Proposed legislation in North Carolina may endanger practicing homeopaths and naturopaths.


According to the National Health Freedom’s recent press release:

Why North Carolina’s SB31
Endangers Homeopaths, Herbalists,
Traditional Naturopaths, and More

SB31, the North Carolina bill promoting criminal felony violations for practicing medicine without a license, that would jeopardize homeopaths, traditional naturopaths, herbalists and many other complementary and alternative health care practitioners, is still moving forward and awaits action on the floor of the House of Representatives.

As in many states, the legal definition of the practice of medicine includes most all healing acts, and it is illegal to practice without a medical license unless otherwise exempted. Here is part of the NC definition of the practice of medicine, which could be interpreted to mean that any citizen could be considered practicing medicine:

“c. Offering or undertaking to prevent or diagnose, correct, prescribe for, administer to, or treat in any manner or by any means, methods, or devices any disease, illness, pain, wound, fracture, infirmity, defect, or abnormal physical or mental condition of any individual, including the management of pregnancy or parturition .”  ( NC General Statutes § 90 1.1. Definitions, part (5) The practce of medicine or surgery (c).)

Licensing statutes also give a list of exemptions from criminal charges of unlicensed practice. Licensed professions are generally on the exemption lists, thus historically the rush for occupations to become licensed. However, there are many occupations in the health arena that do not pose a significant risk of harm to constitutionally warrant licensure, and have never been licensed by state governments for that reason. NHFA views those occupations as participating in inherent fundamental rights, rather than a privilege to act, doled out by the government. However, in most states, if they are not licensed, such as homeopaths, herbalists, traditional naturopaths, and hundreds of other natural health professions, then they practice under the dark cloud of possibly being charged criminally with “practice of medicine without a license”. No injury or harm needs to be done before being charged, nor the use of the title “doctor”.

NHFA works to promote the remedy for these exemption laws: safe harbor exemption laws for a broad range of unlicensed practitioners. Eight states now have some form of a safe harbor law. When a licensing bill of any kind goes forward, including dietitians, naturopathic physicians, massage, etc, NHFA always checks to see if there is a clear exemption for those persons that are unlicensed and who still would like to practice in the public domain with non-invasive practices. If there are not exemptions, then we oppose the bill. We look at the definitions of practice in the bills, and the titles that are being asked to be taken out of the public domain.

NHFA has been supporting North Carolina Citizens for Healthcare Freedom’s opposition to SB 31 and also actively supports their ongoing efforts to get a safe harbor exemption passed for unlicensed practice so that they are not vulnerable to being charged with a misdemeanor. Now, if SB 31 passes, they could be charged with a felony. This makes the work for the safe harbor exemption to be even more important. One solution would be to amend SB 31 and attach the already existing safe harbor bill language to the moving bill. However, they need strong champions to do this.

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Michael H. Cohen is an experienced business law and health care law attorney ho has taught health care law and policy at Harvard University and counseled many different kinds of practitioners and businesses, including:

  • physicians (MD’s and DO’s)
  • physician groups, hospitals, and clinical facilities
  • integrative medicine centers
  • professional health care educational institutions and associations
  • dentists
  • registered nurses and advanced practice nurses
  • clinical psychologists
  • chiropractors
  • acupuncturists
  • massage therapists
  • homeopathic physicians and homeopaths
  • naturopathic doctors and naturopaths
  • energy healers, hypnotists, medical intuitives
  • dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors
  • cosmetics manufacturers
  • entrepreneurs and start-ups
  • publishers
  • wellness clinics
  • herbalists
  • bio-energy companies
  • medical device inventors
  • telemedicine enterprises
  • many varieties of businesses

As an attorney  at the cutting edge of health care and business law, he represents enterprises whose leaders are conscious and committed to a better world.  He provides legal and regulatory expertise to a multitude of businesses and corporations, as well as to attorneys and law firms involved in various health care legal issues including:

  • fee-splitting, Stark and anti-kickback
  • medical board or other professional discipline
  • negligence, informed consent, and medical malpractice liability
  • HIPAA and patient privacy issues
  • Medicare (including opting out vs. participation vs. non-participation)
  • professional liability insurance and insurance (billing and coding) issues
  • telemedicine, tele-psychiatry and telehealth
  • other legal and regulatory compliance issues.

To speak with a lawyer about health care law issues pertaining to complementary and alternative medicine, or to consult a business lawyer about laws and legal issues for entrepreneurs and new enterprises that are seeking legal advice, contact attorney Michael H. Cohen today.