GEORGIA LEGISLATORS "DID THEIR HOMEWORK" AND FOUND NO HARM
In October, 1997, the Georgia Occupational Regulation Review Council issued its Review of Senate Bill 300 Which Proposes to Regulate Massage Therapists.2 This Review reported research, which the Council had done, and concluded:
"THERE IS NO DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE OF ACTUAL HARM TO THE PUBLIC."
"THE POTENTIAL FOR HARM TO THE PUBLIC APPEARS TO BE REMOTE AND WOULD NOT BE ALLEVIATED BY LICENSING."
The following information is taken from the Council's Review.
"In response to a staff inquiry of the Council, the Governor's' Office of Consumer Affairs researched their files for the past nine and one-half years for complaints against massage practitioners. However, they found no record of any such complaints, indicating that there were so few complaints that the Office did not establish a separate coding for massage practitioners.
"Similarly, contacts with Better Business Bureau offices around the state resulted in finding no documented complaints against massage practitioners during the year ending July 9, 1997."
"The applicant group [the Georgia AMTA Chapter] indicated that there is a potential for a massage practitioner to cause physical harm to a client if the client has undisclosed or unidentified physical problems. In their submission of information to the Council supporting regulation of massage therapists, the applicant group provided copies of a number of anonymous, individual complaints lodged against individual massage practitioners in which physical harm was believed to have resulted from a massage.
"This information, although helpful, does not suggest that widespread harm is resulting from massage therapists being unregulated for two reasons: first, many of these complaints alleged improper sexual advances which under existing law is a criminal offense. Therefore, a legal remedy already exists for these types of complaints. Second, the total number of complaints and other incidents cited is quite small when considered in comparison with the number of massages performed in Georgia in a year."
THE GEORGIA AMTA DATA
REVEAL THAT MASSAGE IS SAFE, NOT HARMFUL
"Representatives from the applicant group [the Georgia AMTA Chapter] estimated [for the legislators] that there are probably 1,000 massage practitioners in Georgia and that each practitioner performs an average of 20 massages a week. This information translates into over one million massages currently being performed during a one year period."2
The Georgia AMTA Chapter highlighted the potential danger of harm occurring by directing attention to 1,000,000 or more massages.2 But the AMTA Chapter did not present documented evidence of a single case of actual harm.
The absence of any well-documented evidence of physical harm in 1,000,000 or more massages is good evidence that massage is safe. If massage is safe, massage is not harmful. This is simple logic.
HOW HARM POPPED UP
"Senate Bill 300 is a licensing law governing all massage and somatic practitioners." It "was introduced in the Senate in 1996 and carried over to the 1997 session. It was not until spring and summer of 1997 that massage therapists not affiliated with AMTA became aware of the bill. Two small groups of concerned massage and somatic practitioners began meeting in mid-August of 1997 to discuss the bill and in September The Georgia Massage & Somatic Therapies Association [GaMSTA] was formed."1
The GaMSTA reprinted an AMTA Hand-out... entitled Support Licensure of the Profession of Massage Therapy. This AMTA Hand-out... stated:
"The practice of Massage Therapy should be regulated by the State of Georgia for various reasons." which it listed. One reason is that, "Potential physical and emotional harm can result from massage therapy performed by untrained or unethical practitioners; there are many documented cases of such harm occurring."1 The AMTA Hand-out... did not include any information about the "many documented cases of such harm" that actually occurred.
HOW AND WHY THE
GEORGIA COUNCIL REVIEWED
SENATE BILL 300
"The Georgia Occupational Regulation Review Council is required by [law] to apply the following criteria2 when evaluating whether a profession or business should be regulated:
"Whether the unregulated practice of an occupation may harm or endanger the health, safety, and welfare of citizens of the state and whether the potential for harm is recognizable and not remote;
"Whether the practice of an occupation requires specialized skill or training and whether the public needs and will benefit by assurances of initial and continuing occupational ability;
"Whether the citizens of this state are or may be effectively protected by other means; and
"Whether the overall cost effectiveness and economic impact would be positive for citiens of the state."
"Senate Bill 300, presented to the Council for review by the Chairperson of the Senate Consumer Affairs Committee, proposes to regulate message therapists. In this review the Council has assessed, based on the criteria set forth above, whether or not massage therapists should be regulated, and, if so, what is the least restrictive form of such regulation?"
"Neighboring southeastern states that currently regulate massage therapists were surveyed [by the Council] as to why they chose to regulate massage therapists and the number and nature of complaints received and disciplinary actions taken to date. The reasons for regulation most often mentioned were that the industry brought the proposal to the legislature to obtain credibility, promote professionalism and get prostitution out of massage therapy.
"As to complaints and disciplinary actions taken, the State of Florida reported receiving 199 complaints in 1993-1994, 228 in 1994-1995 and 199 in 1995-1996. They also reported 3 revocations, 1 suspension and 7 probation decisions in 1993-1994; 2 revocations, 1 suspension and 1 probation in 1994-1995; and 2 revocations, 3 suspensions and 3 probation decisions in 1995-1996.
"The nature of most of the complaints in Florida was described as continuing education violations, of sexual misconduct and establishments with sanitary violations.
"Most of the other southeastern states' regulation is quite new but their staffs indicate that to date they have received few complaints and have taken few disciplinary actions. Only one state reported receiving a complaint that a therapist had injured a client. The nature of complaints most often cited in these states was practicing without a license; and sexual misconduct."2
AN EVALUATION OF THE
Note that there were 626 complaints in Florida for the 3-year period of 1993 through 1996, that the nature of each complaint was recorded, and that none of these complaints apparently involved a client being injured by a massage therapist. However, one cannot justifiably attribute the lack of injuries in Florida to the fact that that state regulates massage because there is no documented evidence that injuries occur in states which do not regulate massage.
