A question off the naturopathic licensing exam (NPLEX)

Naturopaths often mention that their licensing exam, the NPLEX, is a rigorous test of medical knowledge that ensures standards of care. This point always looks good to the unsuspecting.

Consider the following sample from the 2013 official study guide for the NPLEX: Continue reading

Posted in Licensure, Politics, What is naturopathic medicine?, What's the harm? | 49 Comments

NUHS: an unlawful but accredited naturopathic program?

Crime_Scene

It may be very difficult to practice naturopathy in Illinois without committing a crime.

There are seven naturopathic programs that are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Graduates of these programs are eligible to become licensed naturopaths in 20 U.S. states or territories and five Canadian provinces. Six of the accredited naturopathic programs are in U.S. states or Canadian provinces that license naturopaths as medical practitioners. The seventh is in an unlicensed state. This anomaly raises serious legal and ethical issues.

How can naturopathic students in an unlicensed state be lawfully trained if their instructors are not licensed naturopaths in that state? How could the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education have signed off on this? Continue reading

Posted in CNME, Ethics, Licensure, Naturopathic Education | 5 Comments

Ozone therapy in naturopathic medicine

ozone molecule

Ozone is not cyclic in the same way that is it not a safe or effective medical treatment.

Tomorrow, Monday May 23, 2016, licensed naturopaths and their students will “storm” the offices of lawmakers to lobby for naturopathic medicine. This day will mark the culmination of the annual naturopathic lobbying event called D.C. Federal Legislative Initiative (DC FLI) organized by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Yesterday, I wrote a guide to understanding the main lobbying points used by naturopaths. The bottom line is that naturopaths’ pants are on fire.

While licensed naturopaths grossly misrepresent themselves to advance their agenda of being recognized as “primary care physicians” and gaining access to the Medicare program, they also don’t like to talk much about their use of illegal and dangerous treatments. And, they don’t like to face the evidence that naturopathic doctors are incapable of self-regulation in a manner that upholds medical ethics and professional standards.

Today’s post focuses on the naturopathic use of ozone therapy. Continue reading

Posted in AANP, Ethics, Licensure, ozone, Patient Harm, Politics, Standards of Care, What's the harm? | 186 Comments

Fact-checking naturopathic talking points at DCFLI

Naturopathic students and me lobbying at DCFLI; May 21st, 2011

Naturopathic students lobbying at DCFLI. (I am seated in the middle.) May 21st, 2011.

Every year, naturopathic students and practitioners go to Washington D.C. to lobby for naturopathic medicine during an event called the DC Federal Legislative Initiative, DCFLI for short. The event is organized by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). I participated in DCFLI, five years ago today, weeks away from graduating from Bastyr University.

All naturopathic students are heavily encouraged to be politically active. Naturopaths simply have too much at stake, especially, their massive amounts of student loan debt that is on par with that of graduates from real medical schools. As a dutiful naturopath-to-be, I had high hopes of advancing my profession and career.

I went on to practice in Arizona and Washington for three years before learning that naturopathic medicine is based on discredited and dangerous practices without any demonstrable medical training. I now advocate against the naturopathic profession, state licensure of naturopaths, medical scope expansion, and inclusion in health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

It is my opinion, as a former naturopath, that naturopathic practitioners cause more harm than good.

The following information will be useful to lawmakers who are considering support for the naturopathic agenda after having been visited by naturopathic lobbyists, like myself five years ago. Continue reading

Posted in AANP, Bastyr University, Critical Thinking, Ethics, Licensure, Politics | 35 Comments

Caution Canadians: Naturopathic Medicine Week 2016

naturopathic medicine week

Medical equipment looks appealing but out of place next to flowers.


This week, May 9-15, 2016, is Naturopathic Medicine Week in Canada. Let’s celebrate by recalling some problems with this alternative system of “medicine.”

  • Naturopathy is based on a pre-scientific understanding of health and disease. Naturopaths believe that a magic force, called the vis, is responsible for determining the health of the mind and body. This notion is similar to the ancient Greek concept of the “four humors” or the ancient Chinese belief in qi and meridians. It is simply magic.
  • Naturopaths are not doctors or physicians. They are not trained well enough to identify actual diseases or to apply correct treatments. We should look no further than the tragic demise of the Albertan toddler, Ezekiel Stephan, after his parents treated his bacterial meningitis with do-it-yourself herbal concoctions. After his mother suspected he had meningitis, she went to a licensed naturopath, Tracey Tannis, and left with an herbal preparation of echinacea.
  • Naturopaths aggressively lobby for licensure and self-regulation by sugar-coating their medical education and standards of care. (You can read more specifically about naturopathic training in pediatrics here.) I once lobbied for naturopathic medicine at the U.S. federal government during the annual lobbying event, DC FLI, in Washington, D.C. I now feel ashamed that I had taken part in this propagation of misinformation about the profession to lawmakers.
  • Naturopaths use a cornucopia of pseudoscientific methods in clinical practice that have been disproven by the scientific and medical communities or not shown to be plausible. These include homeopathy, herbal medicine, dietary supplements, saliva testing, bio-identical hormone replacement, blood allergy testing, applied kinesiology, and intravenous therapies of high-dose vitamins, minerals, ozone gas, and hydrogen peroxide. They also mis-characterize any plausible mechanisms by which these treatments could work and the evidence supporting safety and effectiveness.
  • No major, respected medical organization endorses naturopathic medicine. This is not because medical doctors are worried about competition. It is because they are concerned about patient safety.

