Ontario regulates tradition

From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

A new law regulating traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture will protect Ontarians from the dangers of the current free-for-all that is plaguing the ancient practice, many long-time practitioners say.

But others contend the legislation — passed by Queen’s Park and put into effect Dec. 20 — will puncture a vibrant and ballooning alternative medical therapy industry that has worked hard to earn the trust of Canadians in recent decades.

“It is a very complex issue,” said Cedric Cheung, a doctor of Chinese medicine in London and president of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada. “But it is an issue that is being addressed for the protection and the safety of the general Canadian.”

Royal assent for the controversial Bill 50 launched the process of creating a self-regulating professional body that will be known as the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario — similar to those that govern doctors, nurses, chiropractors and physiotherapists.

The college will be responsible for setting standards, licensing practitioners, establishing disciplinary procedures for malpractice or misconduct and setting up a complaints committee that will look at grievances.

“Previously, there was no restriction on who could practise traditional Chinese medicine in Ontario, or who could call themselves a practitioner. So it comes down to public protection,” said A. G. Klei, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Dr. Cheung, who has been practising the technique of inserting and manipulating needles into meridian points on the body for nearly 40 years, says many of the services being offered in Ontario in recent years have become very lax, too often resulting in serious injuries.

“There was a patient being treated by a practitioner with a reused disposable needle. They don’t throw it away, they keep it and reuse it. Then there are cases of lung punctures with the needle. [In another case, a] needle wasn’t inserted properly in the leg and it caused swelling because it was inserted in an artery.”

Because the practice was unregulated, there was no way for injured parties to file a complaint, and no one has successfully sued for malpractice.

Although the government expects it will be two to three years until the college is established, Dr. Cheung is glad to see that the process, for which he has been lobbying for more than 20 years, is finally under way. It not only protects Ontarians who are increasingly turning to alternative forms of therapy, but it also “is an official recognition of Chinese medicine, the whole regimen,” he says.

Ontario joins British Columbia as the only provinces to regulate TCM and acupuncture. Two other provinces, Alberta and Quebec, regulate only acupuncture. About 48 U.S. states, along with England and Thailand, also have some type of regulation of Chinese medicine similar to those put into effect by Bill 50.

The college will be responsible for establishing different classes of Chinese medicine practitioners to avoid having practitioners wage a turf war with chiropractors and physiotherapists for exclusive rights to practise acupuncture. The classes would differentiate between medical doctors of traditional Chinese medicine, with advanced education, and practitioners with a general education in traditional medicine.

Kin Wong, who has been running his family’s South China Herbs Market in Toronto for the past 16 years, says the legislation will severely harm the way in which he can help patients because he cannot claim to be a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, diagnose illnesses, or prescribe remedies.

Mr. Wong, 37, learned the trade from his father, who was taught by his grandfather.

Canadians are aware that many of the herbs used in Chinese medicine aren’t scientifically tested, he says — people choose to go into shops such as his.

“I’m more than willing to put a sign up in my window that says these medicines have not been tested and that people are venturing into uncharted territory,” Mr. Wong says.

He is worried that the red tape that will come with the college will scare many traditional Chinese medicine practitioners out of their profession and will mark the end of the industry “in a few years.

Paul Jang, a Toronto acupuncturist who is a strong supporter of the legislation, agrees that the new rules will take a toll on the industry. Of the roughly 3,000 practitioners across Ontario, Mr. Jang estimates only 800 will be qualified enough to become licensed under new regulations because many of those currently practising do it part-time and don’t have more than a year of specialized training.

“The people who don’t like Bill 50 are the ones who are scared they won’t be able to practise any more. The ones with the right qualifications have nothing to worry about,” he said through a translator in his clinic.


1 Comment

  1. jackjia (Post author)

    Ontario regulates tradition

    From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

    Law sets up body to oversee practitioners of Chinese medicine and acupuncture

    Read the full article Post a comment Skip to the latest comment
    Greg Gyetko from Dunrobin, Canada writes: The big question is this: how do you separate the fake acupuncurists from the real ones? It’s impossible to tell them apart because the practice of acupuncture isn’t based on any evidence. It has not a single study supporting it. Conartists who wave their hands around convincingly poke your skin produce the same placebo ‘health effects’ that the ‘real’ acupuncturists produce. There’s no evidence for ‘meridians’ or ‘chi’ or any of this other nonsense. And now our government is going to spend money regulating the industry? How about spending money educating people and eliminating this industry? All that acupuncture is doing is driving people away from seeing a real doctor for a real solution to a real problem. Instead, they’ll be told that their ‘chi’ is misaligned and that poking them with long sharp sticks will fix up their meridians. In the end, this will cost our health care system a lot of money. People with minor problems will see an acupuncturist, who will bury the problem with placebo ‘cures’ until the problem becomes severe and must be dealt with – very expensively – by our health care system.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 8:05 AM EST | Link to Comment

