MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION
Referred to Assembly Higher Education Committee 01/12/2012
Referred to Senate Higher Education Committee 01/12/2012
CURRENTLY ON SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE 05/17/2012
Passed Senate 2011
An ACT to amend the education law, the limited liability company law and the partnership law, in relation to the practice of naturopathy; and to amend the social services law, in relation to the reporting of child abuse
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II (ACOG) OPPOSES this bill which would license naturopaths and allow them to prescribe, administer, diagnose and treat patients.
This legislation leaves many questions unanswered. The bill defines naturopathy as the ability to “stimulate a patient’s intrinsic self-healing process to promote wellness and to prevent, diagnose, treat and prescribe for human health conditions” in a manner consistent with naturopathic practice, yet it only vaguely defines “naturopathic medicine,” leaving the scope of practice for naturopathic practitioners open to interpretation. This legislation is also unclear in describing the education, training and examination standards that must be met in order to obtain naturopathic licensure.
Health care is one of the most important services an individual can receive. Therefore, it is vital that the individuals rendering that care have completed rigorous training that meets clearly set standards. For example, obstetrician-gynecologists are highly trained to provide quality health care to women. In addition to four years of college and four years of medical school, they complete four years of special training in obstetrics and gynecology. Additionally, ob-gyns are board-certified through a rigorous written and oral examination to ensure they have the knowledge and skills required to treat women. They also participate in a variety of continuing medical education programs throughout their careers. The requirements for naturopathic education are far less thorough, and not clearly defined within this legislation. Women, who have especially diverse health care needs, need to receive care from medically qualified professionals.
Obstetrician-gynecologists are rigorously prepared throughout their medical careers to deal with obstetrical emergencies quickly and safely and emergencies such as a shoulder dystocia, hemorrhage or a prolapsed umbilical cord can put both the mother and baby in imminent danger if not tended to in a swift and appropriate manner. Because of the ambiguity that this legislation presents, a naturopathic doctor could feasibly tend to these types of emergencies without a prior referral to an obstetrician and without the necessary training and expertise in which to handle an obstetrical emergency as this legislation contains neither a referral mechanism for complex cases nor a collaborative agreement with an ob-gyn. This is a dangerous situation and places the patient’s safety at extreme risk. Further, the classification and certification of a naturopathic midwife, according to the American Medical Association, in essence receives the same certification as a “certified professional midwife.” Currently, the New York State Education Department only recognizes licensed midwives, including certified nurse midwives, as a profession.
ACOG supports the use of complementary therapies in conjunction with standard medical care which can focus female cancer survivors, for example, on healing and wellness. However, it is very important to distinguish these modalities as being a complement to care, as opposed to a substitute or alternative for cancer care and adequate follow-up surveillance in the post-treatment period. Further, the use of a standalone treatment modality for a condition such breast cancer can result in a missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis if a naturopathic doctor is indeed licensed to diagnose human health conditions as required by this legislation.
Finally, this legislation also leaves the door open for the public to believe they are receiving care from a physician. The bill allows for the use of the title “naturopathic doctor” or “doctor of naturopathic medicine.” Although the bill prohibits naturopaths from practicing or claiming to practice another licensed profession, including medicine, the word ‘doctor’ triggers the lay public to believing that the naturopathic practitioner is a physician. It is imperative that the public understand who is providing their health care.
For these reasons, ACOG opposes this bill and urges legislators to vote AGAINST this legislation.
May 14, 2012
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II (ACOG) represents the board certified obstetrician-gynecologists in the state who deliver health care to New York’s women. Our Albany office offers the New York State Legislature its resources as a scientific and educational organization dedicated to quality health care for women. If you have questions on this or any other state legislative proposal, please contact our office at 518-436-3461.