This press-release just came to my attention:

Today, with the stroke of his pen, Governor Tom Wolf adds Pennsylvania to the list of states that acknowledge the value of alternative healthcare from a qualified professional. Pennsylvania becomes the 21st U.S. jurisdiction to regulate naturopathic medicine. The new law HB516 regulates naturopathic doctors; ensuring patients can trust that their wellness professional holds a graduate degree from an accredited naturopathic medical school.

Heidi Weinhold, N.D. and Legislative Chair of the Pennsylvania Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PANP), says, “This is a historic day for naturopathic medicine. The governor’s approval will throw open the doors for more Pennsylvania students to choose this academic course of study. Then, they can return home from a four-year graduate program to set up a practice as a naturopathic doctor.”

The PANP members worked for the last 16 years with the state legislature to advance the much-needed recognition of this growing medical field. Their goal was to increase the credibility and minimize the confusion between professionals with an advance degree and the self-study practitioner. “Naturopathic professionals also seek to better coordinate and collaborate with medical professionals across the spectrum. We believe in integrative care, and this law gives us the stature we need to work N,” explains Dr. Weinhold.

Under the new law, the terms Naturopathic Doctor and ND will be reserved exclusively for those who have attended four-year, post-graduate level programs at institutions recognized by the United States Department of Education. “This protects the scope-of-work and title for graduates from an accredited N.D. program,” offers Dr. JoAnn Yanez, executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Colleges.

Naturopathic Doctors are currently practicing at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia, as well as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers, where they work side by side with medical doctors in an integrative setting. More patients could be served in this manner once naturopathic doctors are registered in this state. Both Penn State Hershey Medical Center and West Penn Allegheny General Hospital have indicated that they would hire Naturopathic Doctors if they were registered in the state.

“The PANP will be working over the next year on implementation of the legislation in order that NDs can begin to register with the Board of Medicine. A number of Representatives and Senators have encouraged us to come back to the legislature next session in order to expand the scope of this bill. We are very encouraged about the future of naturopathic medicine in Pennsylvania,” says Dr. Marie Winters, manager of the Naturopathic Medicine Department of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and president of PANP.

The law will go into effect January 1, 2018.

Pennsylvania joins these other jurisdictions which regulate naturopathic medicine: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, and these provinces in Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan.


Here are a few comments and issues that I find remarkable about this announcement:

  • Naturopaths are called ‘naturopathic doctors’, yet in the same sentence it is pointed out that they are ‘wellness professionals’. I am not sure what the latter, woolly term is supposed to mean – perhaps that naturopathy cannot effectively treat diseases?
  • The document speaks of ‘accredited naturopathic medical schools’. Has anyone checked the utter nonsense that is being taught there? The answer is yes, Britt Marie Hermes has, and her verdict is truly depressing and devastating.
  • Naturopaths instantly interpret the new regulation as a ‘governor’s approval’ and ‘recognition’. It shows why alternative practitioners want to be regulated: they foremost crave the APPROVAL and the RECOGNITION they clearly do not deserve.
  • Naturopaths believe in ‘integrative care’ – of course they do, because this is nothing but a ploy for smuggling quackery into evidence-based medicine (EBM).
  • Naturopaths want to be ‘peer-to-peer with other disciplines’ – but they are unable to show that their interventions generate more good than harm. This effectively is an attempt to place quackery on the same level as EBM.
  • Naturopaths already treat cancer patients in the state! Really? Do they use Laetrile, or homeopathy?
  • Naturopaths are portrayed as being a benefit to public health. Has anyone considered that the opposite might be the case? See for instance here and here.

16 Responses to Pennsylvania legislates naturopaths – is this the approval of quackery?

  • It’s hard to keep Alternative Medicine oobleck from oozing its way legislatively into the health care system. Proponents employ medical simulacrums to get an Alt-Med foot in the door and then false equivalencies to slip-in their entire leg. Before you know it, you’re actually talking seriously about a Doctor of Alt-Medical Silliness who’s billing insurance companies for their proprietary empty medicine.

