This month I want to tackle the issue of “Regular Membership” of the newly formed North American Academy of Neural Therapy. I received a few questions about this last month and because it is a contentious subject decided to devote this newsletter to that subject.
Please be warned that the opinions expressed in this newsletter are mine alone and do not represent in any way those of the NAANT board.
The decision about who should be regular members was made at the founding meeting in mid-September. (I have already reported on this in the October issue.) The decision was not an easy one; the subject was discussed at length, and eventually the decision was arrived at by compromise.
The decision is an important one for more than one reason. Perhaps the most important is that regular membership charts the course of any organization. It decides on what is to be taught, by whom and to whom. It plans the conferences and organizes the educational program.
Since neural therapy derives from mainstream medicine and works best in that context, it follows that it should be directed by those with the fullest medical training possible, i.e. physicians with unrestricted licenses and at least some experience in all aspects of health and disease. (Last month’s newsletter on the intersection of psychiatry and neural therapy would be a case in point.)
However, times are a-changing. The lines between professions and the public are becoming blurred. It used to be simple. A “doctor” (the word means teacher) was one who had reached the highest level of university education and was therefore permitted to teach in a university. Only universities could award a doctorate.
However, the word “doctor” has in the last century changed to mean anyone offering services to help with illness or pain. In addition, with the coming of the internet revolution, physicians no longer are the sole custodians of medical knowledge. The internet has made medical knowledge (at least the written kind) available to everyone. Patients now can know even more than their physicians, at least in the areas that they have studied intensively.
In addition, other health-care professions, like naturopathy, chiropractic and DMOs (doctors of oriental medicine) are expanding their education and scopes of practice. e.g. Some naturopathic jurisdictions are allowing prescription of certain drugs. And procaine injections are permitted in certain jurisdictions by chiropractors. So where do we draw the line? Or do we need to draw a line at all?
The arguments for inclusive organizations are that knowledge from a wide variety of experiences can be shared. Orthopaedic surgeons would do well to better understand what osteopaths can offer. Physicians would benefit to know more about acupuncture even if they never practice it.
However too-inclusive organizations run risks:
- The content of conferences and workshops becomes diluted to appeal to “everyone”.
- The social aspect suffers. (Experienced physicians often attend conferences to “talk shop” with peers – colleagues facing the same clinical, and yes, political challenges that go with their professional situations.) A too inclusive organization takes away from that.
In the case of the NAANT, an additional consideration is staring us in the face – alignment with international organizations such as IFMANT (International Federation of Medical Associations of Neural Therapy). IFMANT is a physicians-only organization.
The main reason for this policy is that European physicians are working hard to position neural therapy within academic medicine and to dissociate it from “alternative medicine”. This becomes difficult if the representing organizations include regular members who are not physicians.
So how are we, as North Americans, going to deal with this? Is there room for compromise?
One way would be to revisit the definition of “physician”. Different cultures have different medical systems, even within the developed world. In the USA, doctors of osteopathy (DOs) have similar training and the same unlimited licenses, as do MDs. Both are considered to be physicians but osteopathic physicians were not (by MDs) at one time. (This distinction is often not understood internationally.) Naturopaths appear to be following close behind, (although licensing standards vary widely between jurisdictions).
NAANT is in its formative stages. Decisions by the founding board are not set in stone and will eventually have to be approved by a general membership. My hope is that the opinions expressed above will make the discussion an informed and constructive one.