Naturopaths Are Not Doctors

By Michael Hawkins

Okay, maybe that headline isn’t entirely accurate.

Naturopaths are people who practice an alternative form of medicine which has little to no basis in reality. Under Maine law, they are actually considered doctors. They aren’t medical doctors, mind you. No, no. Maine law holds them to a lower standard, meaning they are Naturopathic Doctors (ND), not MD’s. This also gives them fewer rights than real doctors. Be thankful.

Naturopathy is a belief that the body can heal itself via its “vital force”. This is entirely magical thinking which has no basis in science, is contradicted by everything in chemistry and biochemistry, and has never had any significant research done in its favor.

One local naturopathic ‘doctor’, Christopher Maloney, wrote a letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal several months ago. In it he espoused several untruths, verging into flat out lies. This is common practice for these sort of people, so it isn’t surprising. What was especially unfortunate, though, was that the KJ ran an extra blurb explaining that naturopaths are considered to be a certain type of doctor under Maine state law. This was entirely unnecessary and, if one is to use the standards of the medical community at large, dangerous because it gives undue gravitas to a field where relatively little medical training is actually required.

One of the dangerous things Maloney told readers was that the flu vaccine only provides 6 to 15 percent protection. He misconstrued some basic statistics. In reality (and according to the CDC), the flu vaccine offers upwards of a 90% reduction in becoming infected with the flu for healthy adults. And even in the instances where someone still gets the flu after being vaccinated, the virus is much less intense.

The reason Maloney and other naturopaths want the public to believe these things is that they are generally hyper-skeptical of vaccinations (just like Jenny McCarthy). While a faux-sympathetic tone towards vaccines is sometimes taken by these people, they actually seek to raise significant doubt; it’s one of their most obvious goals. Of course, ask them to supply any evidence to the general danger of vaccines and, well, “evidence” may well need to be defined for these people.

For instance, a review of Maloney’s site, http://www.maloneymedical.com, shows a section on autism and vaccines where Maloney offers several links to a single anecdotal story (which isn’t convincing on its own merits anyway). He ends with several other links, the most prominent of which may be his own personal anecdote.

This is not evidence.

Deepening the hole into which he placed his anti-scientific letter, Maloney goes on to state that the flu vaccine has no effect on deadly complications for any population group. What he doesn’t say is that the non-mountebank truth is that they reduce hospitalization in the elderly by 50-60% (CDC). Death rate falls by 80% (CDC).

Next – and this one really irked me – Maloney tells readers that black elderberry has been shown to “block” H1N1. The worst thing about this blatant falsehood was just how easy it was to find out the truth. PubMed features two peer-reviewed studies on this. Both (by largely the same group) show that black elderberry had some positive effects for the regular flu, but the study size was small and thus more research needs to be done. (In other words, no respected member of the medical field would ever start making recommendations on such a miniscule sample of evidence.) At no point in the paper was it indicated that black elderberry has any sort of vaccination properties (either for H1N1 or what it was actually studying – the regular flu), which is what Maloney seems to imply.

It’s because of this sort of malarkey that naturopaths are not generally considered doctors within the medical community at large. Maine law must change to reflect this fact.

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