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Can you sue an alternative medicine provider?

Is it possible to sue a practitioner of unconventional medicine if you sought treatment for an illness and the treatment not only failed to help you but left you in worse condition than before?

Like most things involving legal issues, the answer really depends on the circumstances.

Unconventional or alternative medicine is nothing new — herbalists, acupuncturists and others have been treating patients for centuries. Many of those treatments have even been proven successful. However, there are a lot of newer alternative therapies out there these days.

Each one is touted as a cure-all for a broad range of conditions, including things like autism and cancer. There are “detoxification” programs that supposedly remove toxic substances from bodies right through the feet. There are vitamin therapies, mineral therapies, Reiki healers and massage therapists now working alongside doctors in hospitals like Duke Health and Cleveland Clinic.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with trying an alternative therapy — and some do meet with success — there could be a serious problem if a patient relies wholly on an alternative medicine’s supposed abilities to his or her own detriment. In particular, the issue is likely to be a cause of action if the alternative therapy made claims that weren’t actually based on evidence.

A lot of the alternative cures do go overboard with their claims. MedStar Georgetown, for example, edited the claims made on its website that Reiki could cure blood cancer when questioned. However, Duke’s medicine store offers herbal findings like a pill that is alleged to cure hangovers, headaches and belching simply by harmonizing the stomach, stopping an overflow of stomach qi and subduing the yang in a person’s body.

Others mislead patients with a little subtle advertising. One hospital that offers bee venom treatments skips past the fact that how the bee venom actually works on patients is still unknown and focuses instead on the fact that some studies have shown homeopathic medication may provide actual benefits.

Lawsuits have already been pressed against manufacturers of homeopathic medications for using false pretenses to make sales. Practitioners of alternative cancer treatments have also been sued for misleading patients.

Anyone who has relied on alternative medical therapies to their detriment would be wise to consult a personal injury attorney regarding a claim. There’s a possibility that the alternative therapist or manufacturer of the medication you were using is legally liable for any harm.

Source: STATnews.com, “Medicine with a side of mysticism: Top hospitals promote unproven therapies,” Casey Ross, Max Blau, Kate Sheridan, accessed Dec. 21, 2017

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