The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is to start preparing legislation on alternative treatments

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 17.10.2018 13.19 | Published in English on 18.10.2018 at 16.19
Press release 148/2018

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health starts preparing legislation on alternative treatments for the next government term. Annika Saarikko, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, has commissioned to start the legislative preparations because reasonable grounds have been expressed for a long time already that more detailed legislation on alternative treatments should be laid down.

Alternative treatments refer to treatments not included in the range of the official healthcare services. Alternative treatments may be given by healthcare professionals as well as by persons working outside the healthcare sector. Offering and marketing alternative treatments and using them has become more common. Lately, debates have been going on regarding the use of silver water, conversion therapy and marketing nutritional preparations by presenting their potential health effects.

The regulation of alternative treatments is at a very general level at present. Legislation on consumer protection applies to alternative treatments in the same way as to sales of other services.  In some cases, it may be possible to apply legislation on compensation for damage or the Criminal Code of Finland. The actions of healthcare professionals are regulated by the Act on Health Care Professionals. 

The scarcity of regulation on alternative treatments, deficient control and weak customer protection under the law are considered a problem.  The issue of the safety of alternative treatments and misleading marketing, in particular, have caused problems. 

Minister Saarikko says that offering alternative treatments to persons who are not able to make independent decisions or to minors can cause major harm. Most risks are related to situations where using alternative treatments can delay starting a medical treatment, make the illness worse or generate adverse reactions. This is a major reason why we need more detailed legislation on alternative treatments and on practising alternative treatments, says Minister Saarikko .  

Regulation of alternative treatments requires a wide range of expertise

Developing the regulation of alternative treatments requires a wide range of expertise, time and cooperation with various stakeholders. This project will require amendments even to many other current acts. The objective is that the new act would include, among other matters, a definition of alternative treatments, a provision on the scope of application of the act, general obligations for those who professionally provide alternative treatments, provisions on marketing and control, as well as provisions on registration of those who provide alternative treatments. 

The need for legislation on alternative treatments was last examined in 2009. In that connection, the working group appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health proposed that preparations should be started for drafting extensive legislation that would regulate alternative treatments in a more detailed manner. The working group proposed, in order to ensure patient safety, that only healthcare professionals would be allowed to carry out the treatment of particularly vulnerable patient groups. This is the case in Sweden, for example. The working group also proposed that persons other than healthcare professionals should be allowed to treat certain serious diseases and patient groups only in cooperation with a physician.

Inquiries

Katri Makkonen, Senior Medical Officer, tel. +358 2951 63592
Kari Paaso, Director, tel. +358 2951 63340