By Meg Olson
Annelle Norman will comply with a cease-and-desist order from the state and discontinue her homeopathic practice in Point Roberts, after a state investigation determined she was practicing without a license.
Kitty Slater-Einert with the state department of health’s board of naturopathy stated that the order was issued in March 2016, after a citizen’s complaint triggered an investigation into Norman’s practice of homeopathy.
Homeopathic medicine is the practice of natural medicine. It would appear that in order for Ms. Norman to practice homeopathic medicine in the state of Washington, she would be required to obtain a naturopathic physician’s license.
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, “a licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an medical doctor, but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology and counseling.”
Norman holds a bachelor of science degree in Complementary Medicine and Homeopathy from University of Westminster in London.
The legal framework for practicing homeopathy in the United States without a medical license is murky. “There is no diploma or certificate from any school or program recognized as a license to practice homeopathy in the US,” according to the National Center for Homeopathy.
Homeopathic remedies have been recognized by the federal government since 1938, and most can be sold without a prescription. However, only seven states have specifically adopted legislation that allows unlicensed alternative health care practitioners such as homeopaths “… the freedom to practice as long as they give full disclosure of their training and background.” Washington isn’t one of those states.
According to Washington state law, someone is practicing medicine and needs a license if he or she “offers or undertakes to diagnose, cure, advise, or prescribe for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary, by any means or instrumentality,” which could presumably include a suggestion from a health food store employee.
However, Slater-Einert said they consider the practice of homeopathy something a naturopathic physician may perform and the cease and desist order was issued because Norman was offering the service without that licensing.
Investigations are generally complaint driven, and outcomes vary. Norman was the subject of a complaint in 2012 and the panel reviewing her case found that the “evidence did not support a violation.” Correspondence with investigators at that time indicated the state was still reviewing how to regulate the practice of homeopathy at that time. Norman believes her specialty has been put under the umbrella of a naturopathic physician’s practice.
In her practice, Norman stated in writing to clients that she was not a physician and was not licensed by the state. “I do not diagnose nor treat medical diseases nor does my advice replace treatment from your physician,” her waiver states. “Homeopathy is a practice whereby the natural healing power of the body is stimulated by extremely dilute non-toxic quantities of substances.”
The practice of homeopathy itself is seen by the National Institutes of Health as a bit dodgy. “There is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition,” states the fact sheet for homeopathy on their website. “A number of the key concepts of homeopathy are not consistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics.”
Norman said she was following legal advice that challenging department of health decisions rarely has a positive outcome. She will continue to serve clients in Colorado through her website, which Washington state does not regulate.