Health Freedom - Protecting The People’s Right to Choose
Jun 30, 2009 12:45AM
The most basic of human rights is the right to choose what is done to or goes into our bodies; especially how we choose to treat or not to treat our own health. Today, continued legislative attempts to control these rights are underway at the state, national and international levels.
OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan guide to financial influence on U.S. elections and public policy, reports that in recent years, no interest group has spent more dollars lobbying Washington than the pharmaceutical/medical/hospital industry (reference OpenSecrets.org/lobby/search.php). Legislative strategies are clever. Here, we consider how citizens can take a stand in their state to retain or regain their right to choose how they approach their own health care.
Currently in the United States, dietitian licensing bills are being passed or proposed at the state level that would designate dieticians as nutritionists, thereby legally limiting the dispensing of nutritional recommendations and advice solely to registered dietitians who adhere to the tenets of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). When passed, these bills typically charge each state’s dietetic licensing board with the authority to determine the legality of all health practices regarding nutrition, including food, diet, supplements and weight loss. This could curtail registered dietitians’ individual freedoms and activities, while also effectively prohibiting thousands of natural health practitioners and nutritionists from legally speaking, teaching or counseling in their professions.
The ADA website, EatRight.org, shows that such bills already have passed in 17 states (see endnote for link). In 29 states, nutritionists and other natural practitioners still remain free from ADA restrictions because they license dieticians in dietetics only, not in nutrition. Four states have no licensing in dietetics or nutrition.
Nut of the Issue
The ADA has published position papers publicly favoring the use of prepared foods, medical diets and procedures and disfavoring the use of supplements beyond the government’s Recommended Dietary Allowance. The ADA counts among its corporate sponsors and partners many giants in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Those listed on its website include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars candies and Kelloggs; many fast-food chains also exhibit at the ADA’s annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. Such products generally don’t embody the types of nutrition recommended by many nutritionists, and some dieticians might agree. (Reference EatRight.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/home_10575_ENU_HTML.htm)
I am glad to report that I am periodically contacted by ADA-registered dietitians who take exception to any inference that they are not natural practitioners, do not recommend organic foods and alternative diets and are not schooled in the use of supplements for immune building and disease prevention. Apparently, there are individual dietitians who have sought out dietary, herbal or nutritional training that goes beyond their medical nutritional training. I always tell them it is a freedom they could lose should their state legislators grant a dietetics board governing authority over what forms of nutritional practices they follow.
In 33 states, these dietician natural practitioners, as well as herbalists, clinical nutritionists, certified nutritionists, naturopaths, doctors of nutrition and naturopathy and holistic health counselors of all kinds, are currently free to practice based on whatever combination of training they feel works best for their clients. In states where registered dietitians remain unlicensed as nutritionists, ADA members, like other trained health professionals, can make use of the wide array of nutritional information available today.
New Jersey: A Case Study
For example, in New Jersey, I enjoy the freedom to combine my modern clinical and orthomolecular nutritional training with traditional practices used by healers for thousands of years, including herbology, homeopathy, aromatherapy and energy medicine. ADA position papers on dietetics and nutrition do not allow for the integration of these traditions.
But, if enforced the way they are presently written, proposed New Jersey bills that designate dieticians as nutritionists could criminalize any person whose credentials, words or practice are not approved by the board.
The proposed legislation in New Jersey seeks to establish a dietetics board to govern dieticians and all nutritionists by licensing dieticians in dietetics and nutrition (access at njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillsByNumber.asp, then search S1941 or A2933). Health freedom advocates have proposed an amendment to this legislation that would license dieticians in dietetics, as is the case in the other 29 states, and not as nutritionists.
Ralph Fucetola, a health freedom attorney in New Jersey, in a letter to the New Jersey legislature, writes, “It is my opinion that the bill, as written without the Health Freedom Amendments proposed, clearly violates federal case law protecting constitutional rights.”
Ohio, a state in which similar legislation has passed, provides another case study. Nutritionist Pamela Popper, Ph.D., reports that she and her practice was under investigation by the Ohio Board of Dietetics for several years, which cost her tens of thousands of dollars. “I was threatened with criminal prosecution, as well as incarceration, for refusing to comply with the terms of one of their subpoenas,” writes Popper. Fortunately, her practice afforded her the resources to fight for her rights. Fifteen years later, the Ohio board continues to sanction dieticians and other practitioners for talking about nutrition in a way that does not comply with the ADA line.
Maintaining Freedom to Choose
Many practitioners, including myself, have chosen not to join the ranks of what the ADA refers to dieticians as: medical nutritionists. My clients choose me as an alternative voice to the modern medical view of nutrition. I see the ADA’s argument that a dietetics board overseeing nutritionists would “protect the public” as one that in reality, would eliminate competition and establish a medical monopoly over all nutritional information.
Residents of each state need to watch for dietitian bills that would infringe upon their right to choose and natural practitioners’ right to speak. Citizens of New Jersey must take a stand now to maintain health freedom. Vigilance is the key elsewhere to ensure that such bills are not passed in other states.
To find out a given state’s status on this issue, visit EatRight.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/login_search_ENU_HTML.htm?dosearch=1&search=state+licensing.
Dian Freeman gives nutritional classes and private consultations in Morristown, NJ. She chose to get her master’s degree in political science rather than nutritional science and is working towards a non-science-based doctorate in medical humanities. Connect at [email protected] or visit WellnessSimplified.com. Natural Awakenings invites written opinions on health freedom, a topic of broad interest to our readers. Email [email protected]