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Free to be healthy
Ms. Dittmers' recent response to Barbara Solow's article reveals considerable confusion about health practitioner licensing [Back Talk, April 23]. Occupational licensing is justified where an occupation poses a known risk to the public, as does the practice of medicine. State licensing is unnecessary in most alternative health care practices because they do not pose a demonstrable risk. A Minnesota Health Department study found no evidence of risk; other studies have shown alternative treatments to be safer than their allopathic counterparts. A government commission found that alternative treatments improve the health of the public. Therefore, imposing restrictions is unnecessary, and only serves to limit access to health care options while depriving some professionals of their ability to practice their trade.

Medical boards charge alternative practitioners not for violating standards of practice, but for "practicing medicine without a license." This is not a safety issue--it is a turf issue. By law, members of the Medical Society, a trade group, dominate the N.C. Medical Board, creating an institutionalized monopoly that gives one profession oversight over competing trades via an administrative board. This arrangement poses an inherent conflict of interest that raises serious ethical questions.

Current medical practice laws restrict the free exercise of alternative health care occupations that may share treatment of the sick with the practice of medicine, but lack many of its risks. The state should exempt safe alternative health care practices from the medical practice law to ensure freedom of trade and consumer access to these beneficial services. House Bill 923, sponsored by Paul Luebke, deserves the support of all North Carolinians who value the right to choose from among the complete range of viable health care options to best achieve and maintain their highest levels of health.
Alan Phillips
Director, Citizens for Health Care Freedom

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