A bill that would make the offense of practicing medicine without a license a felony in all cases had been moving quietly toward approval until today, when segments of the alternative medicine community got wind of it. The House was scheduled to vote on the bill but postponed it a day in the face of frantic phone calls and emails warning that it would “criminalize homeopaths, naturopaths, midwives, herbalists and anyone else who practices ‘non-conventional medicine,’ “ as one mass email put it.
But it doesn’t do anything of the kind, according to its sponsor, Sen. Eric Mansfield, a Democrat and physician from Fayetteville. Under current law it’s a felony for out-of-state practitioners to practice without a North Carolina license, but only a misdemeanor for in-state practitioners. Other parts of state law address what activities are included in the definition of the practice of medicine.
Mansfield said he consulted with the N.C. Medical Board, the N.C. Medical Society and a midwives advocacy group in the early stages of the bill. He said the medical board agrees the bill doesn't declare open season on alternative medicine. “This is not going to be used as a witch hunt,” he said.
The senator said the idea for the bill came from an incident in a Fayetteville hospital where someone walked in off the street and worked undetected in an emergency room for about three weeks. The fake doctor showed up doing the same thing in Tennessee, and North Carolina authorities couldn’t extradict him because it wasn’t a felony here, Mansfield said.
The House is expected to take up the bill Wednesday with an amendment clarifying Mansfield’s intentions.
“I learned a valuable lesson as a freshman: There’s no such thing as a simple bill,” Mansfield said.