    The learning curve for any specific Alt-Medical enterprise can be very steep, even as each of them can be summarized in a paragraph. I’ve even argued that unless you’ve “been there, done that,” you don’t know exactly how the trick gets done. Science can help, for sure; but science is usually best appreciated by “people of science” and not by your average consumer and legislator. So, like the false equivalencies we see in the U.S. election 2016, arguments for a “Chiropractic,” a Naturopathy, or a TCM, let’s say –empty as they are– get presented side-by-side with “equal time” those arguments based solidly on science and sanity.

    ENTER, the “It’s a TURF WAR.” This is an argument that can ONLY fly in a roomful of people (or legislators, in this case) who have no idea about what they’re looking at. Not even close. Rather than the argument turning on substantive comparisons between faith-based fantasy interventions and treatments grounded in bioscience, legislators consider only what they CAN understand … the politics of a “turf war.”

    Well, “MANY bullshit,” or as I wrote years (and years) ago now: “Turf war,” my tush!

    “Turf war,” my tush!


    It’s difficult to defeat a “turf war” claim just as a jury can’t easily disregard remarks made that are NOT accurate — even as the judge instructs the panel not consider them when an argument isn’t relevant to the question. Incredibly, and predictably, in the court of public opinion, if you merely SUGGEST “turf war,” any substantive discussion that follows is immediately dismissed or diminished by an uncritical peanut gallery, sullied by the self-interest implied by a “turf war.”

    It’s a very successful diversionary tactic that’s always invoked, not surprisingly, by those for whom it really IS a “turf war.” After all, what OTHER convincing argument CAN be made by the colonic therapist who wants to treat hospital patients for their asthma, CHF, and TB meningitis … that removing colonic “toxins” reliably treats each of these diagnoses? Obviously, it’s a “turf war” that keeps colonic therapists out of hospitals, along with other practitioners of medical quackery. Those MDs (not the Alt-Med therapists) just want all the money and are conspiring to keep the Alt-Med cure for cancer under wraps 🙂

    When someone claims it’s a “turf war” or let’s you believe it is by NOT explaining why it isn’t, then you know they’re holding an empty medical “hand” — bluffing, as it were. Unfortunately, it seems that no one ever checks to see what ACTUAL biomedical cards are being held, “folding” prematurely in the face of this “turf war” bluster and bluff. After all, if you can convince someone it’s (just) a turf war, you never have to talk about the actual practice or medicine in question.

    “Turf war,” my tush. Very disheartening.


    John Badanes, DC, PharmD


  • There is no ‘turf war’, and that’s the problem.
    ‘Naturopaths’ have declined to walk onto the turf.
    They prefer to wallow in a mess of their own making driven by their imaginations.

    ‘Football’ became regularised in English schools. When a group of lads wanted to develop a game which allowed handling of the ball, they did so on different turf, with different rules. They did not try to ‘intergrate’ rugby with soccer. That way would have led to anarchy, madness (or American football?).

    ‘Medicine’ has left naturopathic notions behind. A person feeling ‘drawn’ to being a doctor and to naturopathy should qualify as an MD, then specialise in ‘naturopathy’ if they wish.
    Otherwise, naturopaths should play to their rules on a different piece of turf, and stop trying to kid everyone – particularly gullible politicians.

