Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1957 No. 53 - Apr 26 1957
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Licenses for the practice of drugless therapeutics should be issued for the practice of the particular coordinated branch of drugless therapeutics that the applicant intends to practice.  Such license should not contain the descriptive words "physician" or "doctor".

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                                                                   April 26, 1957

Mr. J. P. Amundson
Assistant Director
Department of Licenses
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 53

Dear Sir:

            This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of March 20, 1957, in which you state that you had received a letter from the Washington State Naturopathic Association requesting that the wording in licenses issued to such practitioners be changed from "drugless therapeutics" to "naturopathic physician" or "doctor of naturopathy."  You request our opinion as to whether or not this request can be granted.

            The answer is in the negative.


            RCW 18.36.010 defines drugless therapeutics as follows:

            "'Drugless therapeutics' consists of hydrotherapy, dietetics, electrotherapy, radiography, sanitation, suggestion, mechanical and manual manipulation for the stimulation of physiological and psychological action to establish a normal condition of mind and body, but in no way includes the giving, prescribing, or recommending of pharmaceutic drugs and poisons for internal use."

            RCW 18.36.100 provides:

            "Licenses shall be issued by the director authorizing the holder:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

"(1) To practice mechanotherapy;

"(2) To practice suggestive therapeutics;

"(3) To practice food science;

"(4) To practice physcultopathy;

"(5) To practice any other separate and coordinate system of drugless practice.  Practitioners shall confine their practice to the subjects and systems represented by their licenses."

            RCW 18.36.020 defines and describes the four types of drugless therapeutics enumerated in RCW 18.36.100.  Nowhere in the act do we find any reference to naturopathic practitioners.  If they are to be licensed at all, they must be licensed under subsection (5) of RCW 18.36.100.

            Examinations in drugless therapeutics are conducted by a board of three members appointed for that purpose and are presumed to be learned and qualified in the various subjects concerning which an examination is required.  If such board has determined that there is a branch of the drugless therapeutics to be known as naturopathy, it may issue a license to practice drugless therapeutics stating that the licensee is authorized to practice as a naturopath.

            Since RCW 18.36.100 provides that the license issued by the director shall authorize the licensee to practice a particular branch of drugless therapeutics, the issuance of such a license would seem to be authorized by subsection (5) of the section.  No other authority is given to the board to alter, change or expand the term drugless therapeutics.

            In the case ofWells v. State Board of Drugless Examiners, 113 Wash. 371, the supreme court had before it a case in which an applicant had requested that the board issue to him a special type of license for the practice of suggestive therapeutics, this being the second type of practice named in RCW 18.36.100.  The applicant, however, pointed out that the title "suggestive therapeutics" did not cover his particular type of practice, stating that while his healing art was administered through the mind of the patient, he reasoned with the patient rather than suggested to him.  The court denied the application for the special license, holding that while the terms used in these special types of treatment were ambiguous to the lay public and the court, it felt the board of examiners, being learned in the profession, was qualified to determine what type of license should  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] be issued.  It is upon the basis of the holding in this case that we have concluded that if the board of examiners recognizes a branch of the profession described as "naturopathy," it could in the exercise of its discretion issue a license authorizing the holder thereof to practice "a branch of drugless therapeutics known as naturopathy."

            We feel, however, that it would be highly improper to include either of the words "doctor" or "physician" in such a license.  A practitioner of drugless therapeutics is not in any sense of the word a doctor or a physician.  Kelly v. Carroll, 36 Wn. (2d) 482, and State v. Pollman, 51 Wash. 110.  These are descriptive terms or words that have a very definite meaning to the lay public, and since a licensee is allowed to use in his business and professional cards the descriptive terms contained in the license, we feel that the use of either word would be highly misleading when so used.

            We are informed that it has been the practice of the department of licenses to issue a general license entitling the holder thereof to practice as a "drugless physician."  This practice should be discontinued forthwith.

            In the case ofBrooks v. Herd, 144 Wash. 173, reading from page 174, the court said:

            "* * * Rem. Comp. Stat. * * * Section 10114,supra, [RCW 18.36.100] provides for the form of certificate to be issued to such practitioners, and also provides that practitioners thereunder shall confine their practice to the subjects or systems represented by their certificate, each school of drugless healing to be confined to its own method of healing; * * *"

            This case is cited with approval in State v. Lydon, 170 Wash. 354, (362-364).

            This opinion, we believe, places the proper interpretation on RCW 18.36.100, to-wit:  That rather than issuing a general license to practice all branches of drugless therapeutics without naming them, each license should be limited to the particular coordinated branch or system that the licensee intends to practice, for instance, the license should entitle the holder "to practice a branch of drugless therapeutics known as mechanotherapy" or any of the other separate and coordinated systems listed in Paragraphs 1, 2, 3, and 4 of RCW 18.36.100, or any other coordinate  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] system of drugless practice that is recognized by the examining board.  If an applicant applied for and demonstrated that he was qualified to practice two or more branches of the system, we feel that one license could be issued to practice two or more of the different systems, naming them in the license.

            We trust that the foregoing will be helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General