Volume 91, Issue 16

Wednesday, September 24, 1997

Beep beep


Ontario doctors join forces with Mother Nature to provide alternative

By Sara Marett
Gazette Staff

The road towards physical healing just got wider as a new policy introduced by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario will allow medical doctors to advise patients on the options of alternative medicine.

The new policy was created in response to the growing interest in alternative forms of medicine, said Jill Hefley, manager of public affairs and communications at CPSO. "The college decided we needed to make recommendations to assist physical practitioners when it comes to complimentary medicine."

The CPSO regulates approximately 21,000 Ontario doctors under the Regulated Health Professions Act. The policy requires these licensed doctors to provide to their patients any information on all possible forms of medical treatment, whether they be traditional or alternative, Hefley said.

She explained doctors are still required to perform the fundamental physical examination of the patient and make a conventional diagnosis involving traditional forms of treatment. As well, doctors are now encouraged to suggest alternative healing processes.

It seems this is what the public wants, Hefley said, referring to more options when it comes to medical treatment. "This policy allows the patient to make an educated decision and allows doctors to feel more at ease when giving alternative options to them," she added.

The Ontario Naturopathic Association agrees this policy is needed to provide patients with medical alternatives. "It will allow alternative practices to challenge traditional methods," said Paddy Kamen, executive director of media and government relations at ONA.

Gerry Harrington, director of communications for the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association of Canada said the policy is a good move on the part of the CPSO as it responds directly to the growth of "self-care" – people taking more responsibility for their own health.

"The quality of information available to the public will no doubt improve now," he said, adding there is a considerable growth in the market of unregulated products, ranging from vitamins to ginseng.

Lynda Phillips, co-owner of Lyn-Dys Healthy Alternatives in London has concerns surrounding alternative medicine becoming more acceptable in mainstream health care. "As large pharmaceutical companies begin to distribute herbal remedies to drug store chains, the standards go down and herbal products get a bad name."

Any herbal remedy must be proven to be safe, effective and of suitable quality before it is given a drug identification number and therefore included in the provincial drug plan, explained Steve Jeffery, media relations officer at Health Canada.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997