MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Le Figaro reported that France’s medical appointment booking service ‘Doctolib’ is being accused of promoting so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) on its platform. “Measures will be taken soon. Several options are on the table, we do not exclude anything,” announced Doctolib after declaring during the day on its Twitter account the immediate suspension of some profiles.

Health professionals and patients have been criticizing the platform for allowing its users to make appointments with practitioners claiming to be naturopaths and some offering dangerous quackery. Naturopathy is not recognized in France and is sometimes considered to be linked to charlatanism.

A member of the office for the control of conspiracies, Tristan Mendès France, had found a practitioner promoting urine therapy via Doctolib. “The presence of these individuals on a service that puts patients and health professionals in touch with each other gives them totally unjustified credit and endorsement,” stated a Twitter account aimed at informing “about the dangers of certain pseudo-alternatives in terms of health and nutrition”.

Amongst the questioned profiles were the naturopaths Thierry Casasnovas and Irène Grosjean, two influential personalities in the naturopathic world who are discredited in the health world. “We would like to point out that it is impossible for a patient to make an [appointment] on Doctolib in a practitioner not referenced by the Ministry of Health, without having expressly sought to do so,” Doctolib defended its position stating that it would proceed to checks on practitioners “whose actions would be dangerous or condemnable by law” and who would have been the subject of complaints on social media.

97%” of practitioners signed up with Doctolib are registered with the Ministry of Health,” the company claimed. According to Doctolib, only 3% of its practitioners are therefore from the realm of SCAM: sophrologists, hypnotherapists, naturopaths. In France, these practitioners are not regulated and do not have the status of health professional, but they are nevertheless legal. The appointments made on Doctolib with such practitioners represent “0.3% of the totality” of the volume recorded on the platform.

The CEO of Doctolib, Stanislas Niox-Chateau, said that he was responding to a request from patients and refused to position his site as a simple directory of the Ministry of Health: “The demand is there. It is not up to us to say whether these activities are effective or useful. They are legal, so we have no reason to prevent practitioners from being listed on our site.”

As so often in the realm of SCAM, the dispute seems to be one between ethical/moral responsibilities and commercial interests of the parties involved.

 

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