Professional Development, Ethics and Law

With the continued move of complementary medicine into the mainstream, there has been a growing understanding on both sides, patient and practitioner that practitioners of complementary medicine need to have better clarity about their legal and ethical status. Books such as Michael Weir's, Complementary Medicine Ethics and the Law have become staples in the curricula of natural medicine colleges.

I believe clarity is required by naturopathic and homoeopathic patients and practitioners alike as to their legal status in Australia, New Zealand or wherever they are.

Traditionally this has been a neglected area. Either patients have cared so much because of their own values, or practitioners haven't cared as much because they know that their patients are not litigious.

For so long practitioners such as  homoeopaths have been operating in a legal twilight zone, a grey area as very few cases have gone to court. This is both due to the fact that complementary medicine practitioners use more gentle means and create less harm and damage, but also it reflects a non-litigious attitudes of traditional users of, say homoeopathic medicine. Medical specialists, nurses, physiotherapists have much greater clarity as to their legal and ethical duties because of their clearly defined scope of practice and government regulation. I am a podiatrist. I do this and this only, I use the specific techniques. Simple. But because the other complimentary medicines are unregulated, in other words are self regulated by professional associations populated with well-meaning members of the profession, because of and ill-defined scope of practice, and because of the few number of complaints what it means is that there are a great number of legal possibilities but no clarity, for sure, on just how complementary medicine practitioners should record their notes, discharge their duties of care, deal with confidentiality issues etc