The arrest of a Sydney naturopath for child abuse has reignited the debate on naturopathic registration, says the Public Health Association of Australia, which is now calling for the regulation of naturopaths.
“The circumstances of inappropriate treatment causing the near death of an infant are tragic,” says Professor Jon Adams, Convenor of the PHAA Special Interest Group on Complementary Medicine
“Unfortunately, this chain of events was not only preventable, it was predictable.”
Naturopaths are currently one of Australia’s largest unregistered professions, though approximately one in 10 Australians using their services.
In 2003 the Victorian government commissioned a report that formally assessed naturopathy against government risk-based criteria for regulation, PHAA says. The report was published in 2005, and recommended that naturopaths be statutorily regulated by the government.
Reports from the New South Wales and South Australian government also supported naturopathic registration.
“Every government report since 2000 looking into the regulatory requirements of naturopaths has said the same thing, the risks associated with this profession are significant enough to warrant registration,” says Michael Moore, CEO of the PHAA.
“It’s time to take these reports seriously and look at actually regulating naturopaths.”
The Victorian government began the formal process of implementing registration for naturopaths. However, since the move to national registration meant that these developments were transferred to the national registration authority. They’ve been tabled at the national regulator ever since, says the PHAA.
Some of the delays have also been created by the advent of ‘negative licensing’ legislation, in the form of a Statutory Code of Conduct, targeted at unregistered practitioners.
However, an analysis of the NSW negative licensing model, published in the Journal of Law and Medicine, shows that it does not have the same level of public protection as statutory registration.
The 2006 NSW report recommending negative licensing even recommended that registration of naturopaths be considered, above and beyond negative licensing arrangements, says PHAA.
“Whilst the negative licensing legislation enacted by NSW offers a safety net that wasn’t there previously, it’s no replacement for real regulation,” says Prof Adams.
“The government needs to extend regulation to new professions when required. Regulating naturopaths is an obvious start.”