On the eve of the new alternative medicine laws being approved by the government, the creation ofassociations for these specific professions has been prohibited.
The new law requires that professionals practicing acupuncture, phytotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy and chiropractics must have a university degree and a professional licence granted by the Health System Central Administration section of the Ministry of Health.
The law was discussed with alternative medicine practitioners’ associations and a leeway established to alter the law to assist the associations in the process of obtaining credentials and disciplinary regulation of the respective professions, as is the case for doctors or nurses.
President of the Portuguese Association of Acupuncture Professionals Pedro Choy said: “The most natural thing is for professional associations to be established, but according to what the government told us, the Troika does not allow it.”
According to government party PSD MP Laura Esperança, the solution could be found in a special debate about the law by a commission of MPs.
Pedro Choy, a specialist in traditional Chinese medicine, went on: “I am confident that the law will be altered.” He regrets that in the past two decades legislation governing the alternative medicine sector had been subject to “medical lobby pressure”, which he accuses of being behind the fact that Chinese medicine does not appear alongside the six medical disciplines foreseen by the legislation.
“It’s hypocritical, but the only reason is because it has the word ‘medicine’. Portugal is the only country in the world where there are nonconventional ‘therapies’ and not ‘medicines’.”
Manuel Branco of the Portuguese Association of Naturopathy said the solution to create new professional associations is reasonable. “Our association has been established for 30 years. We have always had our professional credentials from non-governmental entities. We cannot be blamed for the government’s inertia.”
He accuses the government of having ignored the alternative medicine sector in the past few months by choosing not to meet with the commission it set up specifically to regulate nonconventional medicines.
It appears the commission was not consulted during the drafting of the new law proposal, which came from the Directorate-General for Health.
Speaking to i newspaper, Noémia Rodrigues of the Portuguese Association for Classic Phytotherapy admitted that she was considering a lawsuit against the government for violating the 2003 law, which determined the principle of “technical and deontological autonomy” in the professional activity of the practice of non-conventional therapeutics. Despite the law foreseeing a window of 180 days for regulations to be implemented, they were never approved.
Also see Algarve Resident edition of November 30 2012.