"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
In January 1999, three citizens representing two citizen groups in British Columbia set out on a journey. They wanted to protect medical doctors who were being investigated by the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSBC) for providing complementary therapies to help their patients recover from illness.
Their goal was to pass an amendment to the Medical Practitioner's Act of BC that would allow medical doctors to practise complementary therapies without the fear of harassment by the College. Many of these doctors had to endure ongoing investigations by the CPSBC for using these therapies, although none of the complaints against them had come from patients.
The development of the amendment was done in consultation with the Association of Complementary Physicians of BC. Legislation from other jurisdictions in Canada and the USA were reviewed to assist in the drafting of the proposed amendment.
Throughout the course of this project, letter-writing campaigns were initiated involving a number of citizens groups throughout the province: the Chelation Associations in Prince George, the Okanagan, Vancouver Island and the Vancouver Lower Mainland; the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities; BC Health Coalition; Health Action Network Society; Ecological Health Alliance; Citizens for Choice in Health Care-Vancouver Island; Council of Canadians, Victoria; BC Government Retired Employees Association; Victoria Save Medicare Coalition. All of these groups were supportive throughout the project and informed their members of how to get involved in advocating for the passage of the amendment.
Information packages were developed for distribution to all MLAs and requests were made to meet with both the NDP and Liberal caucuses. alive magazine, Common Ground and the Times Colonist in Victoria provided excellent media coverage.
The Final Hurdle
The final crucial component was finding an MLA willing to take on the task of presenting the amendment as a private member's bill. Steve Orcherton, then MLA for Victoria-Hillside, was willing to do this and presented the Bill in the legislature on July 6, 2000. He subsequently presented it again in March 2001.
At the same time, the citizens of the province were mobilized to write, phone, fax or e-mail their MLA to ask him/her to support the amendment. At one point in the process the volume of e-mails to the BC legislature was so great that it overwhelmed their system and they blocked the e-mails that were being sent via our Web site. Citizens were sending the message that they wanted their medical doctors to have the freedom to practise complementary medicine without the fear of harassment and intimidation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.
The Bill passed through second and third readings and the Order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council was signed on April 17, 2001. All Liberal members of the Legislature supported only one clause in the amendment-clause 80(3). They did not support the inclusion of the following clauses: a definition of complementary medicine; a true peer review process when a doctor practising a complementary therapy is being investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC; the principles of the Helsinki Accord.
We believe that the amendment passed because there was a core group of citizens who truly believe in the role that complementary therapies can play in helping people to get well and maintain their health. Secondly, this committee of three articulated a well thought out plan to give form to the project. Throughout the entire project, the team approach was the guiding principle in the implementation of every decision that was made.
The new Liberal government has made it known that all legislation passed by the former NDP government will be reviewed. It is important for the Liberal Ministers of Health who will be responsible for the review of this amendment to remember that this was not an NDP initiative-it was a citizen driven amendment with the support of thousands of British Columbians. We hope that the citizens of Canada will be vigilant in making sure the new government does not change this amendment. This new legislation will finally allow medical doctors in British Columbia to practise complementary medicine without the fear of harassment by the College, which will allow us as citizens to freely have the choices we want in determining our own health care.
To view the amendment and have your support sent to the Liberal government, please go to <bcamendment.org>.