Naturopathic practitioners, even though many are licensed by governments, often find themselves in legal and ethical grey zones. If you are a patient of a naturopath or know someone who is, I encourage you (or your friend or family member ) to ask for the answers to the following questions in writing:

  1. Is the treatment approved for [your condition] by Health Canada or the U.S. FDA?
  2. Who manufactures the substance or device and where?
  3. What are the specific indications for the treatment?
  4. What are the specific side effects and risks associated with the treatment?
  5. What evidence supports the use of the treatment?

Happy Naturopathic Medicine Week!


Feel free to share the image below on social media:

naturopathic medicine week Continue reading

Posted in Naturopathic Medicine Week, What is naturopathic medicine? | 14 Comments

I was suffering from postpartum depression: My licensed naturopath recommended beer and marijuana to help me sleep

Dorothy_Short_as_Mary_Lane


“You should sleep when your baby sleeps.”

This was the advice most frequently offered to me prior to giving birth to my now 10-year-old son. It was a simple instruction that should have been easy to follow. Yet, in the days and nights after my son’s birth, I found myself tirelessly pacing our dark halls. Though exhausted, an overwhelming sense of dread kept me awake.

I did not develop postpartum depression. It devoured me. The descent was not slow, as I’ve heard so many women describe. It crashed upon me in a shattering assault on my sense of safety.

I turned to natural medicine for help. Continue reading

Posted in Former Patient, Mental Illness, Patient Harm, Standards of Care, What's the harm? | 55 Comments

Canadian physicians criticize naturopaths in wake of Ezekiel Stephan’s death

Should we trust naturopaths to regulate themselves?

Should we trust naturopaths to regulate themselves?


A group of Canadian physicians recently asked me to post an open letter they sent to the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta concerning the conduct of naturopath Tracey Tannis in selling an herbal product to Ezekiel Stephan’s mother after she reported he might have meningitis. Ezekiel stopped breathing the day after this interaction and later died at an Alberta hospital. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Ezekiel’s demise and the criminal case against his parents, here is a recent summary. A verdict should come this week.

While much attention is on Ezekiel’s parents for not providing him with access to prudent medical care, their interaction with Tracey Tannis has shed light on the issue of licensing naturopaths and allowing them to self-regulate. (In five Canadian provinces, naturopaths are registered, a.k.a. licensed, by their own regulatory boards, called “colleges.”)

Naturopaths aggressively lobby government officials for licensure with broad scopes of medical privileges because it provides their profession with legitimacy. Naturopaths are then allowed to police themselves.

The letter posted below, signed by 43 Canadian physicians and surgeons, addresses multiple ethical and practical issues regarding the professional practices of licensed naturopaths. Most importantly the letter highlights the fact that naturopaths want all of the same rights and privileges of medical doctors without having to adhere to the same rules. In no jurisdiction where they are licensed are naturopaths bound to medical standards of care. They can essentially do whatever they want and likely get away with it. I agree with these concerned physicians. The regulation of naturopaths by naturopaths needs to end. Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Licensure, Politics, Standards of Care | 91 Comments

Naturopathic pediatrics is not safe

naturopathic_pediatrics_is_not_safe


Naturopathic practitioners should be banned from treating minors.

I recently made this proposal in the context of the tragic death of Ezekiel Stephan, whose parents are on trial in Alberta for failing to provide the necessities of life. Ezekiel’s parents needlessly caused him to suffer from bacterial meningitis, in part by getting care from a licensed naturopath, Tracy Tannis, ND.

In the trial, Tannis and one of her staff members have given conflicting testimonies about their interactions with Ezekiel and his parents. It is not clear if Tannis urged Ezekiel’s parents to immediately take him to the emergency room, but it is clear that she dispensed a tincture containing echinacea to Ezekiel’s mother to treat meningitis. In fact, the physician’s report from the emergency room at Alberta Children’s Hospital supports this point.

Tannis’s recommendations were dangerously contradictory. On the one hand, Tannis claims to have urged Ezekiel’s mom to seek emergency care, but at the same time, she suggested something like, “This herbal product BLAST can help.” In selling a concoction to treat meningitis, Tannis diluted whatever medical urgency she claimed to convey.