    Luke R from Toronto, Canada writes: Good. Anyone who offers up ‘health services’ should be regulated. I don’t care how traditional it is. I have also lost a lot of respect for that profession after their pathetic attempts of ‘pulling out the race card’ and making ridiculous comparisons to the head tax to try to get out of being regulated.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 9:46 AM EST | Link to Comment

    K D from Toronto, Canada writes: I agree with poster #1. How do you regulate which fake science gets to be the official fake science? If someone seriously injures you while you get this done… well, we have civil courts for a reason.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 10:40 AM EST | Link to Comment

    Peter E from Mississauga, Canada writes: There is only one way to make these new Colleges of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy and Naturopathy informative for the public.

    Staff them entirely with ducks.

    There is no such thing as ‘alternative’ medicine, ‘traditional’ medicine or ‘natural’ medicine. There is only medicine that works more effectively than a placebo.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 11:10 AM EST | Link to Comment

    J.C. Davies from Canada writes: What next a supervisory body for witch doctors?
    Posted 02/01/07 at 11:18 AM EST | Link to Comment

    Diane Schweik from EDMONTON, Canada writes: Legalising quackery.Imagine orthodox medicine going back to bloodletting and talking about humours etc.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 11:21 AM EST | Link to Comment

    Spicy Doc from Canada writes: I agree with #1. Regulating a bunch of garbage only serves to legitimize it. What’s next? A royal college of palm-readers? If people want to waste their money on this stuff, let them. If they get complications, stipulate that OHIP will not cover their treatment. If people had to pay to treat the infections, hematomas, and toxicies these traditionalists cause, there would be ‘auto-regulation’ in a hurry.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 11:23 AM EST | Link to Comment

    Elvey G from Toronto, Canada writes: ‘Ontario Regulates Tradition’. What a misleading headline. For moment, I thought I’d opened up a tabloid instead of the Globe. I expect more from this paper, which is why I read it.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 11:57 AM EST | Link to Comment

    WILLY SIO from Brampton, ON, Canada writes: It is reassuring to hear about regulations on traditional medicine which will reassure people who seek alteratives to western medicine. Speaking from personal experience, my western trained Chinese doctor gave up trying to resolve my knee pain in my left leg despite two treatments of cortisone injections. I was told nothing further could be done because cortisone shots have restrictions and I would have to live with that pain for the rest of my life. In his pool of professionals, another western trained medical doctor unofficially suggested I try acupuncture by one down the hall at that medical clinic. After six visits paid for by me personally, I am so pleased to say I didn’t have that ‘incurable’ pain any more for over 2 years or so. Admittedly, I had to get re-treated with another six visits, but that lasted over 5 years. This year I was treated ONCE and am once again on the mend. I did check the qualifications of all three acupuncturists who treated me, and perhaps I got lucky with each one of them. I exhausted official OHIP treatment before getting alternative treatment so yes, I suppport acupuncture simply by virtue of sucessful results. But I cannot vouch for any and everyone who may or may not benefit from it. Official regulation would be a welcome reassurance that some good may come of this practice.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 11:59 AM EST | Link to Comment

    salty sam from Victoria, Canada writes: This is good news and bad news. On the one hand, they may be able to limit the potential for harm. On the downside, they are legitimizing quackery – or at least non-evidence-based medicine. Furthermore, regulating this strain of alternative medicine will serve to limit access to that field, create an artificial barrier of entry to that market, resulting in higher prices. That is two big losses for the public and I think it stinks!
    Posted 02/01/07 at 12:03 PM EST | Link to Comment

    Ed Levinson from Vancouver, Canada writes: While I mostly agree with commentor #1 that evidence for the usefulness of acupuncture is sparse (and non-existant for most traditional medicines), I don’t agree with an outright ban on TCM practices. The fact that ‘meridians’ and ‘chi’ do not correspond to anything in science does not rule them out as potentially useful metaphors for practicing medicine. Instead, why not apply the same evidence-based approach to TCM that we already apply to western medicine? Subject TCM practices to clinical trials and use the results as the foundation for modern practice. The question is, who will pay for the clinical trials?
    Posted 02/01/07 at 12:20 PM EST | Link to Comment

