Local News

State medical board looks at regulating alternative treatments

Posted May 22, 2008 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2008 10:00 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Medical Board held a public hearing Thursday on whether the state should regulate alternative and natural remedies and treatments.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, is sponsoring a bill in the General Assembly that would license naturopathic doctors, but lawmakers will consider it only if the medical board and the North Carolina Medical Society consider licensure for naturopaths and provide an official opinion as to whether it is a legitimate form of medical treatment.

Naturopathic medical providers use natural remedies instead of, or in addition to, traditional Western medicines. Currently, 14 states license these doctors.

The medical board governs all medical providers in the state except naturopathic physicians.

There are as many as 40 naturopathic doctors in the state with four-year degrees in their field. There are also hundreds who practice without a degree.

Some traditional doctors are concerned these the naturopaths don't have enough training.

"The naturopathic residencies, which I believe are two years, did not seem to meet the criteria for assuring patient safety," said Dr. Shannon Jimenez, who practices osteopathic medicine.

Naturopathic doctors say licensing would give them more credibility, especially when it comes to working directly with traditional doctors.

"I feel like both of us working together really provides the best care for patients, and I'd like to see this bill passed and draw more naturopaths to the state," Dr. Maggie Thibodeau said.

The medical board plans to make a recommendation on the licensing issue in July.

The North Carolina Medical Society, which represents the interests of physicians and the quality of patient care, does not support the bill as it is written now. It says there would not be enough oversight of naturopaths. It also does not want them to be allowed to prescribe medications or perform surgeries.