In Alberta, Canada, naturopathy is now a recognized profession under the Health Professions Act, meaning that naturopaths will now self-regulate (through the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta), making them the 26th out of 33 medical professions to do so. The aforementioned article in the Edmonton Journal puts a positive, uncritical spin on this news. This comes as Alberta is in the midst of a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak that has already claimed the life of one child. Naturopaths and chiropractors (who have similar legal status in Alberta) are some of the most notorious vaccine deniers and often use homeopathic “remedies,” which is to say, they are quacks. This new legal stature has serious implications for the public perception of naturopaths, as it is tantamount to the government endorsing naturopathy as on par with modern medicine in safety and efficacy.
Health Minister Fred Horne said [emphasis mine]:
“The protection of the public is of paramount consideration…because by granting self regulation we’re attesting…that we believe the practices that will be engaged by [naturopaths] are safe, and they’re effective and they meet the highest possible standards.”
In an age in which the public seems to have a fetish for anything labeled “natural” this government endorsement could be just what it takes for many people to switch to naturopaths for their primary medical care. For example, according to Allissa Gaul, president of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta, naturopaths are allowed to perform Pap smears and rectal or prostate exams. In addition, they are allowed to treat slightly abnormal Pap results with herbs or “applications to the cervix” instead of an immediate cell biopsy (performed as part of a colposcopy I imagine). Yes, you read that correctly. They are allowed to treat paps with “herbs.” Many of their treatments will likely be homeopathic remedies, which they are allowed to use.
The only silver lining is that the government of Alberta doesn’t (yet) pay directly for naturopathic care. Patients can, however, claim naturopathic care as a medical expense for tax breaks. So Albertans are going to be paying for naturopathic quackery whether they like it or not. One can only hope that this is not the “death rattle of reason” in healthcare in Alberta, but it’s not looking good.