Change the state law so the rights of licensed physicians to practice safe and effective non-conventional (alternative) medicine is protected
At the current time many licensed medical physicians who try to meet the needs of their patients by offering safe and effective, but non-conventional medicine, practice in a climate of fear. Some physicians have left California because of the perceived threatens to them. A number of physicians who are leaders in alternative medicine will not come to California to practice. California is considered to be a state where a high number of citizens seek alternative treatment, but are limited in choices because California is the most restrictive state in the nation in both law and legal action taken against physicians.
California has a disproportionate number of physicians who practice effective, safe but non-conventional medical treatment in trying to meet the requests citizens. Physicians are being disciplined with fines, probation, restrictions on their practice and even loss of license by the medical board for using these treatments. Some of the underlying reasons for this situation are the following.
- Under current California State Law, physicians are licensed to practice only conventional medicine. In the disciplinary process, conventional medicine is used as the standard of practice. For example, in the Dr. Robert Sinaiko case the judge ruled that the standard of practice for treating ADDH is Ritalin.
- In the investigation of physicians, “experts” approved by the Medical Board conduct the review of a physician’s case. Often these “experts” only know conventional treatment and are generally opposed to any alternative treatment, making them rule against non-conventional medicine.
- Complaints to the medical board are often economically based. Examples are an insurance company not wanting to pay for non-conventional lab tests, an allopathic physician losing patients to alternative physicians, an HMO not approving of their members going to alternative physicians, a family member who doesn’t want their family to spend money on alternative treatment.
- Physicians who are in private practice do not have the protection of the “good old boy” network that is common within conventional medicine. They do not have access to the legal team that protects physicians in HMO’s and hospitals. Physicians in private practice are easy targets for an aggressive law enforcement agency, especially when the state law labels what they do as illegal.
- Hospitals and HMO’s often have a system of dealing with physicians that is internal and does not create costly legal action. Independent physicians are caught in a very expensive legal system that they often cannot afford to fight and have to give in to being placed on probation and/or pay other penalties. The legal cost can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which physicians in private practice cannot afford. In California, a physician who puts up a defense and is found guilty in administrative court must also pay the state cost for investigation and legal action which can be in the thousands of dollars. They cannot win since the judgment is not based on harm or safety of the treatment, but on “conventional vs. non-conventional”.
Changing California law can be very difficult requiring major effort of time, energy, and financing. We have sponsored medical freedom bills, the latest was SB-2100 “Physicians’ Right to Practice” authored by Senator John Vasconcellos. This bill would have made both conventional and non-conventional medicine legal in California. It would have also change state law that restricts treatment of cancer to only Chemotherapy, Radiation, and Surgery. When it was determined that SB-2100 did not have the necessary votes to pass it was amended into a study bill. This study law requires the Medical Board to establish a committee of board members 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. It also requires the University of California to make a report to the legislature on alternative treatments of cancer that is available in other states but not to citizens in California. .
CCFHF is involved in ongoing dialogue with the committee of the Medical Board on the issue of the need for change. We are sponsoring monthly workshops in the Capitol on alternative medicine as part of this educational effort. We are also very active in assisting physicians in their legal fight against the Medical Board. Some of the physicians we have worked to assist are Drs. Robert Sinaiko, Ronald Wempen, Robert Canasas, Debra Banker, and John P. Toth.