Generally, in Canada and the United States, the title of “Doctor” in a medical context is restricted to allopathic medical practitioners. In many jurisdictions, the practice of medicine is legally restricted to licensed practitioners, and only allopathic medical practitioners are given licenses. In some jurisdictions, such as Ontario, there is no longer a licensing system, but the allowance of the practice of medicine by any and all practitioners, though the carrying out of certain acts (such as surgery, injection, diagnosis and the prescription of drugs) is restricted to “regulated” health professions, again usually allopathic professions.
There is a lot of confusion as to which health professions can use the term doctor, as it is also one that is granted to anyone with a PhD in a given field, often non-medical, and some of these do practice in the medical field as well.
The main idea behind the protection of the title of “doctor” is to protect those professions considered part of the allopathic system, that is, medical doctors, and certain closely allied professions, such as psychiatrists. The key is that the public must not be led into thinking that the use of “doctor” by anyone other than an MD or equivalent means that they are being treated by an MD. This comes from the general mindset that “real” medical treatment is from MDs and anything else is a form of pretend medicine, allowed in non-serious situations, but in serious situations, the only acceptable treatment comes from an MD or equivalent.
The key is
- To make clear that one is not a “Dr.” or “Doctor” as such. For example, using the title before the name generally denotes an MD. Avoid using the title of “Dr.” or “Doctor” (before your name) and specify exactly what type of doctor is designated. In many jurisdictions doctors of naturopathy, TCM or homeopathy are specified in the designation that follows the name, so it is important to specify exactly what type of doctor is involved.
- To make clear to all patients in some form that one is not a “medical doctor” in the conventional sense, especially if asked, though generally the public is under no illusions on that score.
At the same time, the awarding of the designation to members of “Doctor of Medical Heilkunst” is to be used by each member within the laws of the state or province they practice in within the context of that practice. The determination as to the laws of each state of province is the responsibility of the practitioner member.