Michigan Naturopath Licensure, Scope Bill Puts Patient Health at Risk

May 26, 2022 - Today during a Michigan Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee hearing, MAFP Chair Mark Hamed, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAFP (Sandusky) testified in strong opposition to Senate Bill 990. This bill would, among other things, allow for the licensure of naturopathic providers and classify them as physicians—provisions that would be harmful to patients, as they would allow individuals not educated in the practice of medicine to treat patients, prescribe medication, and provide medical care, including surgical procedures, said Dr. Hamed, a practicing family physician and emergency department physician.

He went on to explain that “naturopaths must never, under any circumstances, be allowed to use the title ‘physician,’ as their education does not prepare them to diagnose and treat diseases or other illnesses.” Thus, referring to these practitioners as physicians would confuse patients, who may believe they are receiving medical care from medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO).

Dr. Hamed then compared the vast differences between naturopathic and medical education. Namely, naturopathic providers are often educated in unproven botanical treatments and homeopathic remedies as alternatives to scientifically backed medical treatments. Plus, the naturopathic profession’s philosophy is founded on the ability of the body to heal itself without medical intervention.

What’s more, the discrepancy in education requirements for naturopaths compared to physicians is alarming. Naturopathic providers need only a four-year degree consisting of 4,100 hours of hands-on and classroom training, whereas physicians must undergo four years of training at an accredited medical school followed by 3-7 years of accredited residency training. During this expansive and comprehensive education, MDs and DOs earn more than 15,000 hours of hands-on clinical training.

Physicians are also subject to a rigorous medical school admissions exam and state licensing exam that has been independently reviewed to show its efficacy, both of which are absent in naturopathic educational requirements.

Near the end of his testimony, Dr. Hamed questioned the intent of SB 990 to provide prescribing authority to naturopathic providers.

“Naturopaths routinely complain that prescription medications don’t treat diseases, they mask them. And the underlying philosophy of naturopaths is to avoid prescribing medication, so why are they asking for the ability to prescribe now? The pharmacology foundation of their education is clearly not sound enough to prescribe medications safely and effectively.”

In support of Dr. Hamed’s testimony, MAFP and eight other healthcare organizations submitted an opposition letter to the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee and its chair, Sen. Curtis VanderWall. The letter amplified the basis for the opposition—that passage of SB 990 “would bring a higher level of legitimacy and recognition to a practice that is lacking evidence at best and downright dangerous to the public at worst.”

Click here to read Dr. Hamed’s testimony in its entirety.

Click here to read the opposition letter.