There is a new post on Skeptic North about homeopathy naturopathy in the Maritimes (Edit: I wrote this incorrectly the first time, had homeopathy on the brain). I have this to add:
This is what I hear most often from acquaintances who see naturopaths: they are awesome, nice people who spent oodles of time with them. They are responsible and make sure to tell patients that if anything worsened they should go see a doctor. I have 3 points to make about these observations:
1) When someone gives advice and then says to go see someone more qualified if the problem is really serious, what is the difference between that and saying “What I am doing is completely superfluous. For real help, see a real doctor.”? They are essentially admitting that you’re seeking help for a non-problem (in which case they can help) or it is a problem they are not qualified to address (in which case, see a doctor). I applaud them for being open about their limits, but: If the body heals itself, why the middleman? If a doctor helps with serious problems, why the middleman?
2) It’s unfortunate that doctors in Canada can’t/don’t spend more time with their patients. One trade-off of never having to worry about surgery vs. mortgaging a house is that our health system is stressed and overworked. Naturopaths don’t have the responsibility of being the backbone of the health care system like doctors and nurses, so I think it’s an unfair comparison. Time spent with patients is something that certainly needs to be addressed within our health system, but it’s a false assumption to say that naturopaths are objectively effective or subjectively better because they have more time to spend than doctors.
3) It’s also a false assumption that naturopaths are knowledgeable and qualified regarding serious health issues simply because they care and are nice people. Caring doesn’t equal knowledge, even though I’m sure lots of them genuinely want to help. Their relative lack of training combined with advocating dangerous unproven treatments is unacceptable, friendly or not. Also, we can’t hold all of mainstream medicine responsible because some doctors might be less friendly than the neighbourhood naturopath. It is a fallacy to assume that the doctor is wrong just because we don’t like what he/she is saying and how he/she is saying it.
Aside: Naturopaths make use of homeopathy. How many patients would choose homeopathy if they truly understood what it was? I have tried to explain it to people before without success because they refuse to believe it’s that ridiculous (just water). They didn’t distinguish between homeopathy and “herbal medicine”, even though they are two different things, and assumed I was exaggerating. But read the description (and ad populum appeals) from the horse’s mouth.