    B. T. from Canada writes: Is this the first leg to the infamous ‘Codex Alimentarius’???? I agree that there are people taking advantage of unsuspecting ‘patients’, but as with everything in life WE are responsible ourselves to what we do to our bodies and what happens to them. This means that we have to investigate thoroughly before embarking on ANY therapy — also (maybe especially) ‘traditional’ medicine. Chinese medicine has been around for much longer than ‘western’ medicine and I have not heard about many people being killed by alternative medicine, very contrary to what’s happening in ‘western’ medicine!
    Posted 02/01/07 at 1:33 PM EST | Link to Comment

    Patrick Bramwell from Calgary, Canada writes: When the original Ontario legislation regulating health professionals was set up untold amounts were spent by the chiropractors to lobby MPPs and Ministers, with the result that one of the more egregious quack professions has been licensed in that province for many years. It was predicted at the time that scientifically nonsenscal practices such as homeopathy, acupuncture, Reiki and the rest of the blarney would come along soon.

    Licensing is so blatantly a political process that one should not wonder why the McGuinty crowd have done this now, but why they didn’t do it sooner: there are, after all, lots of votes to be gained pandering to the stupid and credulous.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 1:41 PM EST | Link to Comment

    Dan Shortt from Toronto, Canada writes: The complete ignorance of people commenting here about TCM is astonishing. “Fake science”? “Legalized quackery?” These people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

    TCM has been practiced in China for over 5,000 years. “Modern” medicine has been practiced for how long? One would think that if there was no benefit derived from Chinese Medical practices, the practice would have died out by now. Contrary to what poster # 1 says, scientific research has been conducted that supports at least some of the accupuncture treatments and methods. Lets not forget that scientific investigation starts with observation and anecdotal evidence. Surely there are countless people like poster # 9 who can provide 1st person accounts of how accupunture has helped them. To be sure, you won’t find major drug companies funding studies about Chinese Medicine – they want you to think there is no other way of getting or staying healthy except by buying and taking their pretty little pills …

    This new legislation is intended to weed-out the fakes and quacks, so that REAL TCM practitioners (with 6 – 8 years of university-level education!) can get the respect they deserve. Shame on you all for coming here to denounce something you obviously know absolutely nothing about.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 3:07 PM EST | Link to Comment

    James Cook from Sudbury, Canada writes: I worked in China for three years as an editor for the Science Press. I edited many scientific studies of acupuncture. The findings? The treatment was invariably most effective among those who believed in it: 100% placebo effect. That would be fine were it not for the countless patients who have been seriously injured by this medieval nonsense. I once visited a friend in Beijing who had been hospitalised with hepatitis. There they were: rows of jaundiced patients all infected with contaminated acupuncture needles. If the medical technique predates the discovery of micro-organisms, it should probably be avoided.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 3:33 PM EST | Link to Comment

    Peter Simpson from Vancouver, Canada writes: Banning the industry may be the safest measure.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 3:42 PM EST | Link to Comment
    Diane Schweik from EDMONTON, Canada writes: Patrick Bramwell had better be careful about what he says regarding chiropractors,or “qwiropractors” as many Albertans call them.They are as quick as Scientologists to threaten legal action when criticised.Quebec at least has had the good sense to refuse payment for their “adjustments” and “manipulations”.Chirowatch is a good starting point for those who want to know what they are really like.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 4:39 PM EST | Link to Comment

    colin broughton from Edmonton, Canada writes: Kin Wong touches on, but does not explain the difference between TCM and classical Daoist practices. Compared to the ancient practice of acupuncture, TCM is very “modern”. Daoism is a shamanic religion, and as such, the spiritual link between the practitioner and the patient is an essential part of the healing art. On the question of scientific basis, the spiritual aspect may be difficult to measure with our scientific instruments, however Chinese medicine definitely is based on empiricism going back thousands of years. In western, scientific terms, I would characterize Chinese medicine as addressing the control mechanisms of the body and the associated information flows. Western medical traditions are more based on knowledge of the body’s plumbing. Thus the two views are truly complementary. What I think would be sad is if this turns into a way of wiping out the witch doctors (shamen). Already, the TCM movement is making classical Daoist practices more difficult, and that is a real shame. The religious aspects of healing should be protected at the same time as we are protecting patient rights.
    Posted 02/01/07 at 4:56 PM EST | Link to Comment

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