How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine

Jun 22, 2016

By Britt Marie Hermes

Just a few years ago, I was a practicing naturopathic doctor. I considered myself to be a primary care physician who had been trained in the best of two worlds: supposedly, one was modern medicine and the other was a mixture of alternative practices based in “ancient wisdom.”

I went to naturopathic school at Bastyr University where my proclivity to think that natural medicine could greatly improve upon conventional medicine developed into a fully fledged naturalistic way of life. It is not unfair to say that my fellow classmates and I were brainwashed. We believed that we were being trained just like medical doctors but with the added bonus of learning the secret knowledge of harnessing the healing power of nature, which could somehow supersede science. I am already having flashbacks to my homeopathy classes.

By many societal measures, I was a doctor. I held a DEA number, so when I called in prescriptions to pharmacies I seemed just like other authorized practitioners. In some cases, I could bill my services to insurance companies and state health care programs. To many, the “ND” after my name appeared as a legitimate medical degree. My patients, family, and friends called me “Doctor Britt.”

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7 comments on “How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine

  • This section about the state failure to regulate and effectively police standards in medical services, is very telling!

    @OP – link – While in practice in Tucson, Arizona, I discovered that my former boss, a licensed naturopathic doctor, had been importing and administering a non-FDA approved drug to cancer patients, many of whom were terminally ill. I had been helping him give various intravenous injections and drips to many of his patients because his schedule was busy. It turned out that under his orders I had unwittingly administered this drug to several patients.

    The same day I resigned from my practice, I received a call from a close mentor, who happened to be a former president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. This friend tried to convince me I should ignore the advice I had received from my newly hired lawyer to report my boss’s criminal activity to the regulatory board and state attorney general. His words suggested that ethical and legal transgressions, like the one before me, were prevalent in the naturopathic community and tolerated due to the special kind of medicine we were practicing.

    Indeed, his assessment was correct. When I started to look at licensed naturopaths across North America, I found appalling examples of professional misconduct and unethical treatments advertised online or discussed favorably on social media communities. I eventually learned that the drug my former boss was importing, named ukrain, had a sordid history at the hands of charlatan chemist in Austria, who is now facing criminal charges of commercial fraud. My boss ended up with a token punishment of a warning letter. His errant behavior was not egregious enough for the authorities to revoke or suspend his license, levy a fine, or require him to return the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars he billed patients. I had to extradite myself from naturopathy. I had to speak out against this profession.

    It is true, I am a bit bitter about being duped into thinking I was a real doctor. I borrowed over $250,000 in federal loans for a fake medical education, which, by the way, is how much one can borrow to pay for real medical school.

    Now that I am largely past the heartache of losing friends, a livelihood, and a quarter of a million dollars, I am trying to be grateful for my scientific rehabilitation.

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  • This is an argument I always use against supporters of alternative “medicine”.

    The alternative “medicine” industry is almost as big as the Big Pharma they love to decry. However, unlike Big Pharma, who has to abide by countless government regulations and scientific standards and thus has to spend enormous amounts of money on R&D and licensing, alternative “medicine” has no regulations imposed on them, and they perform no research worth the name. Thus alternative medicine spends said enormous amounts of money on marketing, without any responsibility to tell the truth imposed on them, and their profits depend on people coming to them at their most vulnerable, rather than trusting medicine. Everything they say, thus, must be considered in this light.

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  • Same with chiropractic, they are usually the “go-to” doctor for workman’s compensation, personal injury or accident, and disability fraud rings, medicare/medicaid billing scams, etc. Of course there are shady and corrupt real medical doctors (M.D. and D.O. in the states), as well, but disproportionately chiropractic. Check all these law firms who specialize in disability, personal injury, workman’s compensation, accident, slip and fall; just about all of them use chiros.

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  • @ OP and her blog, paraphrased – legislators were duped (into naturopathy), only slaps on the wrists are doled out.

    Possibly because it is the norm, not the exception, for folks at one time or another to be seduced by “softness”. If they recognize themselves on this chart, no wonder punishments are lean.

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  • It seems that the quackery of homeopathy is trying to establish itself again in the UK.
    About 1,000 of the UK’s vets have signed a petition calling for a ban on homeopathy being prescribed to animals.

    The petition calls on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to stop vets from offering homeopathy on animal welfare grounds.

    But the veterinary regulator says “it is difficult to envisage any justification” for a ban.

    About one in seven practices offers some form of complementary therapy.

    Figures suggest about 500 farmers and 40 vets are trained in homeopathy.

    Danny Chambers, the Devon vet who started the petition on, said it had been signed by more than 1,000 British vets as well as others from around the world.

    There are some 22,000 vets in the UK.

    “We think vets these days should be offering 21st Century medicine,” he told BBC News.

    “It’s been shown that homeopathy doesn’t work, so it probably shouldn’t be offered any more even if it is offered with good intentions.”

    According to Mr Chambers, prescribing homeopathy is an animal welfare issue and fails to meet the standard required for scientific veterinary practice.

    “A veterinary surgeon should have an accredited degree from an accredited university, and they shouldn’t be using treatments that have been disproven,” he said.

    “Animal welfare undoubtedly suffers if people give homeopathy instead of proper treatment.”

    The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which regulates the veterinary profession, says it recommends “a cautious approach to homeopathy for animals”.

    In response to the petition – due to be submitted on Friday – it said given demand for complementary therapies it was better clients sought advice from a veterinary surgeon – who was qualified to make a diagnosis, and could be held to account for the treatment given – rather than turning to a practitioner with no veterinary training.

    The statement added: “Furthermore, homeopathy is currently accepted by society and recognised by UK medicines legislation, and does not, in itself, cause harm to animals.

    “While this is the case, it is difficult to envisage any justification for banning a small number of veterinary surgeons from practising homeopathy.”

    A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said the remedies performed no better than placebos and that the principles on which homeopathy was based were “scientifically implausible”.

    According to NHS guidelines, there “is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition“.

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