– Physician, Secretary General Emeritus of the Conseil National de l’Ordre des Médecins (National Council of the Order of Doctors)
– Member of the Steering Committee of MIVILUDES (Mission Interministérielle de Vigilance et de Lutte contre les Dérives Sectaires – Interministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combating sectarian Deviations)

The Order of French Doctors faced with cults and their relationship with unproven medical practices

  • Dr. Grunwald started by recalling the main development witnessed as regards aspects of cults linked with health in France.
    • He first of all recognised the growth of sectarian deviations within the healthcare sector. This development is exemplified in the wide diversification of activities and the growing complexity of ideas of illness and health. It is also exemplified by structural developments, which can be seen more and more as revolving around a “therapist/guru/accompanying aide”.
    • He then noted that a number of kinds of medical practice were being used, rather than just one, with two trends developing: criticism/opposition to official modern medicine, and the employment of “unproven medical practices”.
    • Finally, he spoke about the different parties working in the field of healthcare, putting an emphasis on self-qualified and self-declared practitioners.
  • The speaker then described the four main kinds of action developed by the Council of the Order of Doctors.
    • The Council studies every situation it comes across on a case-by-case basis, refusing to group them together. It tries to measure the harm and danger presented by certain practices and prescriptions. It also tries to make a distinction between the medical practice and the doctor’s opinion.
    • The Council of the Order of Doctors carries out a jurisdictional function in cases where medical practice does not comply with the Medical Code of Practice. Decisions made by the disciplinary chambers mainly deal with article 39, forbidding charlatanism, and article 40, forbidding doctors to make patients run unjustifiable risks.
    • He stated that complaints are not frequent and are often made by the victims’ friends and families, they are anyway worrying.
    • The Council is also a source of information, mainly disseminated through its bulletin.
    • The Council takes steps through taking part in actions instigated by public authorities (eg: MIVILUDES). Furthermore, Dr. GRUNWALD stated that the law of 12th June 2001, known as the About-Picard law punishing the abuse of weakness, could be applicable within the health sector.
  • During the final part of his presentation, the speaker raised some particular lines of questioning:
    • The need to clarify the nebulous titles of healthcare professionals.
    • The problem posed by misleading advertisements.
    • The attitude to take in the case of a refusal of a vaccination or blood transfusion. As regards blood transfusion, the different options depending on whether it is for a minor or an adult. For adults, case law confirms the dilemma between respecting the patient’s wishes, and the obligation to help a person in danger.
    • Dr. GRUNWALD finally concluded with two of the sociological realities currently coexisting in the health sector: the development of new possibilities of taking people into care, and the fantasy of bliss and total power propagated by cults and certain medical practices.

Debate: As regards the law of 12th June 2001, article 223-15, another member of MIVILUDES, Mrs. Marie-José AUBE-LOTTE, Magistrate, stated that at the end of October 2003, eight procedures (three preliminary inquiries and five judicial inquiries) were entered into the records.