CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Unlicensed practice of medicine - advice on nutrition and diet

One of the legal issues non-licensed practitioners of complementary health must consider is advice on nutrition and diet.

In my law practice, I have seen at least one individual charged within unlicensed medical practice who came to the attention of the state medical board by way of a complaint to the board that deals with registered dietitians.

These laws vary state by state.

Simply because a person has a license as a naturopathic physician or naturopathic doctor from one state does not qualify or entitle them to practice in another state.

One solution I have recommended is to get a license in an adjacent state if that state allows licensure but yours doesn't. Open a part-time practice and drive the 120 miles (or whatever it may be, if feasible) but keep your practice to the state in which you have licensure.

It's always good when a statute clarifies what it does and does not allow, instead of leaving ambiguity and wide prosecutorial discretion. This statute does provide some exceptions allowing certain individuals to render nutritional and dietary advice under some circumstances:

PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT

TITLE XVI. PUBLIC HEALTH

CHAPTER 112. REGISTRATION OF CERTAIN PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS

REGISTRATION OF SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS AND AUDIOLOGISTS

Chapter 112: Section 206. Authorized activities for nonlicensed dietitians/nutritionists

Section 206. No person shall hold himself out to be a licensed dietitian/nutritionist unless so licensed under the applicable provisions of this chapter. This section shall not restrict any person who does not hold himself out to be a licensed dietitian/nutritionist from the following:

(a) pursuing a degree in dietetics or nutrition at an accredited college or university and engaging in the practice of dietetics or nutrition under the supervision of a licensed dietitian/nutritionist and in accordance with professional standards of practice, provided that the person is designated by a title clearly indicating his status as a student;

(b) fulfilling the professional experience requirement in dietetic or nutrition necessary for licensure who is engaging in the practice of dietetics or nutrition under the supervision of a licensed dietitian/nutritionist and in accordance with professional standards of practice, provided that the person is designated by a title clearly indicating his status as a trainee;

(c) furnishing information regarding food, food material, or dietary supplements;

(d) furnishing information about food, food products, or dietary supplements to customers in connection with the marketing and distribution of such items;

(e) practicing a health profession that he is otherwise authorized to practice under chapter 112 of the General Laws; or

(f) practicing a health profession that includes a dietetic or nutritional practice component, including, but not limited to, holistic medicine, naturopathic medicine, homopathic medicine, macrobiotics, ayurvedic therapy, polarity therapy, shiatsu therapy, massage therapy, and herbal therapy.

Of course, all this is subject to the prohibition against unlicensed medical practice, and, for example, naturopathic medicine is nowhere else mentioned in Massachusetts General Laws, so a naturopath is not necessarily protected by this statute.

What is particularly interesting is the above statutory provision is not in the medical licensing laws, but is tucked away under REGISTRATION OF SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGISTS AND AUDIOLOGISTS, and specifically within Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 112: Section 206. Authorized activities for nonlicensed dietitians/nutritionists.

Sometimes legal research is just a matter of knowing where to look, and exhausting all avenues of research until locating the answer.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173