What’s the policy for Sask. doctors around ‘alternative’ therapies?

Saskatchewan’s doctors must adhere to the College of Physicians and Surgeons policy.

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Many Saskatchewan people facing health challenges may be interested in exploring what might be considered “alternative” methods of treatment.

And in some cases, a doctor may agree to deviate from a conventional approach.

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However, there are rules governing the way a physician practising in Saskatchewan can approach such a deviation. And a Regina doctor, who in 2023 was charged with professional misconduct related to his prescription of the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, was alleged to have run afoul of the rules.

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Dr. Tshipita Kabongo now faces an expanded list of professional charges following allegations that include reference to but extend well beyond his prescription of the drug that the federal government advised against using to treat COVID-19.

Those matters have not yet been settled.

But the rules governing him are the same as those all physicians are expected to follow, with regard to what the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS) refers to as “Complementary and Alternative Therapies.”

The professional oversight body’s policy on the matter is clear in stating: “Patients have a right to make decisions about their health care including choosing complementary or alternative therapies instead of, or as an adjunct to, conventional medicine.”

However, it offers a warning to physicians.

“It is unethical to engage in or to aid and abet in treatment which has no acceptable scientific basis, may be dangerous, may deceive the patient by giving false hope, or which may cause the patient to delay in seeking conventional care until his or her condition becomes irreversible.”

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Doctors must not delay or replace an “effective and proven therapy” with an alternative, “except at the direction of the patient.”

They must also talk to the patient about the risks and benefits of any procedure, so the patient can give informed consent.

Alternative or complementary therapies cannot be provided unless “standard therapies have been offered and explained to the patient,” and the doctor is of the opinion that the benefits of the alternative or complementary therapy outweigh the risk.

Doctors must “respect the autonomy of the patient in choosing from available treatment options,” according to the policy.

However, it goes on to note that if the patient’s choice has made it “impossible for the physician to discharge his or her ethical responsibilities,” the physician-patient relationship can be ended.

Included in the ethical expectations of doctors is a commitment to: “always act to benefit the patient and promote the good of the patient.”

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