NEW MEDICAL FREEDOM BILL:
ALTERNATIVE MOVEMENT RALLIES
AT ALBANY HEARING
From The Cancer Chronicles #19
© Jan. 1994 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
[This initiative ended in success. We are proud to have
been part of it.--RWM]
Over 100 practitioners, supporters, defenders, as well as opponents of alternative medicine gathered at Albany's Legislative Office Building on Tuesday, December 14 , for all-day hearings on the subject of alternative medicine.
The issue was a set of bills before the New York State Legislature (S-3636b and A-5411b) that would emend the state education law by adding a new section on alternative medicine. This new section, no. 6, would allow physicians to administer certain forms of alternative medical treatments, Patients would have to sign written, informed consent forms, disclosing the general nature of the practice and/or the particular treatment. In addition, the doctor would have to disclose conventional options.
There was concern among supporters of medical freedom of choice that the bills were too weak, and would only allow alternative treatments for which there is "a substantial body" of medical literature, or for treatments undertaken in participation with the NIH or FDA. If these criteria are met, however, then "nothing in this article shall be interpreted to allow a finding of professional misconduct on the sole basis that a licensee's practice includes alternative medical treatments." The inclusion of alternative medicine would not preclude any other finding of professional misconduct. This New York law would therefore be a good start, but more restrictive than the freedom of choice bills that have already passed in Alaska, North Carolina, and Washington state.
Most of the expert presenters spoke in favor of the legislation. These included former Rep. Berkley Bedell; Doris Rapp, MD, of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine; Paul Scharff, MD of the Physicians' Association of Anthroposophical Medicine; Michael Schachter, MD of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine; and Ralph W. Moss, PhD, editor of this newsletter.
Bedell's eloquent speech received sustained applause. The Assembly members present, headed by Edward C. Sullivan, chair of the Standing Committee on Higher Education and Richard N. Gottfriend, chair of the Standing Committee on Health, seemed favorably impressed by the alternative side. Their questions were directed towards finding out what constitutes alternative medicine and whether new methods of oversight were necessary for dealing with it.
Speaking against the bill were Dr. Albert Siu, Deputy Commissioner for Clinical Affairs of the NYS Department of Health, and Dr. Richard Lang of the NYS Medical Society (who introduced himself as an American Cancer Society director, as well). Moss spent most of his allotted time responding to fallacies in the ACS argument against alternative cancer treatments.
Dr. Siu pointed out that less than one percent of all physicians prosecuted between 1989 and 1993 were alternative doctors. In a rebuttal, legislative consultant Monica Miller (who helped inspire and organize these hearings) pointed out that while this is technically correct, a full 70 percent of the many alternative doctors she represents have been investigated by state boards.
"Our issue is the enormous number of investigations against alternative doctors," Miller emphasized, not just prosecutions." Such investigations result in a tremendous "financial and psychological cost, with a ripple effect on all other doctors." In addition, the administrative process itself discriminates against alternative doctors, who, unlike conventional doctors, get charged with "fraud" simply because of their treatment choices.
Miller pointed out that from 1926 to 1971 the disciplinary process was, in
fact, fairer. What was then called the Committee on Grievances included
homeopaths and naturopaths. To bring an action against a practitioner,
there had to be doctors "from the same school of practice," true peers
who practiced their kind of medicine. This fairness has been abandoned
and all doctors are now judged by a panel of allopathic physicians.
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