Doctor or Non-Doctor - alternative healers at war over just who can call themselves 'Doctor'
It took 99 years, but Minnesota has finally given official recognition to the practice of naturopathic medicine, which relies on the body's powers to heal itself.
Under a new state law, naturopaths -- who use everything from herbal remedies to biofeedback -- will be allowed to register with the state and call themselves doctors without fear of running afoul of the medical establishment.
You might think that would be a cause for celebration throughout Minnesota's alternative-health community.
But you'd be wrong.
Instead, the new law has triggered a bitter rift among the vast array of people who practice alternative medicine, from homeopaths to folk healers to massage therapists.
To those covered by the new law, it's simply a way to get more respect and professional freedom for a particular brand of holistic medicine. But others see it as an assault in a turf war that could benefit a few highly trained practitioners at the expense of others.
"What they're trying to do is become the gatekeeper for natural health, so nobody else can practice," said Greg Schmidt, who runs the Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project, which led a pitched battle to sink the law.
Despite assurances to the contrary, the fissure remains.
"I didn't realize how much of an issue it was going to be," said Rep. Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis, who championed the bill for years before it finally passed and was signed into law in May. "[I] didn't realize somebody who had supported all forms of alternative healing for years was going to be an enemy."
The quest for recognition
Naturopathic doctors call their work a mix of modern and traditional medicine.
In some states, they are licensed professionals, much like medical doctors. The main difference, they say, is that they rely on herbs, vitamins and other natural, low-tech remedies to treat ailments that, they believe, are often caused by stress and lifestyle.