WI Senate Bill 198 Legal Protection for Natural – Complementary Practitioners
8/11/15 Kathryn Bartelt
Ensuring Access to Natural Health Care
In the 1990s Minnesota natural health care practitioners were blindsided by prosecutorial actions leveled at them by the Board of Medical Practice. One action targeted a farmer selling colostrum milk and advising on its use, and another a highly respected naturopathic doctor, a graduate of a four-year naturopathy school.
Public outcry across the Midwest was great. What crime had these people committed? They were, it was learned, technically by Minnesota law considered to have been “practicing medicine without a license.”
Citizens jumped into action to vindicate the practitioners in question and set about to prevent this from happening again. With much hard work, they were able to pass a law in 1999 guaranteeing access to natural, complementary, and alternative health treatments.
Fast forward to 2015, Wisconsin. We face the very same legal issue! The laws that threatened Minnesotan natural practitioners are in our Wisconsin law books. But what is the issue, technically?
It centers on the definition of the practice of medicine. Current Wisconsin law states that the practice of medicine is:
“to examine into the fact, condition or cause of human health or disease, or to treat, operate, prescribe or advise for the same, by any means or instrumentality.” (WI Statutes 448.01(9))
Read it closely. The definition is so broad that “the practice of medicine” is giving health advice by any means. That can be as simple as recommending vitamin C or chicken noodle soup for a cold! If you advise on health without being licensed by the state you can legally be charged as practicing medicine without a license, and be compelled to cease and desist (WI Statutes 448.03(1)(a) and 440.21).
Who does this affect? A plethora of people. Natural, complementary, & alternative health care that Wisconsin citizens use every day include all of the following disciplines:
- Aromatherapy/essential oils
- Colostrum therapy
- Culturally traditional healing (plant medicines/food, ceremonies, prayer, and songs)
- Detoxification practices/therapies
- Energetic healing
- Folk practices
- Gerson therapy
- Healing practices utilizing food, dietary supplements, and nutrients
- Healing practices utilizing physical forces of heat, cold, water, touch and light
- Healing touch
- Herbology or herbalism
- Holistic kinesiology and other muscle testing techniques
- Mind-body healing practices
- Nondiagnostic iridology
- Polarity therapy
There are others, too! This current law means that hundreds or thousands of practitioners in Wisconsin could be shut down, and it means that anyone utilizing these services would no longer have access to the health care of their choice.
There is good news, though! Like in Minnesota and nine other states that have now passed legislation to protect natural practitioners, a group of Wisconsin citizens has begun the work to change the law. The Wisconsin Health Freedom Coalition, a grassroots movement of natural health practitioners and consumers, has introduced a bill and hopes to have it passed into law this session.
The bill, Senate Bill 198/Assembly Bill 307, states that as long as natural, complementary, and alternative practitioners provide certain disclosures, and avoid dangerous acts that should require a license (surgery, prescribing medications, making a medical diagnosis), that they are exempt from charges of practicing without a license. The full text of Senate Bill 198 (SB 198) is on the coalition’s website (www.wihfc.com). If the bill passes, natural and safe choices for health will be legal!
SB 198 has been sponsored by Senator Moulton, and co-sponsored by two other senators. Representative Murphy heads the assembly bill, AB 307, with three other representatives. It has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and Assembly Committee on Health. The next step is to have the committees schedule it for public hearing.
There is hope ahead, but we need your help! This bill may not get a hearing, and will not pass into law, unless your legislators hear from you, their constituent, that you wish to legalize access to natural health options. This can be as simple as writing an email to your legislators, or as involved as joining others from the Wisconsin Health Freedom Coalition to make a trip to Madison. Please contact Kathryn at the coalition (email@example.com or 715-797-1934) to add your business name to a list of supporters we will show legislators, put your name on a mailing list so you can be kept informed of upcoming hearings on SB 198, receive pointers on communicating with your legislators, or get questions answered.
Senator Leah Vukmir is chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. She will decide if SB 198 receives a hearing. Contact her to voice support: Sen.Vukmir@legis.wisconsin.gov or 414-453-0024. Contact Representative Joe Sanfelippo, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, and say you’re in favor of AB 307 (the bills are the same, just different reference numbers): Rep.Sanfelippo@legis.wisconsin.gov or 608-266-0620. Contact your own representatives: maps.legis.wisconsin.gov. Enter your address in the box at the upper right of the page or simply click on the map in the district where you live. Additionally, get in touch with Kathryn at the Wisconsin Health Freedom Coalition.
Let’s provide access to all our wonderful natural health options! Together we can make a difference.
Kathryn Bartelt, firstname.lastname@example.org, 715-797-1934
Wisconsin Health Freedom Coalition, www.wihfc.com