine and does not include homeopathy.

Lawsuits may be filed in court if the patient suffers damages.

ACTION-Support. Contact Health & Ecology Representatives Childers, Ch., 656-5141; Orrock, V-Ch., 656-9198; Jones, 656-0220; Beasley, 656-0188; Brown, 656-0177; Irvin, 656-5058; Jackson, 656-3996; Shipp, 656-0314; Smith, 656-5069; Trense, 656-0137; Unterman, 656-0177; West, 656-0116; & Williams, 656-0109.


Kanas 

May 25, 2002, Naturopathy bill advances to governor - legislation would set up regulations but not licensure.


Kentucky

The Report of the Taskforce on Complementary and Alternative Medicine,
required by House Bill 160, included the following recommendations:
  • For physicians: "Innovative practices that could benefit patients and improve care should be given reasonable and responsible latitude." Further points define duty to routine practice standards re: physical, history record keeping, and disclosure to patients in relation to physician's training and the risks of unconventional therapy.
  • For non-physicians: permit unregulated practice for aromatherapy, acupressure, massage, nutrition, reflexology, hypnosis, and vitamin therapy that "present little risk or are not invasive." (Further points define duty to disclose options and risks to patients.)

Almost all the Kentucky doctors that use alternative therapies have been either forced out of state or forced to desist from using alternative therapies, especially chelation therapy, because it "departs from prevailing practice in the State of Kentucky." 

It is hoped that legislation will be presented to help this situation.

Contact:
Nellie Peters, President
Kentucky Patient's Rights Advocacy Group
(502) 961-0970


New Jersey

Two bills are pending:
Assembly bill, AB 2130 and Senate bill, SB 875 - These bills would permit physicians to dispense homeopathic and dietary supplements from their offices. Currently, Board of Medical Examiners regulations interpret state law in a way that severely limits access to dietary supplements through medical doctors. See FAIMs NJ bill page.

In another development, The NJ Supreme Court has advanced informed consent and med law to include the requirement that physicians advise their patients of all available treatment alternatives -- even the ones they don't approve of.

CONTACT:
Monica Miller
Government Relations
Foundation for the Advancement of Innovative Medicine
(518)758-1763
Monica@Healthlobby.com


New York:

Bills will be introduced soon to define medical necessity for insurance benefits. For more on the NY Medical Necessity legislation, go to FAIM's Medical Necessity page.

Bills will be introduced soon to reform the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. Currently over nine New York physicians are facing charges of misconduct for use of non-conventional therapies. Go to FAIM's OPMC Reform page for details.

New York already has laws that protect patient access to alternative therapies from licensed physicians. To view the laws, go to the Health Lobby site.

The Complementary and Alternative Health Freedom of Access Act (S4857) was introduced by Republican State Senator Kemp Hannon, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, on April 17, 2001.  Similar legislation (A8704) was introduced by Democratic State Assemblypersons Mike Genaris and Vivian Cook on May 8, 2001.

The proposed Acts protect the public’s access to information about all natural, low risk practices of health care, and they protect access to all ethically practicing providers.  Unlicensed practitioners are prohibited from harmful practices such as making medical diagnoses or prescribing or proscribing prescription drugs, invading the body by puncture of the skin or surgery, and manipulating the spine.

The main form of public protection in the Acts is the requirement that a Client Bill of Rights be read and signed before unlicensed treatment begins.  This Client Bill of Rights requires the reporting of more information about a practice and a practitioner than exists anywhere in health care today.

For more information, see the New York Natural Health Project’s website, www.nynaturalhealthproject.org. 


Washington

SB 5938 by Pam Roach (R) King and Pierce, would amend the state's 1991 health freedom law which has failed to protect two CAM physicians (Drs. Warner and Bolles) from license revocations. Features of the reform bill include:

New Section. Sec. 1. The legislature is aware than an increasing and significant number of Washington residents are seeking integrative, complementary, and alternative therapies in their health care....

Sec. 4: The Washington state medical quality assurance commission is established, consisting of thirteen individuals licensed to practice medicine in the State of Washington under this chapter, at least two of whom shall be physicians, a significant portion of whose practices includes integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine, two individuals who are licensed as physician assistants under chapter 18.71A.RCW, and four individuals who are members of the public, at least two of whom are consumers of integrative, complementary and alternative medicine.....

Sec. 6: This spells out guidelines for the commission....such as "Prior to offering advice about integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine, the physician shall undertake an assessment of the patient." This assessment shall include but not be limited to conventional methods of diagnosis and may include nonconventional methods of diagnosis, and shall be documented in the patient's chart. ...

Sec. 11 .....the use of integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine as defined in RCW 18.71.010 by itself shall not constitute unprofessional conduct, unless it can be demonstrated that such method has a safety risk for the patient that is unreasonably greater than the conventional treatment for the patient's medical condition. The act of not using, or the absence of the use of, a conventional treatment alone shall not establish unprofessional conduct if the osteopathic physician and surgeon has complied with chapter 18.57.RCW or the physician has complied with chapter 18.71 RCW.

Senator Pam Roach
P.O. Box 40482 Olympia, WA 98504-0482
FAX: 360-786-7173
E-Mail: roach_pa@leg.wa.gov

Contact:
Jerri Spalding Fredin
Citizens for Alternative Health Care
jfredin@email.msn.com


National

Minnesota consumer health freedom legislation that passed in the spring of 2000 and has since become a model for the country.  See New York, California, and Georgia write-ups for information on similar legislation in these states.  New Jersey is also expected to introduce similar legislation within the year.


If your state is working on legislation to support patients' rights to have access to responsible medical alternatives and it is not listed above, be sure to email our webmaster so we can add it.

 

 

 

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