I've had some very kind requests to post a list that I made recently at the National Post's naturopath rebuttal to Scott's  article.  Thanks to everyone for the kind words of support so far in this Bill 179 issue.  I would write more about this at the moment, but it's 5 am and I've been writing all night.  I'll copy and paste comment, and go to bed for about 3 hours.

The science-based community is always at a disadvantage in these sorts of outcries, because we're limited to the evidence, and we can't just make stuff up. There's a lot to respond to.

1) With 23,000 doctors in Ontario, and fewer then 1000 naturopaths, the argument that granting naturopaths prescription rights will ease the burden on the healthcare system is a bit silly.

2) The assertion that the body has the potential to heal itself is not a scientific one.  When given "natural" support only, the body will die by the age of 45, probably of infectious diseases.  Modern advances in medicine make long-life possible, not herbs and roots from a 2,000 year old playbook.

3) Saying "science" doesn't make it so. The call of "the healing power of nature at work" to be not magic, but good science, is ridiculous on its face....the human body is really good at succumbing to pathogens and injury, and the "natural" world is really good at killing us.

4) Old and tradition do not a science make.  Yes, herbal supplements have been around for centuries.  So has prostitution. Old doesn't mean effective.  It means old.  I want my medicine to be new, awesome, and if possible, administered by a robot from the future.

5) Regulation does not a science make, even if it was 85 years ago.

6) I wonder, what is the naturopathic remedy for a broken bone? For that matter, how effective is naturopathic birth control?

7) Why the natural fetish?  If you're dying from a disease, do you really care if your treatment is "natural" or not?  Why take an herbal supplement that a person tells you *might* work, when you could take the most recent advances in medical technology that we know *will* work?

8) Natural doesn't mean safe.  It doesn't mean effective.  Arsenic, poisonous mushrooms, gravel and bird-crap are also natural and you don't see me putting them into my body.

9) Lets not forget that many people see a naturopath because they're dazzled by the word "Naturopathic Doctor, or ND".  Let's be perfectly clear: Naturopaths are NOT doctors. The Naturopathy Act, 2007 allows them to be called "Naturopaths", not "doctors."  You need to go to medical school to be called a doctor. Naturopaths just granted themselves that title as a subtle PR stunt.

10) What is the diagnostic method a naturopath uses to test if a body is "in balance"?  What laboratory equipment can you use to check for "wellness"?

11) The calls that naturopaths aim to treat the root cause is nonsense, otherwise they wouldn't be asking to prescribe pain-killers, and anti-inflammatories.

12) If naturopathy is just as effective as medicine, then why don't these naturopaths just go to med school?

13) The medical community is constantly advocating good health, diet, nutrition and exercise...naturopaths don't have a monopoly on knowing the merits of preventative health.

14) Naturopathic college of Ontario requires a 4-year Bachelor's eduction, but does not require for a Bsc or any science pre-requisites. The historical GPA  for entry to the CCNM is 3.3 (ranging from 2.8-3.7). Compare that to Med school, which is turning away people with 4.0 averages.

15) The length of time for training is meaningless if the education quality is so lackluster.  I can study levitation for 20 years but it doesn't mean that I could fly.

16) "Every review of our record has recognized the safety of the more natural approach of naturopathic care."  Every review? Really?  Black Cohosh, anyone?

17) The authors conveniently left out the deaths attributed to naturopathic prescriptions in Washington and Oregon, showing once again their contempt for honest data-gathering and fondness for cherry-picking whatever information suits their pre-conceived narrative.

18) The CCNM is NOT associated with ANY Canadian university, and it's dishonest to artificially conflate the two together, even if you're being indirect about it.

19) "The need for NDs to have prescribing authority was accepted by every other regulated health profession"  Not even close to accurate! The bill passed the first two readings because the relevant health care communities had approved of their OWN amendments, and was not reflective of the naturopathy amendments.

20) The CCNM also is also teaching homeopathy and colonic irrigation, neither of which do anything beyond a placebo effect....Back from your cherry-picking trip yet?

21) If passed, the committee to decide which drugs would be prescribed would be made up of naturopaths!  Unelected naturopaths deciding what they can prescribe!

22) Since naturopaths *are unqualified* to prescribe medication, granting them these powers will create needless risk of drug contra-indications.

23) This is not about freedom of choice for the patient, and it never has been.  This is about granting naturopathy legislative and legal legitimacy because it can't do so under the rules of science and evidence.
The scientific community is crystal clear on medicine, yet these people would have our very modern system degenerate with some very 19th century modalities.

Check back here in a few days, I've got some fantastic stories and picture to show you all from the Whole Life and Wallet Expo this past weekend.  Hint: There's ear candling, crystals, and yes...."quantum science"

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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.

Now imagine this man prescribing your anti-inflammatories, psychotropics, or heart-medication.

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.


Ezia Cervoni,
Leader's Correspondence Officer
On behalf of Andrea Horwath, MPP
Leader, Ontario's NDP

I've received several emails from Skeptic North readers advising me of their response, and yes, this is a form-letter.  This response tells me a few things:

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.

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I miss astronomy....

Since the move to the Niagara Peninsula, I've hardly been able to do any astronomy, or astrophotography.  The moisture off of Lake Ontario blows up against the face of the high-escarpment, and then falls back down.   So the entire area at the foot of the escarpment acts like a kind of heat-tunnel, which also makes everything dewey, damp, and foggy.

This means that it's very difficult for me to use my telescope or camera to any substantial degree.  Jupiter-shots are nowhere near as good as they were in when I was in Peterborough, and I have to be very fast to get my moon shots before my scope (and the mirror inside it) get coated with a layer of dew.  It's frustrating, and it's hard to make this place feel like home when I can't see my stars and planets.

But I am able to get out once in a while, and here is a recent half moon I stitched together, made up of 6 shots.

I used to do this kind of thing 2-4 times a week.  Now it's down to once a month.  That is teh-suck.

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