MEDICAL DOCTORS FREE AT LAST!
By Eugene Fox
FREE – AT LAST!
On December 21, 2000 history was quietly made in the Legislature of the Province of Ontario, Canada. A law was passed that is significant to us all, no matter where we live. It is “Bill 2, An Act to amend the Medicine Act, 1991.” It is a rarity for private member’s bills (not sponsored by the Government) to pass. This one passed unanimously. Monte Kwinter, Liberal MPP, the bill’s author, comments, “(it is) sublime in its wording but profound in its impact.” Very true, health care will never be the same!
This is the official explanation of the Act: “The Bill ensures that physicians who provide non-traditional therapies or alternative forms of medicine are not found guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence unless there is evidence that proves that the therapy poses a greater risk to a patient’s health than the traditional or prevailing practice.” Ontario doctors are now unshackled. They can now advocate nutraceuticals and other alternatives for their patients without fear of reprisal. This is a new day!
Mr. Kwinter explains, “(the bill has) only has 68 words, and it says: ‘A member (of the College of Physicians and Surgeons) shall not be found guilty of professional misconduct or of incompetence under section 51 or 52 of the Health Professions Procedural Code solely on the basis that the member practices a therapy that is non-traditional or that departs from the prevailing medical practice unless there is evidence that proves that the therapy poses a greater risk to a patient’s health than the traditional or prevailing practice.’ The bondage has been broken!
As long as an Ontario doctor advocates nutraceuticals (which are completely safe), now there is complete freedom to do so. Before, there was the threat of being charged with professional misconduct and/or incompetence, of all things, even though doctors had been forced to prescribe toxic, dangerous pharmaceuticals! This is a great day for freedom!
To Mr. Kwinter’s credit, this was the third time he presented the bill. He first introduced it on May 8, 1997, and again on October 29, 1998. He explains that much of the difficulty in getting the bill passed arose from the resistance of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, which oversees medical practice in Ontario. In the Colleges’ own words, “Executive agreed that while the college has already made clear its opposition to the bill, we will prepare to speak out strongly against it again should it be called before the committee for further consideration.” However, to their credit, the College is now seeing complementary medicine in a new light, and is making changes accordingly. Mr. Kwinter’s terse comment is that the College’s opposition to the bill had “fallen silent.” About time!
Mr. Kwinter acknowledged with obvious gratitude that the United States has given leadership to the world regarding complementary medicine: “The United States Congress passed legislation that’s going to change the face of health (care) in that country forever.” He points to the recently established Center of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health with its significant funding as “a very significant step forward.” He might have added that health care in Ontario will never be the same.
Drawing further on the American scene, he offered this:
* Almost two-thirds of traditional US medical schools now teach alternative therapies
* Millions of Americans visit alternative practitioners each year, and educators have no choice but to respond to this relentless challenge to evolve. A survey of 117 medical schools found that 75 of them now include alternative medicine.
Mr. Kwinter revealed his passion for this when he stated, “We are convinced that the sort of protection for Ontario physicians provided by this bill is urgently needed to ensure that all Ontarians receive safe, beneficial and cost-effective treatment.” What a signal to providers of nutraceuticals!
Here are interesting comments made by other legislators in their discussion of Bill 2:
* In Europe, St John’s wort, a botanical used to treat mild to moderate depression, is outselling Prozac by leaps and bounds.
* Hamilton’s McMaster University has proposed a $100-million center for complementary medicine…amalgamating research into western and eastern treatments while investigating the roles that lifestyle and diet play in keeping Canadians healthy.
* Nearly 50% of Canadians are using some form of alternative therapy, so it’s important to better understand how it works and its place in the health care field.
* Angus Reid, a Canadian polling company, surveyed Canadians’ attitudes towards alternative medicine. They found that the majority (66%) feels that the government should be advocating the use of alternative medicine and practices in order to potentially reduce the costs to the health care system.
* A letter from the president of the Ontario Society of Physicians for Complementary Medicine, Dr. Linda Rapson, was read into to record: “Your bill comes at a time when there is even more urgent need to improve the knowledge and experience of the medical profession in the area of non-traditional medicine. The public will be best served by a medical profession that can take a careful, objective look at various forms of ‘alternative’ medicine, to best advise our patients. Our long-range goal should be to critically evaluate complementary therapies in the same way we are assessing traditional medicine, in order to provide the safest, most cost-effective and beneficial treatments…We are convinced that the sort of protection for Ontario physicians provided by this bill is urgently needed to ensure that all Ontarians receive safe, beneficial and cost-effective treatment.”
* The Ontario Minister of Health wrote in a letter to a constituent, “I want to assure you that this government supports freedom of choice for patients…”
* The citizens of Ontario and of Canada are far ahead of the government… (which ought to )provide doctors with the freedom of choice and, more importantly, patients the freedom of choice to take a hand in the treatment they receive…this is complementary…effective, safe and, in all cases, part of what the population seems to want.
* The public is ahead of us and it’s time to move on…it really is time to move on… Statistics Canada says that 3.3 million Canadians see non-traditional practitioners, and the number is growing.
* We’ve been talking for some time now in this House…about new, integrated medical systems, the way we deal with all forms and types of medicine, not only after the fact when we’re sick, but preventive medicine.
* …the entire health professions legislation is under review as we speak.
* I think all of us who use alternative medicine would like to know there are more regulatory rules in place so that when we buy some of these alternative medicines we feel we’re protected, that what it says on the label is actually in that bottle.
* It’s important that physicians recognize they have a responsibility to respond to their patients. Patients come into physicians’ offices and ask about alternative therapies. They need to have answers from their physicians. It’s a concern that so many Ontarians are using alternative therapies, seeking out alternative therapies, using alternative medicine products, and are hesitant to speak to their physicians about them because they believe the physician would disapprove or would not even be legally able to make any recommendations regarding these alternative medicines because they’re not within their defined scope of practice now. (Bill 2) essentially allows physicians to accept a responsibility to respond to patients’ interest in alternative therapies. This bill is really just one step towards the regulation of alternative therapies that are increasingly used by Ontarians.
* …the greatest danger, the greatest potential harm to consumers of health care, is to ignore the issues (of complementary medicine) altogether or to avoid dealing with them.
* a lot of the non-traditional treatments may be less costly than the treatments that we have in our traditional health care system.
* We have seen that almost 70% of Canadians feel that this could be supported and paid for by the government…this non-traditional medicine, if you want to call it that, can be introduced, and maybe at far less cost than traditional medicine.
What a great new day this is!