Alternative medicine debated

By Jennifer Lassiter
Star Staff

JOHNSON CITY -- State representatives of the Tennessee House of Professional Occupations Subcommittee met for the final day of their session on Friday, which focused on granting patients the freedom to choose alternative medicines that are not considered by some to be mainstream, or traditional treatment methods.
   Dr. Robert Allen, medical director at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Oaks Castle, continued Thursday's discussion on Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine (CAM). Allen explained the need to have alternative medicine as an integrated part of conventional medicine.
   "I am not picking on mainstream medicine; I practice conventional medicine in terms of surgery and scientific methods, and in some cases they provide much more good than bad," said Allen. "If I have a heart attack I'm not going to sit in front of the emergency room and meditate."
   State representatives heard testimonials on Thursday from Dr. Joseph Holliday, Allen, and several patients who have received Chelation treatments. Chelation was not the sole topic of discussion. It has received the most criticism, according to Allen, and is a prime example of the State Board of Medical Examiners' neglect to allow patients to receive an alternative form of care.
   During Friday's meeting, Rep. Gary Odom, Chair of the subcommittee, interjected during Allen's presentation on the history of medicine to point out the need for the representatives to get to the "meat" of the discussion. He said, "I individually want to know what specific therapies are being threatened by the regulatory system in Tennessee."
   Rep. Tre Hardin agreed that enough background had been covered and they wanted to know specifically what was being threatened and who was doing the threatening.
   Dr. Joseph E. Rich was the next speaker on the agenda. Rich spoke on the legislative actions in other states, and the laws that have been instilled to ensure a patient's freedom to choose what treatments they can receive.
   Rich himself has experienced regulation on his Chelation studies. According to Rich, Tennessee is the only state that requires you must receive written permission from the Board of Medical Examiners to be involved with any clinical study involving Chelation.
   Rich reviewed legislation from Florida, New York, Nebraska, Alaska and other states that have Freedom of Choice and access to various healing systems. He suggested modeling Tennessee legislation after a combination of these states.
   Odom pointed out that the current law in Tennessee is broad, and it is going to be hard to word the legislation so it covers what the people are asking but can't be taken abused. "It's going to be very difficult to craft the language and attitude of the Board of Medical Examiners," said Odom.
   Rich explained the need to establish a patient bill of rights along with integrating CAM practices into mainstream conventional methods. A patient bill of rights would protect patients from unscrupulous practitioners but would also give patients access to treatments which are unconventional. The bill of rights would also protect practitioners who treat with Alternative Medicine Methods after having provided their patients with full disclosure and gaining their patients full consent.
   After hearing all the testimony and the evidence collected by all the doctors the next step for the representatives is to have another meeting at which the Board of Medical Examiners is expected to attend along with Allen, Holliday, Rich and other physicians.