Legalities of Healing:Handling Alterities at the Edge of Medicine in France, 1980s–2010s

Cloatre, Emilie and Urquiza-Haas, Nayeli and Ashworth, Michael (2021) Legalities of Healing:Handling Alterities at the Edge of Medicine in France, 1980s–2010s. Osiris, 36. pp. 328-348. ISSN 0369-7827

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The practice of healing by anyone other than qualified doctors or pharmacists has been allegedly illegal in France since the nineteenth century. At that time, the state delegated the power to oversee the boundaries of medicine to doctors and pharmacists, allowing them, with support from criminal courts, to determine which therapeutic techniques should remain their exclusive right. In practice, this apparently neat legal system was never clear-cut; therapists without medical qualifications continued to infringe upon spaces that doctors and pharmacists saw as their preserve, often carving out zones of juridical tolerance. In the 1980s and 1990s, negotiations over the legality or illegality of different kinds of healing intensified. Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and herbalism, had gained in popularity, and their practitioners were keen to negotiate a legal position that would make their work licit. While some succeeded, others got entangled in a new governmental framework that characterized alternative medicines as gateways to “sects.” This article examines these developments and explains how new juridical techniques to govern certain therapies arose in the 1990s. These operated through decentralized surveillance systems that enrolled new actors. These included agencies dedicated to monitoring sects; associations of victims; and individuals such as users, their families, or health professionals. Together, they aimed to “prevent” deviant behavior, thereby fostering what is today one of the most peculiar features of the way the French state regulates alternative healing, which it considers potentially “cult-like.”

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23 Feb 2023 15:40
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19 Sep 2023 02:58