Peter McKnight: Naturopath’s lawyer offers unusual defense after ban on fecal transplants to treat autism

Opinion: Lawyer argues naturopaths aren’t “bound by science” so lack of evidence for his client’s autism treatments shouldn’t stop him from offering the service

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When your lawyer defends your work by attacking your profession, you know there is a problem with your vocation.

the The British Columbia College of Naturopathic Physicians has been cracking down on its members in recent years, and naturopaths jason klop he is the last to discover that he is in the crosshairs. But Klop and his lawyer are fighting back, and in the most unusual way.

The problem is Klop’s use of fecal microbiota transplants—yes, that means exactly what you think it means—to “treat” autism in children. Klop manufactured the pills and enemas in a laboratory in his nephew’s apartment because his nephews provide the raw materials for Klop’s products.

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Once the College learned of this, it demanded that Klop stop manufacturing and selling the tout de suite pills and enemas. However, Klop is fighting back and has asked a court to order the College to lift the ban.

According to the CBCKlop’s attorney, Jason Gratl, questioned what it would take to act in a manner unbecoming a naturopath given that naturopathy “is so broad and open to interpretation.”

And he followed up on that shot by arguing that the lack of scientific evidence for Klop’s treatments shouldn’t stop him from offering the service because naturopaths “are not bound by science,” sometimes relying on historical or anecdotal evidence.

This portrayal of naturopathy as a carefree, unscientific and undisciplined discipline made the College’s hair stand on end, that countered that naturopathy is not an “anything goes” profession.

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In fact, naturopathic organizations have long taken pains to emphasize their medical and scientific bona fides, with the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Physicians website, for example, stating that naturopathy “combines modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine.”

But that statement confirms, rather than refutes, Gratl’s argument that naturopathy strays from the boundaries of science by sometimes basing its practices on historical and anecdotal evidence.

In fact, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Physicians details numerous approaches offered by naturopathy, some with little scientific evidence to back them up, including “botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, and traditional Chinese medicine.” Gratl took particular advantage of homeopathy, stating that it is “certainly not scientific in its essence”.

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That is true, but also naturopathy is not scientific in its essence. Virtually all naturopathic organizations, including the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Physicians, identify as the central tenet of naturopathy the doctrine of “vis medicatrix naturae,” the healing power of nature.

Usually dating back to Hippocrates, the doctrine was used by the great physician to disabuse his fellow Greeks of the idea that their health and well-being depended on the whims of the gods; in other words, to replace a metaphysical-religious conception of medicine with a scientific one

Unfortunately, the doctrine gave rise to the new metaphysical theory of vitalism, the theory that living matter is animated by a “vital force.” This mysterious, immaterial force has been known in different cultures at different times by a variety of names including elan vital, chi, or prana.

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Illness was conceived as the result of an imbalance of vital forces, and therefore the healer was responsible for restoring balance and harmony. And so we saw an emphasis on the “four humors” (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) and the practice of bleeding people to restore balance.

However, modern medicine and biology dispensed with vitalism long ago, in part because the germ theory of disease offered a better explanation of disease and in part because scientific explanation, by definition, depends solely on the appeal to material forces. Any non-material force is the purview of metaphysics or religion and therefore cannot have a place in the scientific canon.

And yet, naturist literature is still plagued by vitalist language. The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Physicians website, for example, highlights that homeopathic remedies are “designed to stimulate the body’s ‘life force'” and that traditional Chinese medicine is used by naturopaths “to regulate and release chi in order to balance the body.”

Despite all naturopathic protests to the contrary, this reliance on life forces is no more science than providing fecal microbiota transplants to treat autism. And if the first one is fine with the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbiaso why not the latter?

Pedro McKnightThe column appears weekly in the Sun. He can be contacted at mcknight[email protected]

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