By now, hopefully everyone who reads this blog reads also Skeptic North on a regular basis. If not, you should. Because a) There is some really high-quality analysis and writing going on, b) I'm the editor, so if you show them some love, then by the transitive property, you also show me love, and c) you can learn all manner of important Skeptic issues in Canada. Right now, one of the most urgent health issues in Canada is a political one.
Before you read this post, I suggest you read Scott's post about Bill 179, and then continue on to my own follow-up post. In brief, Bill 179 is a bill put forth before the Ontario Legislature that would, by way of amending the Naturopathy Act, 2007, grant naturopaths the right to prescribe schedule 1 drugs (schedule 1 means anything that requires a prescription). If you read this blog with any sort of regularity, I hardly need explain what a colossally blunderous and dangerous move this would be.
Proponents of the Bill have have framed this issue as a matter of freedom-of-choice: Freedom for the consumer to have access to as many alternative healthcare modalities as possible, and freedom for the naturopaths to have access to the medicines that they need.
But lets be very clear:
This is not about freedom of choice. This is about using legislative tools to grant legitimacy to an alternative treatment that cannot stand up to the standards of science and evidence that conventional, (a.k.a. effective) medicine has to abide by.
Naturopathy can't prove its efficacy either scientifically or medically, so it's supporters try to convince the general populace and politicians by appealing to their better nature of fairness and freedom. They've convinced huge swaths of the Ontario Legislature that patient safety and disease control matter less than the freedom to choose a medicine that doesn't work, and indeed may even harm someone. They're convincing people that naturopaths, acupuncturists and homeopaths are primary health care providers, all on the power of freedom and placebo.
Well, Skeptic North helped to get the word out, and many of our readers dutifully responded, and emailed Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Deb Matthews and Premier Dalton McGuinty (The email link will also CC the leaders of the two opposition parties, Tim Hudak of the Progressive Conservatives, and Andrea Horwath of the NDP). I only wish that the response from the political arena was as positive as the response from the skeptical community.
By now, some of you may have already received this email from the NDP:
Thank you for your email sharing your views on Bill 179, RX privileges for Naturopaths. Ontario's New Democrats support prescribing authority for Naturopathic Doctors (NDs). There has unfortunately been misinformation circulating regarding this new prescribing authority as well as the training, practice, and beliefs of the regulated health profession of Naturopathy.
New Democrats have supported prescribing authority for Naturopaths as it is necessary to maintain NDs current access to natural or botanical substances used in the course of their practice. New Democrats support
an evidence-based, regulatory system that places the safety of Ontarians first. Although Naturopaths have been granted the ability to prescribe, the substances that will be available to them will go through a lengthy
regulatory process and grant access only to substances that NDs have the appropriate training to prescribe.
Granting Naturopaths prescribing rights is a necessary measure for the Ontarians who choose to visit these health care providers. While New
Democrats respect the choice and diversity of opinions that Ontarians have regarding the practice of Naturopathy, we are confident that this expanded right is in the best interest of Ontarians who choose to visit a Naturopathic Doctor.
Thank you again for taking the time to write me.
Leader's Correspondence Officer
On behalf of Andrea Horwath, MPP
Leader, Ontario's NDP
1) The NDP is either ideologically aligned with the bill's amendments, or they have been swayed by the language of freedom over efficacy
2) The NDP is lazy, or,
3) They're getting enough responses that they're finding the volume a bit much to deal with. This means that the other parties are also getting the same emails and may be facing a similar traffic issue.
Now, whether or not you've not yet written your email, here are my tips (straight from a political skeptic!):
1) If you have written, and gotten the NDP's form-letter response, then respond to their arguments, point-by point. Include links that demonstrate the poor track record of naturopathy, and the loose academic standards of naturopathic colleges. Make sure you CC all the original recipients, so that everyone can see the form letter response, and everyone knows who else is reading the same thing.
2) If you have not written, write now. We're running out of time. Use the NDP's form letter to preemptively counter the disingenuous and faulty argument of freedom, and instead stress efficacy, patient safety and the record of harm that naturopathy has. Include links, but don't overwhelm them. A link to Scott's initial piece should suffice, but another one wouldn't hurt either (something from Science Based Medicine perhaps?).
3) Be civil, polite and, yes, political.
4) Whether you're writing for the first or second time, when you close off your email, make sure you include where you are from, including your riding information particular (if applicable). Make sure you also include any credentials you may have, especially if they're in media, academics, government, law, education, or health care. If these categories don't apply to you, that's fine: We need to let them know that this is an issue at both the grassroots and professional levels. "Concerned voter" means just as much as "Professor of Pharmacology" to a politician.
5) You don't have to be an Ontario (or even Canadian) citizen to write and express your concern. If you're a heath-care professional or medical journalist from anywhere in the world, you could still make your voice heard...let the Ontario legislature has the eyes of the medical community of the world fixed upon it.
6) In your response, make sure that you do NOT refer to them as "naturopathic doctors". They're not doctors. Doctors go to medical school. They're naturopaths. Naturopaths go to colleges that teach acupuncture, colonic irrigation and homeopathy. They're not primary heath-care providers, and it's time we started calling them on their linguistic manipulation.
I wasn't able to find out when the third (and final) reading will take place, but it will be VERY soon. Please help get the word out, and we may still be able to save health care standards in Ontario. It's generally the way of things that wherever Ontario goes, so goes the rest of Canada. If we stop them here, then perhaps Manitoba and Alberta (which are also considering similar legislation) can be saved.
Please spread this on your Facebook, Twitter, and any other social networking site you can get your hands on. Ontario urgently needs your help.
Website Hit Counters