Problem: Under the current California law physicians are required to practice within the accepted “standard of practice”. Standards of practice are not defined within the law, they are considered to be what most of the individuals within the profession do.
The investigators for the Medical Board, physician consultants for the Board who review the discipline cases, the staff attorneys of the Attorneys General’s Office who do the legal action for the Board and the Administrative Judges, general interpret “The standard of practice” as conventional and practiced by most physicians
This has been a major problem for physicians who practice safe and effective nutritional and naturally based medicine that most other physicians do not offer. Although the treatment offered may be less dangerous, less expensive, and more effective, it is considered as not within “the standard of practice” and therefore the physician can be subject to discipline. This discipline can be any of the following: a letter of reprimand and a fine, required courses in ethics or in standard medicine, and probation and loss of license to practice.
There are many reasons that complaints can be filed against a physician who practices “non-conventional medicine” that is not within the “standard of practice”.
Examples: A patient goes to a physician who offers alternative based treatment. The first physician may not understand or trust the alternative treatment and consider it his duty to file a complain or he may be angry at losing a patient.
An insurance company may not want to pay for the medical test that the physician orders. Often these lab tests are also not “conventional or standard”. Many physicians who practice non-conventional have patients that the standard treatment has not worked and more extensive lab testing must be ordered.
A patient may not want to pay for the treatment and file a complaint because it is not covered by standard insurance. Disagreements over the medical bill of physicians who practice conventional medicine is reviewed only by the Board if it involves fraud. However, disagreements over cost of treatments by physicians who practice non-conventional medicine is investigated by the Board staff and the physician subjected to discipline.
A relative or friend of an individual felts that the individual should not go for alternative treatments. In the last case the relative may feel their potential inheritance is being needless spent since most insurance does not cover alternative treatments. There are many reasons that alternative physicians are discriminated against that has nothing to do with their effectiveness.
Because of the restriction in the current law, all alternative medicine is non-conventional and therefore illegal. In California the Medical Board staff, attorney general’s legal staff, and the administrative law is stacked against the physician that has a holistic practice. An example of this is the case of Dr. Robert Sinaiko, M.D. The administrative judge ruled that the standard of practice for ADHD was ritlan, not the safe and effective alternative treatment that the child was receiving. The judge recommend lost of license and repaying the state $98,000 for the cost of the investigation and legal fees. Our organization has and continues to play a major role in supporting Dr. Sinaiko’s legal defense. See web site Dr. Sinaiko for more information.
Bills that enable physicians to provide “alternative” treatments are called Medical Freedom Bills. All the states on the West Cost along with Nevada, Arizona, New York, Alaska, and Texas in addition to other states have passed such bills. For more information on the states that have passed medical freedom bills or have pending bills www.healthlobby.com/news.htm.
In addition to the restriction on conventional medicine our state has a restriction that individual physicians may not treat cancer with other than chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. To do other wise is a felony offense and can and has resulted in jailing the physician.
California because of the current restrictive law and the policies in disciplining physicians is viewed by many as the most restrictive (dictatorial) state in the nation on alternative medicine. Our goal is to shift California from being one of the most restrictive states to a leading world center for all forms of safe and effective medicine and health treatment.
There is no quick or easy way to achieve our goal. Considering the opposition, we are making good progress in the sponsorship of SB-2100 and the ongoing legislative advocacy with the California Medical Board, The California Medical Association, Legislators, and other groups in the follow up. Our plans are to reintroduce a Medical Freedom Bill in 2003. We need to build our grass-roots infrastructure organization, expand our alliance of organizations and continue our legislative education and advocacy efforts to establish the foundation for reintroduction of a Medial Freedom Bill.
SB 2100 Healing Arts- Alternative Medicine Bill This bill has passed the full Senate and House and signed September 24, 2000 by Governor Gray Davis. For full text of bill click here and put in “Senate” and “2100”. (Most viewers can use the HTML version and not have to use the PDF version.) For problems and projects see project 2001.
Due to opposition from the Consumer Attorneys over technical requirements to have regulations defined in the bill, it was not possible to pass the bill in its original form. Senator John Vasconcellos and his staff took the approach of modifying it to a study bill that would form the basis of a future bill. Study bills are common and often used in order to gain enough support for controversial or complicated issues.
In summary, the revised bill requires the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California (boards) to establish policies related to the practice of alternative medicine. The Boards would establish, on or before July 1, 2002, policies and procedures that reflect emerging and innovative medical practices for licensed physicians and surgeons and to solicit participation of interested parties. Both California Citizens for Health Freedom (CCHF) and physicians who work in the alternative medical field will have an active role in this process. (Note, the Medical Board passed a policy revision that when a physician is being considered for discipline for a treatment that is not convention that two physician consultants review the case and one must be a physician who practices alternative medicine.)
The Medical Board also has established a standing committee on non-conventional medicine. We are working closely with this committee in review the possible changes in the law that will make safe and effective natural medicine within the standard of practice. Hopefully this will be in a bill introduced in January 2004.
SB 2100 also requests that the University of California review the state of knowledge and emerging research regarding alternative and complementary health, focusing on cancer treatments and therapies. They shall make recommendations to assure that California citizens diagnosed with cancer have the best range of treatment and therapeutic choices. Again, CCHF will be a participant in giving feedback to this committee. (Note, due to budget cuts this study was not funded).
We expect the Medical Board Committee on non-conventional medicine will assist in developing a bill that will recognize safe and effective non-conventional medicine as being within the standard scope of practice.
Senator Liz Figeuro, Chair of the Senate Business and Professional Committee and the Senate Sunet Review Committee, at our request will be holding a hearing in the Fall of 2003 on Alternative Treatment of Cancer. The Office of Senate Research is preparing a document on alternative treatments of cancer that is used in other states and not available in California. We expect this will be done over the summer of 2003.
Related web site The Cancer Cure Foundation Alternative cancer therapy website.