Interesting story in the Seattle Times

Interesting story in the Seattle Times

I saw the following linked story in the Seattle Times online edition today, and I think it represents the first story of its kind in quite a while.

The story is titled “Teen’s death hastened by practitioner who had bogus diplomas” and was written by
Christine Willmsen and Michael J. Berens, both Seattle Times staff reporters.

Of particular interest, this information: “The Times found:

At least 104 unaccredited schools dole out alternative-medicine degrees or certifications that are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Most operate only through the Internet or by mail order. The largest alternative health-care school in the United States, Clayton College of Natural Health, is an unaccredited home-study program that claims it has issued more than 25,000 degrees.

Some of the largest and seemingly independent health-care credentialing organizations are in fact controlled by one of two businessmen — one in Las Vegas, the other in Texas. Their organizations are mail-order factories that issue professional titles and hand out accreditations to more than 100 schools.

Many buyers of energy devices receive credentials and certificates from manufacturers who operate or sponsor training programs. Device operators use these titles to market themselves as health-care practitioners.

Meanwhile, the alternative-medicine schools that are accredited by the federal government are dismayed by the explosion of untrained and uncertified operators.

“They are using smoke and mirrors to confuse people by not disclosing the truth behind their accrediting agencies and their institutions,” said Dr. Jane Guiltinan, a naturopathic clinical professor at Seattle’s Bastyr University, one of the five schools of naturopathy that are accredited by a federally recognized institution.

Guiltinan is president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), an organization that requires that its members graduate from a four-year accredited college.

“To argue that you don’t have to have any training for diagnosing or treating patients is absurd,” she said.

What’s most interesting to me about this story is that there is nothing new here, except the quality of the article. I was writing about this back in the late 1990s as then-webmaster for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Following the death of another person in Colorado at the hands of one of these diploma mill ‘doctors, I contacted a Denver television station, only to be rebuffed by a newsman who failed to be able to make a meaningful distinction about this. So another person dies. Maybe this time, the response won’t be “So what?” but instead, “So what do we do?” And the answer, if you think about it, is obvious. States need to make it illegal for diploma mills to sell doctor degrees. Anyone calling themself a doctor and offering healthcare services ought to have gone to school, learned to accurately differentiate one condition from the next and how to diagnose illness, had their knowledge and treatment skills tested along the way, and be held accountable to a licensing board. State legislatures that continue to neglect their responsibility in the face of an upswing in interest regarding complementary and alternative therapies are negligent and responsible for any further deaths of unsuspecting people who are left to fend for themselves as a result.