Surrey naturopath-turned-councillor fined, suspended from practice for campaigning as ‘physician’

Surrey Coun. Allison Patton has been fined $500 and barred from practising as a naturopath for three days after admitting she falsely campaigned as a “community physician.”

Patton has admitted that she violated the advertising policy and the bylaws of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. during her 2018 campaign for council, according to a public notice posted on the college website.

The notice says the college’s inquiry committee considers Patton’s actions “to be serious.” Naturopaths are permitted to use the title Dr. and call themselves physicians, but they must specify that they are naturopathic physicians.

In an email to CBC, Patton said the omissions during her campaign were unintentional.

“I am very proud of my professional designation, naturopathic physician, and I love the work that I do with my patients,” she said.

On top of the fine and the suspension from practice, Patton has also agreed to a reprimand and signed an undertaking saying she will not call herself a doctor without making it clear that she is a naturopath.

‘Community physician for over 17 years’

The disciplinary actions are the result of a complaint filed by a member of the public not long after Patton was elected to council in October 2018 as part of Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition.

Patton’s campaign website described her as “a community physician for over 17 years,” and she referenced her “medical practice” in a campaign video. In both cases, she did not specify that she is a naturopath.

The “community physician” label made it into at least two local news reports about the campaign and election in Surrey.

Patton has previously said she apologizes to anyone who feels they were misled by her campaign. 

In a November 2018 email, Patton wrote, “I can assure you that there was enough information out there that I was a naturopathic doctor. We can nitpick about [instances] where the information was not there.”

According to the college’s advertising policy, “Physician, as a stand-alone term, could imply another type of physician, for example an MD, even in a naturopathic setting.”

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