Many people may not be aware that the practice of medicine, in all its forms, is governed mostly by each state individually. Here in Minnesota, we have a law that the holistic community needs to understand called the “Unlicensed Complementary and Alternative Health Care Practices” under MN Statute 146A.
This law provides not just protection for practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which also includes massage practices in our state, it also provides consumer protection. As a consumer, it is important to know your rights. As a practitioner in this industry, it is equally important to know what is legally required and expected of you.
The practice of traditional and natural forms of medicine has not always been protected. In fact, practitioners in Minnesota previously faced the potential for fines and even being imprisoned. In 1997, a group of practitioners banded together after they were investigated and faced fines and prison time for practicing medicine without a license. Together, they formed the Minnesota Natural Health Coalition and a sister organization called the Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project. They worked with the state legislature to protect not just the rights of Minnesotans to practice, but also for the public to clearly enjoy the freedom to choose this form of medicine without fear of being fined or jailed. Their efforts came to fruition with the law being passed in 2000 and going into effect on July 1, 2001.
Sadly today, some states do not have these protections and practitioners are being censored and even jailed. A recent example is in 2017 where a Certified Holistic Health Coach, CrossFit Level 2 and CrossFit Kids Trainer who lived in Florida faced over $750 in fines as well as jail time for offering dietary advice. In another case, in 2007, a Tennessee pharmacist was fined $1 million for offering natural medicine advice. However, if these practitioners were in Minnesota, they likely would have been covered under 146A and not feared facing fines or jail time.
The law clearly makes it legal in our state to not just offer CAM therapies without licensure, but also for the public to receive them. These therapies include but are not limited to: acupressure, anthroposophy, aromatherapy, Ayurveda, cranial sacral therapy, culturally traditional healing practices, detoxification practices and therapies, energetic healing, polarity therapy, folk practices, healing practices utilizing food, food supplements, nutrients, and the physical forces of heat, cold, water, touch and light. Additionally, Gerson therapy and colostrum therapy, healing touch, herbology or herbalism, homeopathy, nondiagnostic iridology, body work, massage therapy, meditation, mind-body healing practices, naturopathy, noninvasive instrumentalities, and traditional Oriental practices, such as qigong energy healing.
The law also lists practices that are not allowed, such as X-rays, surgery, puncturing the skin, chiropractic or dental techniques, and more. Additionally, CAM practitioners may not provide a medical diagnosis or recommend discontinuance of medically prescribed treatments.
Under 146A.11, practitioners must provide a “Complementary and Alternative Health Care Client Bill of Rights,” and a copy must be posted in a prominent location in the office. This important consumer education document has various required verbiage that must be included, including a statement that there are no education or training standards set forth in the law, that the practitioner must list out their practice business information, including: address; degrees, training and education background; and the right for the client to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health Office of Unlicensed Complementary and Alternative Health Care Practice. It must also include fee structures, right of non-retribution, confidentiality statement, and more.
Prohibited conduct is listed under 146A.08 and includes many things you would expect to be prohibited such as not engaging in sexual contact with clients. It also says that a practitioner cannot use the title of doctor, Dr. or physician even if they have a Ph.D.
A recent addition to the law is that licensed medical providers may now also offer CAM therapies and services and clarifies they must provide a separate Client Bill of Rights for those services not governed under their license. As an example, if you are a licensed provider and suggest to your client or patient to try lavender essential oil for stress, you likely need to provide them with a 146A Client Bill of Rights so the client can judge if you actually have the background to make such a suggestion.
Overall, Minnesotans are fortunate to have a law that clearly protects the use and practice of the wide and diverse spectrum of traditional and natural medicine.
SchaOn Blodgett, CCP, BTAT, is a holistic health professional who incorporates a wide variety of natural health systems and has over a decade of advanced training and experience in Esogetic Holistic Medicine and Colorpuncture. He practices at his office in Little Canada at Psinergy Natural Health & Holistic Wellness. For more information, call 612-217-4325 or visit PsinergyHealth.com.