In Georgia, where an estimated 1,000,000 massages are given annually, there are no documented reports of harm even though Georgia does not regulate massage. Therefore Georgia does not have to regulate massage to protect the public from harm.
The other southeastern states reported only one complaint of an injury. However, we have no information as to the nature of that alleged injury, how serious it was, whether it was indeed caused by the massage therapist involved, and if so what the training and experience of the massage therapist was.
THERE'S ONLY ONE
COMPLAINT OF POSSIBLE HARM IN 19,240,000 MASSAGES
Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina have 15,343, 872, and 181 state-credentialed massage therapists and other bodyworkers, respectively.3 Let us assume that Alabama (which regulates massage but has not yet credentialed bodyworkers) has 1,000, which is the number that the Georgia AMTA assumed for Georgia; and that North Carolina (which does not regulate massage) has 181, which is the number reported for South Carolina. This gives a total of 17,577. Adding the 1,000 massage therapists in Georgia gives a total of 18,577, which we round off to 18,500. Let's assume, as the Georgia AMTA did, that "each practitioner gives an average of 20 massages per week."
THIS AMOUNTS TO A TOTAL OF 18,500 X 20 = 370,000 MASSAGES PER WEEK, AND 370,000 X 52 = 19,240,000 MASSAGES ANNUALLY.
DOES ANY STATE NEED TO REGULATE MASSAGE TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC FROM HARM IF THERE IS ONLY ONE COMPLAINT OF POSSIBLE HARM IN 19,240,000 MASSAGES?
AT THIS RATE, IF EVERY MAN, WOMAN, AND CHILD IN THE U.S. (WITH A POPULATION OF 260,000,000) GETS A MASSAGE, A TOTAL OF 14 PEOPLE MIGHT BE HARMED. AVERAGING THIS OUT MEANS THAT ONE PERSON IN EACH OF 14 STATES MIGHT BE HARMED, BUT EVERYBODY IN THE REMAINING 38 STATES WOULD BE SAFE.
THIS IS WHY MASSAGE THERAPISTS PAY SO LITTLE FOR INSURANCE.
These calculations assume there is no harm in Alabama and North Carolina. However, the numerical picture would not change significantly if there were one or two or three cases of harm in these two states.
THE GEORGIA MASSAGE &
SOMATIC THERAPIES ASSOCIATION
"The Georgia Massage & Somatic Therapies Association (GaMSTA) was organized of necessity to inform non-AMTA member massage and somatic practitioners of this pending legislation. In the process, we found that, surprisingly, many Georgia AMTA members have not seen a copy of the Senate Bill which their leadership had introduced."
"The Georgia Massage & Somatic Therapies Association (GaMSTA) is a not-for-profit association organized to represent massage and somatic practitioners regardless of modality, affiliation, or association.
"Our immediate goal is to establish a strong lobby to protect all massage and somatic practitioners from discriminatory and otherwise harmful government licensing laws, ordinances, rules and practices.
"Our aim is to form a forum in which all regulatory opinions (licensing , no licensing, registry, etc.) can be widely discussed and carefully explored. We are immediately focusing on stopping Senate Bill 300 from consideration by the Georgia Legislature (January-April 1998) to allow input from the vast majority of Georgia Massage and somatic practitioners on the issue of licensing."1
GaMSTA's ANALYSIS OF
SENATE BILL 300
"Our scope of practice would be narrowed substantially (influenced by the Physical Therapists & Chiropractors).
"Our profession would be monopolized through a regulatory board to which we would have limited access, whose agenda may be questionable and which has unlimited power. (How do we get on the board? Should school directors/owners be allowed on it? What is the time of their power?)
"The current definition will group somatic practitioners with massage therapists. (You will have to attend a massage school certified by the regulatory board in order to practice.)
"There will be additional fees and additional hoops to jump through in order to continue practicing. (The requirements are beneficial to AMTA members.) If you haven't taken the National Exam and attended a board certified massage school, you will have to do so. SB 300 makes no allowance for those individuals who have mentored or apprenticed.
"Continuing Education requirements are left up to the regulatory board.
"State licensing will not eliminate the need for a business license within county or city municipalities.
"This legislation was written for a single board - yet the legislature has indicated a single board will not be approved. This means 'massage therapists' will be put under the jurisdiction of another regulatory board (most likely the Chiropractic board) whose interests are not our own.
"SB 300 does not establish parameters for board members during appeals process. The board could delay for as long as it chooses while effectively terminating the practitioner's business until a hearing takes place."1
APPENDIX: WHAT IS "HARM"?
There are different concepts of harm. For me, "harm," in the context of this report, refers to an injury for which there is well-documented evidence which provides the following information:
1. when and where the injury occurred.
2. the nature and seriousness of the injury.
3. whether the injury was indeed caused by the massage therapist or other bodyworker; and, if so, what training and experience that practitioner had.
4. whether the injured individual sought medical treatment; and, if so, what doctor was consulted and what treatment was provided.
5. whether the injured individual initiated litigation. If so, is the above-mentioned information available as part of the court record,, and how was the litigation resolved?
1. Get Involved. Legislation is being proposed that affects your right to work in Georgia. Published by the Georgia Massage and Somatic Therapies Association. P.O. Box 905330. Atlanta, GA. 30347. 1997.
2. Georgia [State] Occupational Regulation Review Council. Review of Senate Bill 300 Which Proposes to Regulate Massage Therapists. Atlanta,. GA. October 1997.
3. Massage Magazine. p. 131. Nov/Dec 1997.