NATUROPATHIC CARE: Push For Licensing

She gave up her medical practice on the west coast to move back to Iowa and care for her father. But he’s the only patient state law allows her to treat.

A Des Moines attorney got the bad news from his doctor in 2010. Chris Green learned he had lung cancer. He said a lifetime of smoking caught up with him. Ironic for him, since years before he represented tobacco companies in court. But the news got worse for Green two years later. That’s when his doctor told him the cancer spread to his brain.

“Unbelievable,” Green said, “I was crestfallen.”

Green’s daughter, Casey, left her new home in Portland, Oregon, to be with her dad.

Casey is a naturopathic doctor. They look for natural ways through diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and supplements to improve the health of patients.

Iowa doesn’t license naturopathics in the state, one of just three in the country that doesn’t. Casey said, “With my dad, I’m a family member.” That’s how she said she can treat her dad, alongside his medical doctors and oncologists. Casey said, “I feel like I’m allowed to treat him. And I’m going to do that any way I can.”

But she can’t treat others in the state.

“God bless her,” Chris Green said about her daughter’s decision to leave her practice in Oregon, where she could practice natural medicine to return to Iowa, where she can’t.

The two lobby lawmakers to change their minds and allow naturopathics to practice in the state. But State Senator Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat, said lawmakers aren’t convinced of the science of the practice yet.

McCoy said, “To a certain extent, it’s an untested science. And because of that, it has not had the support of many legislators. The American Cancer Society is one group, along with family physicians and chiropractors, that has questioned the effectiveness of naturopathic medicine.

The Iowa Naturopathic Physicians Assocation pushes back against the criticism and said its doctors have helped decrease obesity, blood pressure and diabetes in patients.

They don’t promise cures for diseases like cancer. But Chris Green said his daughter’s medical assistance helped him through the nausea and misery of radiation and cancer.

Doctors told him he had six months to live. That was more than three years ago. He said, “My mind is let’s keep this from spreading and pretty soon they’ll find something they can give to a person like me that can cure it.”