The Legal Aspects of Complementary Therapy Practice - A Guide for Healthcare Professionals
Professor Bridgit Dimond Churchill Livingstone 1998 Hardback, 462 pages, £31.95
(Reviewed by Paul Grant, EJOM Vol. 3 No. 1)
This book presents itself as an easy to read legal guide to non-allopathic therapies. It is the first book that I have seen to approach the subject in the way that it has and is easy to follow. Nevertheless I find that its aim is only partially successful.
There are two parts to the book. General legal principles to include criminal and civil law, contract and health and safety law comprise the first section. The second section covers 24 separate therapies, from acupuncture to yoga, attempting to set out their individual legal requirements and sanctions.
As to the first part, I question whether there was any need for this book. There are already a number of good books on the market to include Margaret Brazier's Medicine, Patients and the Law, Gee's The Court and the Doctor and the very comprehensive Medical Law by Kennedys, the latter of which is a most excellent reference book on the subject.
I read Stone and Matthews book Complementary Medicine and the Law which so far in my view is the best book on the subject, published two years earlier than the one being reviewed. Nevertheless, The Legal Aspects of Complementary Therapy Practice does give a unique presentation of each therapy, whereas Stone and Matthews' book is more general in approach. You can look up each therapy here but only within proportion.
I have two main concerns about this book. It gives a dated comparison between the definition of alternative and complementary medicines. The BCMA reference includes 'completing: together making up a whole...of medical treatment'. The author refers to alternative therapies 'which can be seen as those which operate outside instead of inside of orthodox medicine rather than being complementary to it'. It states that in the case of alternative therapies, the therapies would not necessarily see the necessity to work in conjunction with a registered medical practitioner. If you read the book, however, the author deals with alternative as opposed to complementary within this definition so why include in the title 'complementary therapy practice'? The better word nowadays is 'holistic' or 'Medicine Douce', gentle medicine in French.
Changing hats from lawyer to osteopath, I have looked at the chapter on osteopathy. I think a good test of a reference book is to be able to choose a particular subject at random to see if it holds muster. Bridgit Dimond, the author, is a Barrister-at-Law and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Glamorgan. Rightly, she gives a disclaimer as to the contents. She makes no recommendation of any therapy and says that any professional advice should be sought from the appropriate person or organisation before any therapy relating to technique is used. Nevertheless, any sensible reader would believe that the author has carried out some research and normally without delving deeper would take as correct the definition within.
Therefore, I was somewhat concerned when I read the definition of osteopathy. Professor Dimond says osteopathy is the manipulation of joints and spinal vertebrae directed towards resolving the mechanical problems of the body. This is too limited a definition. Osteopathy clearly includes treatment of the neuromuscular system by differential diagnosis using soft tissue articulation and many other forms of manual therapy. That is important because one has to consider the ambit and to what the patient is consenting when applying the law. This the author has failed to do.
The matter becomes more serious when under history and development Professor Dimond refers to the controlling body of Osteopathy as the Natural Therapeutic and Osteopathic Society set up in 1948. That is incorrect. The British School of Osteopathy was established in the 1920s, by Martin Littlejohn (a student of the American founder of osteopathy Dr Andrew Taylor-Still). Its controlling body until 1998 was the General Council for the Registering of Osteopathy (GCRO). The GCRO was widely recognised as having the highest membership of Osteopaths and Colleges. There were other smaller colleges under different registering bodies since the 1940s.
The Professor claims that PPP patients can only seek insured treatment from GCRO members. The Osteopaths Act 1993 heralded and 'killed the GCRO' and other voluntary registering bodies at the beginning of 1998. As long as an osteopath is registered under the new General Osteopathic Council (a national body akin to the GMC) depending on length of service can dispense insurance backed treatment.
Therefore, because this osteopathic section is particularly inaccurate, any general reader (one of the groups for which this book is written according to the author) should be cautious in considering particular therapies but for holistic students and therapists the first part is a tolerable comprehensive legal primer.
Paul Grant Paul Grant is a practising solicitor who specialises in medical law. He lectures both at Middlesex and Oxford Brooks Universities as well as other Colleges. He is Vice-Chair of the College of Osteopaths and is a legal assessor to the General Osteopathic Council. He has been a Deputy District Judge since 1994 and sits regularly at the Central London County Court.