Quack attack: A source of pride

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper disparaging the practices of naturopathic ‘doctors’. They aren’t especially qualified. I would sooner go to a grad student than one of these guys. Of course, not everyone feels the same way. As such, a couple of people felt compelled to write their own letters. This first one is from Richard Maurer.

A fellow physician relayed a letter by Michael Hawkins, who used inflammatory language against an entire profession. Because his letter was printed, I am compelled to respond to his inaccuracies.

It’s a good thing Maurer didn’t read the original letter I wrote. I directly called a naturopathic ‘doctor’ a charlatan and quack, said he directly lied, and also effectively called him a mountebank. Fortunately for him, my local paper is concerned about libel (though it would never be honest enough to admit that), so I only managed to say that ‘doctor’ “misrepresented facts” in the letter that did get published.

Hawkins claims that Maine is only one of several states to license naturopathic doctors. He claims that naturopathic doctors “have no relevant medical training” and even questions the title “doctor.”

Maine is one of 17 states that licenses naturopathic doctors. Licensure here depended upon passage by the Business and Economic Development Committee, the Legislature and approval by the governor.

Yes, one of 17 is also “one of several” in my book. But I wasn’t making the point that Maine is “only” one of several states; the point was never to say that naturopathy is bad because so few states give it credence. I made that point in my previous letter, and did so in a far more direct, succinct way: I said two states actively prohibit the practice of naturopathy.

No, the point was instead that the fact that several states allow prescription rights to these ‘doctors’ is a dangerous thing. I pretty much directly said that. I was bemoaning the fact that so many lives are at risk, not pointing out the lack of validity in naturopathy amongst state governments.

Naturopathic doctors in Maine have a four-year undergraduate premedical degree, followed by a four-year residency-based naturopathic medical doctorate, more than 1,500 hours of clinical training, passage of both basic science and clinical board exams. Continuing medical education is necessary annually.

His last sentence is the closest thing that matters here. He just needs to change “annually” to “daily”.

Much of the training for naturopaths come from schools which also offer several false degrees: ones for chiropractics, acupuncturists, even one which features training in the practice of “cupping” – the ‘art’ of lighting a match inside a cup to create suction, removing the match, and then placing the cup on a person’s body. It’s obvious with what sort of practices naturopathic supporters are willing to associate.

Naturopathic doctors in Maine offer a wide range of proven natural therapies and can prescribe classes of medications such as hormones, antibiotics and immunizations when necessary.

Show me the evidence. The best anyone can expect from naturopaths is non-original research which becomes predictably distorted. And those prescription rights are dangerous given the lack of training from proper programs.

But wait! There’s more! Emily Albee of Readfield has written in.

Michael Hawkins Dec. 12 letter, “Naturopathic medicine is not science, untrustworthy,” infers that those who participate in naturopathic medicine are “quacks.”

To be fair, I did want to outright say it.

Specifically, Hawkins was referring to Dr. Christopher Maloney’s opinion on alternatives for combating and treating the H1N1 virus.

More specifically, I was referring to his non-medical opinion.

My experience working in public schools and having the privilege to work with tremendous young people has taught me illness is a risk.

As opposed to my statements that illness is all fun and water slides?

Dr. Maloney’s recommendation of a daily regimen of elderberry and garlic supplements has helped me maintain an excellent level of health during a very difficult flu season. I trust his opinion because his recommendations work.

I liked Maurer’s letter for not using anecdotes. I like this one for filling my expectations.

There is evidence for jack squat. Research does not indicate black elderberry acts as a vaccine. The nutritional benefits of garlic are well-known; it contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. It also can help with infections. Beyond that, the research gets fuzzy. Naturopaths are willing to prescribe it for several different ailments without any proper evidence (and certainly no original research). They routinely go beyond what they know and delve into what they wish were true.

Recently, I suffered from extreme vertigo. Constant debilitating dizziness made for the worst six months of my life. Numerous non-naturopathic doctors and multiple antibiotic prescriptions ($45 per prescription) later, I was left with no relief or hope that this nightmare would ever be over.

There’s this constant, underlying notion that because real doctors cannot cure everything, pretend doctors must have the answers. It isn’t true.

Dr. Maloney took the time to listen and, after a thorough exam of my ears, he diagnosed chronic ear infections as the source of my vertigo. He recommended a treatment of daily garlic supplements and garlic eardrops. This naturopathic remedy is the only thing that was able to stop the perpetual dizziness.

This isn’t evidence that naturopathy is at all valid. First of all, why were the real doctors prescribing antibiotics? They must have recognized some sort of infection. Second, the fact that they were prescribing something indicates that they did not miss a diagnosis only a naturopath could have made. Third, there’s no way to know if it was actually the garlic which cleared up the infection. Fourth, there’s no way to tell from this if Albee was taking some other medication prior to the garlic ear drops which had the side effect of vertigo.

Naturopathic medicine under the care of Dr. Maloney has brought innumerable benefits to my family and me. I would argue Dr. Maloney is a rare gem in this world of corporate and policy-driven medicine.

Ah, there it is. The real doctors are just evil and American health care sucks. Thus naturopaths.

I am safer for it despite Hawkin’s opinion that naturopathy is “malarkey.”


More directly, my opinion is actually that unevidenced medical claims are malarkey. Incidentally, that includes naturopathy.