What is a Heilpraktiker?
Heilpraktiker is a special designation to an officially recognized (in Germany) non-medical practitioner of Traditional Medicine, or naturopathy. Some heilpraktikers are also medical doctors.
Medicine has been practised by trained professionals from ancient times to the present. Early medical traditions include those of Babylon, China, Egypt and India. The Greeks went even further, introducing the concepts of medical diagnosis, prognosis, and advanced medical ethics. The Hippocratic Oath, still taken (although significantly changed from the original) by doctors up to today, was written in Greece in the 5th century BCE. In the medieval age, surgical practices inherited from the ancient masters were improved and then systematized in Rogerius's The Practice of Surgery.
With the appearance of the first occidental universities in the XI century, began the systematic training of physicians around the years 1220 in Italy. During the Renaissance, understanding of anatomy improved, and the microscope was invented. The germ theory of disease in the 19th century led to cures for many infectious diseases. Military doctors advanced the methods of trauma treatment and surgery. Public health measures were developed especially in the 19th century as the rapid growth of cities required systematic sanitary measures. Advanced research centers opened in the early 20th century, often connected with major hospitals. The mid-20th century was characterized by new biological treatments, such as antibiotics. These advancements, along with developments in chemistry, genetics, and lab technology (such as the x-ray) led to modern medicine. Medicine was heavily professionalized in the 20th century, and new careers opened to women as nurses (from the 1870s) and as physicians (especially after 1970). The 21st century is characterized by highly advanced research involving numerous fields of science. Until the 19th century both medical and non-medical experts coexisted and acted to guarantee the health care of the population. At this time ruled the system of the so-called Kurierfreiheit (curing freedom).
The development of the doctor's state began about 500 years ago with the foundation of the first occidental universities. Beside the doctors who worked above all at prince's courts and in big towns, non-medical experts acted furthermore. In the 18th and 19th century this was possible with approval and on incentive of the governments. They had to guarantee an exhaustive health care of the population. At this time ruled the system of the so-called Kurierfreiheit (curing freedom). It means the coexistence of doctor and non-medical expert. At this time the basic images of medical science in both groups have been widely the same. With the formulation of the cellular pathology by Rudolf Virchow in 1858, the philosophical basic views of medical science have separated. On the one hand the new and so-called school medicine developed. On the others rested the existing concept of Traditional Medicine, the naturopathy.
The first association for Heilpraktiker was founded at Berlin in 1903, and called Protective Alliance of Healing Experts (Schutzbund der Heilkundigen). In 1936 the first training centre for professional Heilpraktiker was founded at Munich. In 1939 it was emitted in Germany a special law /regulation for non-medical practitioners – the Heilpraktikergesetz (HPG). Nowadays the licensing to the occupation of a Heilpraktiker only can be received by a successfully taken written and verbal-practical examination carried out by the responsible health authorities. In Germany both the medical doctor and the Heilpraktiker are recognized medical professionals, and the latter can act according to the law for non-medical practitioners from 1939.
In Norway a Heilpraktiker is not recognized as a medical professional, but an alternative practitioner. In Norway and Denmark to become a Heilpraktiker it's necessary to go through a 3 years education, write a monograph describing a case and pass an oral/practical exam focused on medical knowledge, clinical examination and on when it's important to refer the patient to a medical doctor before starting any complementary treatment ( being able to recognize a serious health issue in a client ). The heilpraktiker must also be educated in anatomy, physiology, fundamentals of pathology and pharmacology including conservative treatment of diseases, first aid and law for the health sector professionals.
A heilpraktiker has usually a strong focus on homotoxicology and can make use of nutritional changes, herbal medicine, detoxification, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and a variety of other complementary and alternative treatments. A heilpraktiker does not have the cure of a disease as a goal, but the treatment of a person as a whole, complex system.