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French naturopaths refute criticism after controversy on Doctolib site

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One of the largest associations of naturopaths in France has asked for greater cooperation with the French medical appointments site Doctolib after 17 of its practitioners were removed from the platform.

Naturopathy is a branch of “alternative medicine”, which involves natural, non-invasive and often unscientifically proven treatments to promote “self-healing”. Practices range from homeopathy to more accepted processes like psychotherapy.

Doctolib withdrew the 17 naturopaths from its platform following pressure from the National Council of the College of Physicians.

Read more: The French platform Doctolib accused of “promoting alternative medicine”

The Council criticized Doctolib for creating “confusion” between medical professionals and alternative and unregulated medicines, often classified as “wellness” treatments.

But Julie Levi, director of the association Natural Medicine and Health Education (Omnes), says The connection that the advice of naturopaths should not be considered as an official medical diagnosis but rather as a complementary treatment to that of doctors.

Omnes wants Doctolib to specify when the activities of a naturopath have been inspected and approved by the association, possibly by a label on its page, to show that the practitioner is not a “charlatan” carrying out dangerous and harmful treatments.

Omnes was established in 1981, has 1,700 members and regulates the practices of naturopaths while offering 1,200 hours of training to aspiring naturopaths, according to its website.

Doctolib has announced that it will carry out an in-depth investigation into the practices of naturopaths with medical bodies and unions of health professionals.

A Twitter user posted a thread to list many Ain naturopaths from Doctolib, providing screenshots of their website and denouncing their practices.

Some of the naturopaths listed were likened to the activities of “charlatans” in a report by Miviludes, the French government’s cult watchdog.

Division within the medical community

Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that includes treatments using plants and does not use drugs. It is not considered a scientific discipline and is hit by a legal void by the French Code of Medicine.

Naturopaths are not permitted to call themselves physicians or medical professionals, or to issue “diagnoses” or refer to their clientele as “patients.”

The connection spoke with three doctors who were split on the potential benefits of seeing a naturopath, with one calling them “charlatans” while two others said it could be helpful for patients when medical professionals didn’t more regulated solutions to offer.

Thierry Casasnovas and Irène Grosjean, two top French naturopaths under Miviludes supervision, are often cited as a reason to reject the entire naturopathic profession.

Irene Grosjean is a 92-year-old naturopath who advocates eating only raw foods for health benefits. One of his methods was also to touch the genitals of babies and small children in an attempt to reduce fever.

Thierry Casasnovas is another controversial French naturopath with an established following and supporters through his Youtube channel.

He was seen in a video promoting “urinotherapy” or drinking urine for health reasons. He is currently the subject of a criminal investigation for “illegal practice of medicine”.

They are two “dividing figures within the community”, said Ms Levi, who regrets the “stigmatization” of medical professional unions which she says ignore the practices and scientific research behind naturopathy.

Ms Levi referred to studies by the World Federation of Naturopathy, a Toronto-based association, in particular the Health Technology Assessment (HTA), a 754-page book which claims to ‘provide an evidence-based summary the practice of naturopathy and the safety, economy and effectiveness of naturopathic care.

The connection was unable to immediately establish whether the study followed a scientific method or had been reviewed by the scientific community.

But doctors said naturopathy could also work as a placebo or the Hawthorne effect for some patients, the latter being defined as “the alteration in the behavior of subjects in a study due to their awareness of being observed”.

Alternative medicine is controversial in France and the Ministry of Health has banned the use of the term “medicine” when it is not supported by sufficient scientific evidence.

Judges investigated several cases in 2021, including the death of a 44-year-old woman who was paying €1,000 a week for fasting treatment at a Loire chateau. She was found dead in her room after not drinking water for several days.

The naturopath who conducted the course denied any involvement in the death and said the only explanation was her Covid vaccination.

Ms Levi said Omnes is currently drafting a text (which will be known as the “Afnor standard”) calling on the government to officially recognize naturopaths. Omnes hopes it will bring more standardized regulations to avoid incidents.

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