The story of Ezekiel Stephan highlights the ethical and legal tragedies that licensed naturopaths bring to society. Licensed naturopaths themselves and legislators who affirm licensure do not realize that naturopathic training is nothing like legitimate medical school training.

I have written about the poor training of licensed naturopaths in general, but I have yet to detail the fatally flawed pediatric training that NDs receive in their accredited programs. I graduated from Bastyr University in 2011 and took every pediatrics course offered at the time. I went on to complete a one-year residency focused on pediatrics in a private naturopathic clinic. If I hadn’t walked away from being a naturopath, I would now be eligible for “board certification” in naturopathic pediatrics, yet another misleading status. Practically, however, any licensed naturopath can claim to specialize in pediatrics.

My experience puts me in a unique position to show what naturopathic training looks like from the inside and why, especially for children, naturopathic care is dangerous. In addition to my residency patient logs, I support this point with a critical review of pediatrics syllabi from Bastyr University (Seattle, WA) and Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (Phoenix, AZ). I then asked some pediatricians in the U.S. and Canada about their training and thoughts on my training. Continue reading

Posted in Bastyr University, Naturopathic Education, ND Confessions, Politics, What is naturopathic medicine? | 30 Comments

The homeopathic treatment of bipolar is unethical and dangerous

I'm with Jane. I have been planning to write this post for about a year. It has taken me this long to calmly put words to paper, as the topic of this article is sensitive for those of us who know someone, or who themselves, suffer from bipolar disorder.

About ten months ago, a naturopath by the name of Dorothea Cist commented on my article about ND education and training, claiming:

I have many other cases of, and letters of testimony from, patients who were treated successfully by naturopathic medicine, and often by homeopathy alone. These magnificent cures, by treatments completely unsupported by any double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, were from pathologies as varied as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, grand mal seizures, interstitial cystitis, and bi-polar [sic] disorder.

I asked Cist to clarify. Is she claiming she can cure bipolar disorder with homeopathy?

She didn’t respond, but she didn’t need to. Yes, Cist was asserting she can use magic to cure a mental illness, along with a slew of other complicated diseases.

Statements like Cist’s infuriate me. And they also break my heart. I am sad for the patients, and their families, who have fallen prey to false claims regarding the safety and efficacy of treating mental illness with naturopathy and homeopathy. Naturopaths are terribly under-qualified to treat mental illness.

I happen to know several people with bipolar disorder. One of these people is very close to me. I have held her hand and wiped away tears while listening to harrowing tales of mania, suicidal ideations, and depression. I have been privy to the fear, the anger, the delusions, and the hopelessness that often accompanies bipolar disorder. I am in awe of my friend everyday, who bravely gets up, takes her medication, and carries on, despite the enormous challenges that lie ahead for her.

If there was a cure as simple as homeopathy, high-dose vitamins, or diet changes, trust me, my friend and I would pursue it. But bipolar management is far from simple, and homeopathy will never cure any disease. Continue reading

Posted in Homeopathy, Mental Illness, Patient Harm, What's the harm? | 62 Comments

Naturopathic “doctors” in California

On February 26, 2015, Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) introduced CA Senate Bill 538 to remove scope limitations for licensed naturopaths in California. The bill aims to amend the existing law, the Naturopathic Doctors Act, so that naturopaths would be able to independently:

  • order, perform, review, and interpret results of diagnostic procedures
  • order, prescribe, furnish, or perform parenteral therapy and minor surgery
  • allow cervical routes of administration among the authorized routes of administration
  • allow naturopaths to prescribe medications without the supervision of a medical doctor, as currently required

This “scope modernization” bill, as naturopaths call it, is a big deal. It essentially allows naturopaths to practice medicine independently, paving the way for naturopaths to be more like real primary care doctors in the state. The California Naturopathic Doctors Association (CNDA) has summarized the importance of SB 538 for the naturopathic profession in California best:

It [SB 538] will further reduce barriers to the growth of the naturopathic profession in California, which has been stunted as naturopathic graduates opt to practice in states where scope is reflective of full naturopathic training.

This bill is also critical for the naturopathic profession because there is an accredited naturopathic college in San Diego. Bastyr University, San Diego opened its doors in the Fall of 2012. It is a hindrance to training naturopathic students without the legal ability to function as a primary care doctor. How, I wonder, are naturopathic students learning the ways of their profession without actually being able to practice the naturopathic procedures listed above.

With such a significant vote ahead for California lawmakers, it is important to provide these lawmakers and the public with information about how CA naturopaths are practicing. Continue reading

Posted in Bastyr University, National College of Natural Medicine, Naturopathic Doctor, What is naturopathic medicine? | 30 Comments