    • Well, neither of us likes seeing the legitimization of quackery by making it more “solid” legislatively. But, that is exactly what has been happening as I explained in the first paragraph I wrote above. In other words, naturopaths, chiropractors, and acupuncturists, for example, ALL have their DOCTORS of Naturopathy, Chiropractic, and TCM and LICENSES that allow them to play on their OWN field (or turf) by their OWN rules. That’s the whole point of their legislative efforts, to create a false equivalency… you know, the “Hey, WE’RE doctors TOO, ya know” baloney. Here a doctor, there a doctor, everywhere a doctor, doctor 🙂

      While its alt-medical oobleck, to be sure, if quackery is being legislated, I’m afraid the joke has already gone too far. Consumers already see their Naturopath, their Chiropractor, and their Acupuncturist. These practitioners are treated by adherents as “separate” approaches to medicine — often an _alternative_ to their MD and insidiously “worse,” as a _complement_ to whatever their MD is recommending. At this point, you have to talk them out of their beliefs, which isn’t all that easy, in case you hadn’t noticed 🙂

      It’s pretty crazy and frustrating for anyone who knows the first thing about science and sanity. Legislators are themselves consumers and typically don’t know squat about evidence based practice, never mind using it as a measure for evaluating any of the arbitrary so called “alternatives” seeking legal standing and recognition through legislation. They have ZERO idea of what they’re looking at and so have ZERO ability to cut through the issues and implications of a so-called Alternative Medicine to make reasonable legislative decisions.

      Very frustrating and very disappointing. But who’s counting.


  • I have a family member who is a qualified herbalist and naturopath. They went into it as part of a package with their religious beliefs. When they were studying, particularly the herbalism, there was at least some connection between their discipline and scientific medicine. There was also a reasonable sense of caution over recognising more serious illnesses and referring them to proper doctors.

    There has been a change over recent years. Now naturopathy has become bigger and herbalism has been subsumed into it. Any hint of self-criticism or caution is gone and religious credulity and zeal characterise their work. There are “exciting developments” by “real doctors” in a new field of “functional medicine” Naturopaths are now “making progress with diseases like autism, cancer and Alzheimer’s”.

    Of course this is very worrying. There is a crying need for this growing and dangerous industry to be properly regulated. Why it hasn’t is moot.

    • I hope you are being sarcastic,since the only progress Naturopaths are making with diseases like autism, cancer and Alzheimers is fooling legislators and the public, pretending to actually treat these conditions and therefore stealing money with fake remedies. I agree that some legislators are ignorant about science and medicine, but wonder how many are more influenced by donations from the Alternatives and their lobbyists. This is just wrong!!

      • I was quoting what I heard. I’m afraid there was no sarcasm at all!

        Obviously this is very worrying. Sadly it’s not just the desperate patients who are being fooled, due to the lack of self-criticism among naturopaths they are being fooled too. One wonders whether there are a few manipulative cynics starting these trends or whether they are are all credulous as hell. Either way it’s an ample demonstration of how easily people can be led.

  • Suggesting that naturopathic doctors cannot ‘treat’ diseases is nonsense. The sad truth is that for any disease not caused by a parasite, any doctor can ‘treat’ the disease, but no doctor can ‘cure’ because cure is not defined for those, mostly chronic diseases. If any doctor , or any patient claims a cure, there is no proof, cure not being defined is not testable and thus cannot be proven

    This reduces the debate between conventional and naturopathic doctors to a debate about which ‘does not ‘cure’ better.
    To your health, tracy

    • @Tracy Kolenchuk

      Did you read your comment before pressing “Post” It does not make sense. It seems you are saying something about diseases not caused by “parasites” cannot be cured. That is nonsense. Please clarify. Perhaps there are large portions of your comment missing?

      • @Björn Geir of course. You are right. It makes no sense that “diseases not caused by parasites cannot be cured”.
        However, I have not been able to find a single scientific medical test for CURED for any disease – except those caused by parasites.. Maybe you can help me out?

        Cure, the word cure, does not exist in many medical dictionaries, including:
        Webster’s New World Medical Dictionary, Third Edition, 2008
        The Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary, Ninth Edition, 2015.
        The Bantam Medical Dictionary, Sixth Edition, 2009.
        Barron’s Dictionary of Medical Terms, Sixth Edition, 2013
        Medical Terminology for Dummies, Second Edition
        The Oxford Dictionary of Nursing, Edition 6, 2014
        Minidictionary for Nurses (Oxford Paperback Reference) 6th Edition
        The Lexicon Medicum, Seventh Edition, also known as Hooper’s Medical Dictionary, 1838, the word cure is not defined.
        The London Medical Dictionary, published in 1819, uses the word cure several times but does not provide a definition of cure.

        Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 11th Edition, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, Lange’s Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) do not contain a definition of cure nor of cured. The DSM-5 does not use the word cure with respect to any mental condition and we can assume according to an introductory passage, that it is not possible to cure any mental condition listed in the DSM-5. “Many health professionals and educational groups have been involved in the developement and testing of DSM-5 including physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, counsellors, epidemiologists, statisticians, neuroscientists, and neuropsychologists. Finally, patients, families, lawyers, consumer organizations, and advocy groups have all participated in revising DSM-5 by providing feedback on the mental disorders described in this volume. Their monitoring of the descriptions and explanatory text is essential to improve understanding, reduce stigma, and advance the treatment and eventual cures for these conditions.”

        Of course, the word cure does appear in many dictionaries, and those definitions are sometimes copied into medical dictionaries, but cured is simply not defined, cannot be tested much less proven, for any disease except those caused by parasites or pathogens.

        to your health, tracy

        • The word “cure” in English used to refer to treatment itself, rather than its effects “I will go to a spa to take a cure”.

          As an oncologist I regard my patient as cured if they live long enough to die of something else without there being any evidence of the cancer having returned in the meantime. Though unfortunately I once saw a woman for an annual check-up after treatment for breast cancer many years previously; I pronounced her free of recurrence and she was run over and killed by a bus outside the hospital door on her way home.

          I don’t think cure is a very useful term since we never really know what is round the corner. I find it more helpful to think in terms of symptom control, quality of life and improvement in life-expectancy, since at least then I know what I can and can’t do for my patients. Haematologists use the term remission, when they can no longer find leukaemic cells in the blood or bone marrow, and indeed many benign conditions can remit, only to recur again in the future. Since the smallest detectable solid tumour (about 1g of tissue) comprises about 1,000,000,000 cells it isn’t really meaningful to talk about a cure in the context of oncology.

          Perhaps it is best to reserve the word for the process of turning pork into bacon.

    • “Suggesting that naturopathic doctors cannot ‘treat’ diseases is nonsense.”

      I agree.

      treat [verb]: behave towards or deal with in a certain way.

    • Of COURSE a naturopath can treat disease. A chiropractor can TREAT disease. A homeopath can TREAT disease. A colonic therapist and aromatherapist can TREAT disease. Anyone can TREAT a disease.

      You’re kidding, right 🙂


  • a relevant recent US court decision (
    An association representing naturopathic physicians challenged a new Alaska regulation that effectively forbade naturopaths from using and prescribing injectable vitamins and minerals. The association argued the statutory definition of naturopathy included the use of dietetics, that dietetics included injectable vitamins and minerals obtained by pharmaceutical prescription, and that the statutory restrictions on the practice of naturopathy prohibited the use of only prescription drugs, not all prescription medicines. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the statutory text, the larger statutory context, and the legislative history together suggest that the legislature did not intend to grant prescriptive authority to naturopaths. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision to grant summary judgment against the association on this issue.

  • Amusing, another group of sad old bitter white men complaining about a pet peeve. Go join Quackwatch or some other forum so you can all feel more appreciated. You are just as rabid as Trump supporters. Ugh.

  • “….University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers, where they work side by side with medical doctors in an integrative setting. More patients could be served in this manner once naturopathic doctors are registered in this state. Both Penn State Hershey Medical Center and West Penn Allegheny General Hospital have indicated that they would hire Naturopathic Doctors if they were registered in the state.”

    Why have they, or why would they, hire them? I mean these Centers and Hospitals don’t need them, right? So why bring them on?

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