Homeopaths in Ontario: 200C of Reason

This past year the Centre for Inquiry Canada, through its Committee for the advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) submitted a complaint the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) through the Hon.  Deb Matthews M.P.P Minister of Health and Long Term Care regarding a collection of homeopaths who had been using the restricted title of “Doctor” in their web communications. We heard back from Ms. Mathews and her staff at the Ministry several months later and here is the current status of our complaint and inquiry.

Our original complaint letter, available here, was sent in on March 29 2011.  In the interim we had received a complaint from one of the homeopaths we had erroneously listed as using the title Homeopathic Doctor and he had informed us that there had been a communication from the Transitional Council of the College of Homeopaths of Ontario (TCCHO) dated February 28th 2011 informing all those they had access to contact of the title restrictions in the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) and that they should stop using the title.  This homeopath refused to forward us a copy of these communications but there was mention of this warning in the FAQ the TCCHO website.

We heard back from  Ms. Matthew’s office on May 24 2011 where her staff informed us that the letter would be forwarded to the Health Professions Regulatory Office (HPRO) and we should expect a response back by June 24th.  The governmental response was true to its form and was  late, and on August 9th, after a few phone calls to the HPRO, we received a letter detailing the MOHLTC’s response to our complaint.

The letter was a history lesson at the TCCHO but at the and, after suggesting we contact the TCCHO, it contained once sentence that connected to the specific complaint we had submitted:

“Thank you for your comments about certain individuals who may be using the title “doctor”
inappropriately”

At this point, we grew a bit tired of the process, but it had only just begun.  After a couple more calls to the  HPRO I spoke with a representative who laid out what she felt were the responsibilities of the MOHLTC as regards the restricted title use.  It was clear that the TCCHO would not be finished its process until at least early in 2013 when it could start accepting applications to join the college.  In the meantime, if the MOHLTC received a complaint about a person using the term Doctor without registration with an approved college in Ontario, the complaint would be forwarded to the appropriate college for investigation.   As well, the HPRO felt that the college, rightly so, would be the place to investigate homeopaths using the restricted title and until then the College of Physicians and  Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has jurisdiction.  There was palpable exasperation on the part of the HPRO representative when I suggested that the homeopaths, despite having been warned by their future regulatory body, were still using restricted titles and they showed no sign of changing these any time soon (we last checked in Aug 2011) but there was no indication that the MOHLTC would take any action.

Enter the CPSO.

The CFI has been in communications with another individual (to protect his privacy, I will not name him here) attempting to bring homeopaths to task in Ontario for use of the restricted title of “Doctor” in any form and he had already approached the CPSO with his own list of homeopaths in violation of the RHPA, some of whom even used the title MD but none of whom were licensed by the CPSO to practice medicine.  The CPSO, instead of accepting the list of individuals for investigation sent him this curt and curious message:

The College has received your complaint. Please note that the College is a regulatory
body for all registered surgeons and physicians in Ontario. The subjects outlined in your
letter of complaint, are not registered members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons
of Ontario. Therefore, the College has no jurisdiction over them or their practice. It is
advisable that you visit the following website to further assist you in addressing your
concerns to the correct regulatory body:

http://www.fairnesscommissioner.ca/en/professions/collegeJofJnaturopathsJofJontario.p
hp

It is clear that the CPSO did not really know what a homeopath was from their suggestion of contacting the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, but we will give them the benefit of the doubt. We confirmed on our own that the CPSO has no real intent to enforce the use of the term “doctor” or “homeopathic doctor” at this time and unless a person is misrepresenting themselves as a physician they will not be investigated.  In a sidebar, it is acceptable for a person to use the term M.D. in connection with their name because this is a professional degree and not a licence to practice.  The grand question remains, however, will any reasonable person who sees a homeopath who uses the title “Doctor” or “Homeopathic Doctor” and has the initials M.D. after their name assume anything else but that they are licenced to practice medicine?

We submitted a clarification letter to the Registrar of the CPSO and the Office of Investigations and Resolutions to confirm their process but have yet to hear back from them.  We have now moved on to the Transitional Council itself.

CFI Canada, this morning, submitted a feedback document in response to the public consultation phase of the TCCHO’s creation of draft policies of Professional Misconduct, Registration and Quality Assurance.  Three policies which are the backbone of any regulatory college in Ontario.  Our response is detailed here.  If you are as frustrated with regulation of homeopaths in Ontario after reading the three policies and our response, there is still a window of opportunity to submit your own feedback.  The deadline was extended from October 13th to October 26th 2011 so there is still a chance to have your say.

We feel that the Ministry of Health is shirking its responsibility to enforce what is a clear law restricting the use of titles and that they are taking a “wait and see” attitude until the college will become an enforcement agency for the RHPA.  In the meantime, dubious medicine will be practiced with impunity and those tasked with our protection will sit on their hands and remain silent. The Centre for Inquiry, through CASS, will continue to apply pressure to the MOHLTC, the CPSO and the TCCHO until the public is protected from fake doctors and dubious claims of homeopathic vaccines and treatments for dangerous acute and chronic illness.

If you have concerns with a non-conventional medical practitioner in your province or jurisdiction, let CASS know: we can help. Email us at cass@cficanada.ca

 

 

6 Responses to “Homeopaths in Ontario: 200C of Reason”

  1. ChrisH says:

    Is there no other course of action available, like a complaint to Advertising Standards Canada or Health Canada?

    It’s astonishing to think that homeopaths can get away with this.

  2. Marion says:

    This boggles my mind. Engineers in Canada are self regulating and have right-to-title similar to doctors. But it seems that our provincial organizations take the title “Engineer” more seriously than the CPSO takes “Doctor”.

  3. One of the reasons why CSOP may be reluctant to take this on may be the multitude of reasons one can use the honourific ‘doctor’. That resource where the correct answer is not critical, Wikipedia, has an entry on the people who can use the title.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_%28title%29

  4. Evilcyber says:

    I can’t understand this lax handling of improper title use.

    “Doctor” rings with authority for many people, while a host of homeopaths lacks even the most fundamental understanding of proper medical interventions.

  5. Kate Emery says:

    I think it was G K Chesterton said ‘when people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.’ I think we could exchange science for God these days.

    Great piece by the way

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    Michael is an advanced-care paramedic in York Region, just north of Toronto, Ontario. A semi-retired theatrical lighting designer as well, he re-trained in 2005 as an EMT-PS at the University of Iowa and as an ACP at Durham College, and is currently working towards a B.Sc at the University of Toronto. Michael is a founder and the chair of the board of directors of Bad Science Watch. He is also the recipient of the first annual Barry Beyerstein Award for Skepticism. Follow Michael on twitter @anxiousmedic. Michael's musings are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer or Bad Science Watch.