Illinois naturopaths, health-care providers who focus on natural healing methods, are having their first convention in Lombard starting Saturday as the group continues to ask state officials to license and regulate them.
But state doctors are pushing back hard, questioning the medical skills of the group.
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The Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians says being licensed would give their members credibility so consumers could identify people who have training in the field.
President Eliot Edwards, who works at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, says a qualified naturopath would know when to refer a patient to a medical doctor.
"They use evidence-based natural therapies to support their patients and also know the limitations," he said.
But the Illinois State Medical Society doesn't like the idea.
"Many of the treatments they offer are not backed by scientific evidence," Illinois State Medical Society President Dr. Eldon A. Trame said. "Even if they were, those treatments might impact treatments prescribed by a medical doctor -- and naturopaths are not trained to understand those effects."
"We believe that licensure of naturopaths would at best cause confusion, and at worst, cause serious harm to the people of Illinois," Trame said.
Edwards says naturopaths who would qualify to be licensed have enough training. He says about 60 people in Illinois would qualify, and another 100 students are at school at the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, where the weekend conference will be held.
Naturopaths use treatments such as nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy and minor surgery, according to the National University of Health Sciences web site. Attending full time, students who already have a bachelor's degree can complete the program in three years, four months, the web site states.
When they graduate, Edwards says, most students will look to go to one of the 17 states that do license naturopaths.
Legislation pending before state lawmakers could be considered next year.