The Legal Regulation of Complementary and Alternative (Unconventional) Medicine Services: the Current Situation and Perspectives

Indrė Špokienė


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to non-traditional methods and measures aimed at influencing human health. Their unifying feature is that their effect in case of sickness and their safety to health and life of sick persons are not scientifically proven. Nevertheless, globally and in Lithuania, the offer and demand for CAM services is increasing.
The paper focuses on the legal regulation of CAM services. First, the tendencies in European countries are reviewed, and the legal regulation of CAM services in Lithuania is analyzed. It is considered that the best way to identify differences in legal regulation of CAM services in Europe is through using the following criteria: formal legal recognition of different CAM services, integration into national healthcare systems; strictness of the requirements applied to the qualification and activities of CAM method practitioners; reimbursement for CAM services and products, or refusal to pay from the public health insurance funds. The analysis of the situation in Lithuania revealed that only the providers of manual therapy, acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, massage and physiotherapy need to get a special education. The general rule is that patients are not reimbursed for these services from the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund.
The article establishes that the main problems of the legal regulation of CAM services are related to qualifications of CAM practitioners, difficulties of applying and evaluating the responsibility for health damage, information provided to patients/consumers, misleading advertising of CAM services. On the one hand, recognition of the personal autonomy to adopt decisions related to health might lead to supporting the liberal position which offers minimising the legal regulation of CAM services and allowing the market to self-regulate their existence. On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that CAM services are directly related to the welfare of human physical and psychological health, and often consumers lack special knowledge and cannot adopt a competent decision. Thus, on the contrary, it can be claimed that a stricter and more thorough regulation of unconventional medicine practices should be provided, and services of unconventional medicine should be more clearly separated from the services of formal medicine. In order to solve the aforementioned problems, it is suggested to provide for a definition of the concept of CAM services, and to establish certain restrictions on advertisement of CAM services.


complementary and alternative medicine; alternative medicine; unconventional medicine; legal regulation of complementary and alternative medicine

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236