AP NEWS

Alternative health act scaled back after nurses sound alarm

May 13, 2019

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine bill designed to guarantee the right to practice alternative medicine has been changed after a nurses’ group raised concerns it could create a class of unlicensed health care workers with broad practice rights.

The proposal is called the Right To Practice Complementary and Alternative Health Care Act, and it could come up for a vote before the Maine House by late May. The original version stated people can provide alternative health services as long as they don’t do things such as perform surgery or prescribe prescription drugs.

But the Maine Nurse Practitioners Association testified that the bill “provides no recourse or protection to the public and undermines the basic idea of why licenses are required.”

An amendment to the bill makes clear the provider would be able to deliver only complementary services and would not have the scope of practice of a licensed professional, said its sponsor, Democratic Sen. David Miramant, of Camden. The bill, he said, was largely crafted to prevent practitioners of alternative therapies from being accused of practicing medicine without a license.

“We’re just moving it into the modern century for people with commonly used and accepted practices that supplement other forms of health care,” Miramant said.

The bill doesn’t focus on any specific practitioners of alternative medicine, though Miramant said it would protect providers of services such as homeopathy, a discredited system of treatment that relies on diluted natural substances. The term alternative medicine is typically used to describe practices outside the medical mainstream that lack evidence of efficacy.

The amendment has allayed the group’s concerns, a spokeswoman for the nurses association said. Andrew MacLean, interim chief executive officer of the Maine Medical Association, said the bill wouldn’t change much, because alternative practitioners are already barred from practicing medicine without a license, just like everyone else.

“I see the bill as somewhat nonsensical, but I don’t see it as threatening to physicians or medicine,” MacLean said.