In most states across America, practitioners of alternative remedies have many legal hurdles to cross to be able to share their knowledge and help others. Unless one possesses a medical degree, giving health advice to others in a professional setting can be illegal, as it can fall under the offence of ‘practicing medicine without a license.’
Melissa Toye of Missouri, a former nurse who is knowledgeable in essential oils and makes her own natural soaps, has a degree in alternative medicine and wishes to be able to see clients and offer alternative and complementary options. However, Missouri law forbids this practice without a medical license. It is this law that Toye is striving to change.
To solve the dilemma that many alternative health practitioners without medical degrees face, Toye is suggesting a safe harbor bill, which would offer legal protection to these practitioners. They would be required to use a certain set of guidelines and client disclaimer forms, and if they followed these procedures, they could not be legally prosecuted for offering alternative remedies. Nine US states already have safe harbor acts in place for alternative practices.
Toye states, “if I were to see that there was something that we could do alternatively to complement with whatever that physician prescribes, that could be pushing the boundaries of practicing medicine.”
She adds, “it (alternative medicine) has been so widely unlicensed, unregulated and unsupervised that there is a lot of bad information out there and a lot of possibly unsafe information.” Adhering to safe harbor standards poses a resolution to this issue, and is at least a wonderful starting point as people are more and more turning towards natural health.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), almost 40 percent of Americans use natural remedies. In a survey performed in 2007, the four most popular alternative methods were natural products, deep breathing, meditation and chiropractic and osteopathic care.
One state that has a safe harbor act in place is Minnesota, where it is known as the ‘Alternative Health Care Freedom of Access Act.’ The Minnesota Natural Health Coalition offers information packets to unlicensed practitioners of alternative medicine, as well as a ‘Client Bill of Rights’ to be distributed to their clients. If a practitioner follows these guidelines, they are safe from legal prosecution for responsibly practicing in their field.
It is this type of legal arrangement that Toye hopes to enact in Missouri. She has opened up a public discourse on this issue in the city of Tiffany Springs, and hopes that the suggestion will make its way through the legislative process.
In this day and age where many people are starting to rediscover the remedies that nature has to offer, it would be a huge sigh of relief to many to have the legal right to share the knowledge of these remedies with others.
-The Alternative Daily