State House lawmakers gave approval today to raise the penalty for impersonating a doctor.
The measure, Senate Bill 31, is a response to the recent case of Daniel Stewart, a man who impersonated a doctor for more than two weeks at a Fayetteville-area hospital before he was caught.
“Luckily, he didn’t kill anyone,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, “but he did perform various procedures, including inserting an IV.”
After Stewart was caught in Fayetteville, he could only be charged with a misdemeanor. Stewart then left town, went to Tennessee, and did the same thing there.
The measure would make what Stewart did a felony.
Lawmakers have been inundated with calls and emails from supporters of alternative and complementary medicine, who believed the bill was targeting their practitioners – midwives, homeopaths, naturopaths, and others. Some callers had been told the measure would outlaw vitamins. An “alert” email warned the measure would result in mass imprisonment.
Nothing of the kind was actually in the bill, Glazier said. But some alternative practices are currently classified as misdemeanors in North Carolina, and there were concerns the measure would make them all felonies.
“There was no intention to apply this to ‘scope of practice’ issues,” Glazier explained. “We’re not into that issue.”
Lawmakers approved an amendment, supported by Glazier, specifying that the felony penaltiy will not apply to midwives, naturopaths, homeopaths, or any other alternative practitioners. It will only apply to someone impersonating a medical doctor.
Glazier said other bills have been filed to look at licensing midwives and other alternative practices. “Whether we’re going to change that is for other bills, other determinations.”
The measure passed 112-5. It now goes back to the Senate for final approval.