On Tuesday, I posted an emergency request for you to ask our governor to veto some poorly worded legislation. Unfortunately, I have since learned that the inflammatory condemnation of this bill, which I shared here, was distorted and unfair. I apologize and am posting an update and correction today.
Dear friends and visitors, This is a very different kind of blog post today, but it is an emergency situation. My home state of North Carolina is under attack. The NC legislature is about to make it a felony to be an alternative health practitioner! State Senate Bill 31 (SB 31) will make non-licensed health practitioners (naturopaths, homeopaths, herbalists, aromatherapists, some midwives and others) felons. Please contact Governor Bev Purdue’s office and urge her to veto it!
… And so it went …
In the light of more reasonable facts that have now come in, I am posting an update and correction.
But first, I apologize for any misinformation and distortion passed along in my own post. It was certainly not my intent, and it was based on the information I had at the time.
The truth is, I had heard this from at least a dozen trusted sources, including a nationally syndicated health crusader site, so I naturally believed it and shared it here. In 20-20 hindsight, I really should have known better – after all, crusaders are not exactly famous for their circumspection or ability to see all sides.
Since Tuesday, I have talked at length with my own district’s House representative by phone, and I have corresponded several times with Senator Eric Mansfield (D-Cumberland County), the author of this bill. I am now convinced that what I posted was based on a distortion of the facts. Again, I am sorry for that.
This bill was never a “stealth” bill. It went through all the usual judicial procedures and was passed by the Senate without comment. The author of the bill is not only not a pawn of “Big Pharma,” he has been working to SUPPORT alternative healers.
The problem in NC is that such a broad statement of “practicing medicine” is very debatable. The problem is “scope of practice,” and yes, there are those who would delight in eliminating all alternative practitioners. I am convinced that Senator Mansfield is not one of them!
He wrote me this:
Thanks for writing. This bill has nothing to do with alternative medicine practices, midwives, herbalist, or naturopathic physicians.
Currently as the law stands, it is a felony to be an out of state resident and come into this state and impersonate a physician. It is a misdemeanor if you are an in state resident and do the same thing.
I produced this bill because in Cumberland County we had a young man put on a white coat and see patients in our ER for 3 weeks. He was caught, went to Tennessee and then did it again. Since it was a misdemeanor he could not be extradited to NC. This is the fourth time this has happened in our city.
This bill is for those types of people, not the people with scope of practice issues. Before I filed this bill, I talked to the NC Med Board, the NC Med Society, the friends of midwives (Mr. Russ Fawcett), the naturopathic physicians and I told them this bill was not a license to go out and start a witch hunt. They all agreed. The NC Med Board has issued a letter to that effect.
This bill went through the Senate and no one showed up at the committee meeting (Jud I) or disagreed on the Senate floor, about 3 weeks ago. No one contacted my office to ask questions. I didn’t get emails until this weekend. I have talked to every newspaper and after we talked about it, they understood the spirit of the legislation. It has not ever been a piece of legislation to limit alternative medicine.
I believe that we have some scope of practice issues. I don’t think we as a Gen Assembly have sat down and seriously worked on integrating alternative medicine. This is something that I had hoped to work on in this session, but it has proven exceptionally difficult to get parties to the table. I believe that there is a middle ground for the state to develop a comprehensive model based on inclusion. I am sure you understand why I have some difficulty with the way SB 31 has been characterized, without a single discussion with the sponsor. [The bold print emphasis is mine. – B.]
To the spirit of the intent of SB 31, we have amended the bill so that it narrowly defines those who are impersonating a physician as committing a felony. We have been told by lawyers that this allows what I am trying to do, but doesn’t change the current laws in the state.
Thanks for writing.
Eric L. Mansfield, MD
Senate District 21
Here’s the bottom line. The outcry was important and helpful. It forced the House to tighten up and clarify some very open-to-interpretation language. Good intentions are not the way to write laws, because those intentions disappear and the letter of the law is all that remains, for good or ill.
But the conspiracy language and the ugly insinuations about the motivations of our legislators were just dead wrong and I am personally very sorry to have participated in sharing them. I take full responsibility for my error and will do my best to never make that mistake again.
And again, if you want to read the bill for yourself, you can go here. Thanks for all your support, everyone.