California recently proposed legislation further regulating an acupuncturist’s use of the title, "doctor."
In general, a practitioner using the title "doctor" must be aware of state law restrictions. Simply having a degree such as PhD does not necessarily confer authority to use the title "doctor," and, in addition, using the title can be misleading and lead to legal consequences.
Here is the California legislation:
Senate Bill No. 628
An act to add Section 4936 to the Business and Professions Code, relating
[Approved by Governor September 14, 2012. Filed with
Secretary of State September 14, 2012.]
legislative counsel’s digest
SB 628, Yee. Acupuncture: regulation.
Existing law, the Acupuncture Licensure Act, establishes the Acupuncture
Board and makes it responsible for enforcing and administering the act,
including licensing persons who meet specified licensure requirements.
Under the act, licensees are titled “acupuncturists,” and are authorized to
perform designated activities pursuant to their license. The unlawful practice
of acupuncture and any other violation of the act is a crime.
This bill would make it unprofessional conduct for an acupuncturist to
use the title of “Doctor” or use the abbreviation “Dr.” in connection with
the practice of acupuncture unless he or she holds a license authorizing that
use or a specified degree. This bill would also make it unprofessional conduct
for an acupuncturist to use the title “Doctor” or use the abbreviation “Dr.”
without indicating the type of license that entitles him or her to use that title.
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
SECTION 1. Section 4936 is added to the Business and Professions
Code, to read:
4936. (a) It is unprofessional conduct for an acupuncturist to use the
title “Doctor” or the abbreviation “Dr.” in connection with the practice of
acupuncture unless he or she possesses a license that authorizes the use or
possesses an earned doctorate degree from an accredited, approved, or
authorized educational institution as set forth under Chapter 8 (commencing
with Section 94800) of Part 59 of Division 10 of Title 3 of the Education
Code, which is in acupuncture, oriental medicine, a biological science, or
is otherwise related to the authorized practice of an acupuncturist as set
forth in Sections 4927 and 4937.
(b) The use of the title “Doctor” or the abbreviation “Dr.” by an
acupuncturist as authorized in subdivision (a) without further indicating the
type of license or degree which authorizes that use shall constitute
If you are unsure about your use of a professional title such as "doctor" and the legal consequences, contact an experienced health care attorney who can counsel you.