Jerry Kopel

By Jerry Kopel


March 14, 2007

If at first you don't succeed, try again. And if you don't succeed the second time, well...try, try again.

That's where naturopathic physicians (NP) are, in their quest for regulation. Unlike a number of other occupations, NP's followed the legislative statute by submitting an application in 2005 to the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). They received a  Sunrise review, which came out with positive results, including licensing the professions as one alternative.

Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, has sponsored HB 1192, the NP measure. It passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and was sent to Appropriations Committee.

This is one instance where a legislative declaration, appearing only in the session laws and not in the statute would be helpful to the proponents. It could explain the historic background of NPs.

DORA's review in 2005 gave supporters the opportunity to seek a bill in 2006 or 2007, and provided the background that the bill omits. Since the report was issued in 2005, but no bill was introduced in 2006, it's doubtful legislators are aware of the report's contents, except those who  enjoy inflicting pain on themselves. The prior DORA report was in 1998 and it also approved regulation. 

According to DORA "naturopathic medicine has been practiced in the United States and Europe throughout history. Conventional medicine and naturopathy were at one time quite similar in their use of medicinal plants, diet therapies and hydrotherapy treatments. Only within the last 40-50 years has conventional medicine diverged from this path...the rise of medical technology and the use of 'miracle' drugs such as antibiotics, were all contributing factors" to the split. 

There are two types of naturopaths in practice. Those that have been graduated from an (assuming a summer break) accredited four year graduate level naturopathic medical college and those that have not. In many instance the latter are from schools not recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education or are correspondence schools or "diploma mills".. 

One such latter graduate, Brian O'Connell, was found responsible for the death of a young Coloradoan in 2003, and is t now serving a 13 year prison sentence.

There are 13 states (not 14 as reported in the daily papers) that actually regulate naturopathic practice. Florida only regulates those in practice before 1960. The District of Columbia does license but requires no examination, just the payment of a fee, according to court testimony in the O'Connell trial.

The regulatory states are Alaska, California,  Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

HB 1192 requires graduation from one of three U.S. colleges recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education or from a similar college in Canada recognized by our government, and passage of a national exam or passage of a competency exam established by DORA..

DORA in 2005 found "Naturopathy is a system of health care based on the philosophy that the human body has the power to heal itself by restoring the natural balance. Naturopathy  encompasses hydrotherapy, homeopathy, nutritional therapeutics that include hydrotherapy, homeopathy, nutritional psychology, physiotherapy and spinal manipulation.

"Naturopathic physicians believe that health results from the harmonious functioning of all parts of a person. Therapy is directed at the whole person and at the underlying cause of illness, such as the patient's lifestyle, diet habits, and emotional state."

The House Health  Committee amended out some functions otherwise supported by the DORA report such as manual manipulation, naturopathic physical medicine,  electromagnetic energy, colon hydrotherapy and therapeutic exercise.

This may (or may not) have satisfied all the other health occupations that practice in one form or another, the various activities removed from the bill. But it is like licensing a surgeon, and denying him or her the ability to remove an appendix.

Naturopaths have been practicing in Colorado for decades. If there were a violation of present Colorado laws, why has the Colorado Medical Society ignored them as a group? Why have district attorneys or the attorney general not enjoined them as a group?

For my personal use, I believe in better  living through chemistry, but there are thousands of persons in this state that have used and benefited from care by NPs.

HB 1192, if it becomes law, has a short life span. It does take effect on passage, but NPs have until July 1, 2008 to comply with rules by proving graduation from an accredited college and passing such testing as required by DORA. In 2010, DORA will again review the practice, this time as a Sunset review. This will give legislators a two year review of disciplinary actions, changes needed in the practice, or whether regulation should continue.

If approved, Naturopathic doctors will have two chances to continue as a licensed occupation. In 2011 a bill to extend the licensing will be introduced. If not passed, there will be one final opportunity in 2012. If not passed, the law will be repealed as of July, 1, 2012.


(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.) 

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