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How safe is Naturopathy?

I would like to quote from a wonderful article written by Robert Medhurst, BNat ND DHom seeking to quantify the level of risk posed by Australian naturopaths:

Professor Michael Weir of the Faculty of Law at Bond University wrote in a 2016 submission to the Health Workforce Principal Committee on the registration of naturopathy, western herbal medicine and nutritional medicine.  Weir identified the following instances of death and adverse reaction which were directly associated with treatment by a person who was identified solely as an Australian naturopath:

  • 1999 – 1 death as a result of direct intervention by naturopath
  • 2002 – 1 death as a result of direct intervention by naturopath
  • 2004 – 1 adverse reaction as a result of direct intervention by naturopath
  • 2008 – 1 adverse reaction as a result of direct intervention by naturopath
  • 2016 – 1 adverse reaction as a result of direct intervention by naturopath
  • 2016 – 1 adverse reaction as a result of direct intervention by naturopath

In summary, over the 17-year period from 1999, Weir identified 2 deaths and 4 adverse reactions occurring as a result of direct intervention by a naturopath.

Risks associated with Orthodox Medicine compared to Naturopathy

In looking at the risk associated with naturopathy, it may be of benefit to examine the risk associated with the provision of services by a medical practitioner.

The British Medical Journal in 2016 refers to a figure of 400,000 deaths per year from orthodox medical treatments provided in US hospitals.  Extrapolating these figures to Australian populations, the figure here would be something in the order of 31,000 deaths per year making death from orthodox medical treatments provided in hospitals 263,500 times more likely than death resulting from the treatment provided by naturopaths.

A 2006 Victorian study found that the adverse event risk from treatment in Victorian hospitals was 6.88%.  In Australia in the financial year 2016-17, there were 11 million hospital admissions.  At a rate of 6.8%, for the 11 million hospital admissions nationally, 756,800 people would have suffered an adverse event from receiving orthodox medical treatment in hospital.

Ducket and Jorm, writing for the Grattan Institute in February of this year, state that around 900,000 people who are treated in Australian hospitals each year experience an adverse reaction.

According to this date and date from Weir, orthodox medical treatment provided in Australian hospitals is associated with 3,825,000 times more adverse reactions than treatment provided by Australian naturopaths.

Wilson, et al, in a paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1995, which was a review of data from 28 NSW and South Australian hospitals, found an adverse reaction rate of 16.6% and of these a mortality rate of 4.9%.  Using Australian hospital admission data from the financial year 2016/17, this would give an adverse reaction figure of 1,826,000 and 89,474 deaths per annum nationally, indicating that orthodox medical treatments provided in Australian hospitals is 7,760,500 times more likely to cause an adverse reaction and 760,529 times more likely to cause death, than the treatment provided by an Australian Naturopath.

There are times when we need Orthodox Medicine or hospital treatments, but there are also times when a Naturopath may be able to help.  Naturopathy needs to be given the support and recognition it deserves – support from our Governments as well as from the media and all branches of health care.