Bad press- when your profession's reputation takes a hit
You may have heard in the news lately the court case and sentencing of the dodgy "naturopath" involved in advising a raw food diet to a breastfeeding mother who's infant's health declined.
Initially I wasn't sure I should comment on it. I don't have insider access beyond what's in the court transcripts and public knowledge. I had to decide if I was going to leave it untouched or should I tackle it head on?
Although I've sat on it for awhile deciding, there's a few things I feel need to be said.
I'd like to share my understanding of a few facts about the case rarely mentioned:
This lady was NOT a qualified naturopath.
She was registered with an association as a massage therapist only. The statements from that association state that she was registered as a massage therapist only and they had no evidence of her having Naturopathic qualifications and thus was practicing outside her scope of practice as a massage therapist.
She was reported in the media as naturopath yet held no qualifications as such and the media made no attempts to qualifiy this. This case has now been used as another example of “safety” concerns of natural medicine and has fueled many pages set on Natural medicine bashing, although this is a whole separate debate for another day.
She was previously a nurse (although I believe was de-registered at the time).
There was no mention of this in the media either, nor were there any attempts to clarify she held no naturopathic qualifications as far as any associations were aware. Why was it all about how a "Naturopath" caused harm to a baby, over an "ex-nurse". Her nurses background alone should have prepared her in knowing when something was amiss and a baby's welfare endangered. I'm not meaning to nurse bash here either- just pointing out media bias in the case as it was reported.
So many red flags were missed.
How did she miss so many signs her advice was worsening the outcome for this child? (I'm not even going in to what I thought of the actual advice). Is it possible she was blinded by her personal beliefs? I guess no one other than the woman involved will really understand what was behind her advise for the mother to continue such a restrictive diet amid the warning signs of malnourishment.
Those of us with qualifications can attest part of our training included looking for these red flags, recognising when to refer and understanding the scope of our practice. It is not only common sense, but in our patients best interests to work alongside their GP or other health professionals as needed, and offer them a holistic and integrated approach.
It saddens me that these charlatans are out there tarnishing our industry, giving those of us with formal qualifications a bad reputation. I studied for 4 years (full-time) completing a Bachelor of Health Science in 2002. My degree covered anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, clinical examination and more alongside nutrition, herbal medicine training and two years of supervised student clinics in our 3rd and 4th years. 15 years in clinical practice and spending thousands of dollars, and countless hours on seminars, conferences, books and more each year expanding and updating my knowledge, well beyond the CPE points required by my association.
What can we all learn from this sad experience?
While this has reignited the debate for registration, to date the term "Naturopath" is still an unregistered title and there’s no formal restrictions on who can use the title. Therefore it's up to the consumer to investigate whether a practitioner they are considering seeking help from is suitable qualified. The best way to ensure you are seeking advice from someone qualified is to ask questions.
Some things you can ask:
- Find out their association name and number
- Can I claim health fund rebates (only suitably qualified practitioners are eligible for rebates and proper checks have been done to prove so)
I hope this has helped in knowing what to look for in a qualified practitioner so as to protect yourself and have confidence in utilising the benefits natural medicine has to offer without a second doubt.