Medical license

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Medical license

The question of who should be allowed to practice Eastern medicine is still controversial.

Should it be limited to licensed practitioners or should others be allowed to employ these techniques as well?

The recent ruling by the Constitutional Court came down definitively in favor of professional practitioners.

In a narrow one-vote margin, the nine-member Constitutional Court ruled that only authorized persons can practice moxibustion or other forms of Eastern medicine. Furthermore, the ruling bars licensed practitioners from performing medical procedures beyond his or her licensed field.

With the ruling, only licensed traditional medicine doctors and acupuncturists who earned their licenses before 1962 can perform moxibustion and other treatments that are part of the Eastern medicine canon.

But the ruling barely passed because the number of invalidation votes fell shy of the six-vote requirement, which may mean that demands for a constitutional rewriting may grow.

Those who are critical of the decision say it is unfair to limit a person’s right to seek various forms of treatment and that it is unfair to bar unlicensed practitioners from a practice that is generally not considered dangerous.

This was the opinion of Kim Nam-soo, who became famous through his use of moxibustion, a treatment that uses mugwort. It is also the opinion of his pupils, his patients and many followers of alternative medicine.

Of course, public health should not be left in the hands of unauthorized practitioners. But we have to ask ourselves if accredited moxibustion practitioners with sufficient medical experience should really be treated as criminals.

The Justices who supported the ruling said that the state will need to change the regulations in the future.

This means the government must step in to end the confusion and conflict among moxibustion patients and the industry.

Even Western societies are in favor of removing the divisions between Western and traditional Eastern medical practices while clearing the way for more widespread use of alternative medical practices. Some countries even have a separate system for acupuncturists.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling has given the government an assignment that we hope it will complete: revise an antiquated law after hearing the opinions of a diverse group of stakeholders and closely examining the matter.
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