Fluoridation is not Compelled Medication
Opponents of fluoridation measures assert that allowing fluoridation of the public water supply amounts to compelling citizens to drink or ingest medication against their will, thereby resulting in a violation of their freedoms of religion and choice. Additionally, some opponents have claimed that fluoridation of water should be condemned as the unauthorized practice of medicine.
First of all, an overwhelming majority of courts have found that fluoridation is not the practice of medicine. In Chapman v. City of Shreveport, 74 So.2d 142, 146 (La. 1954), the court relied largely on the testimony of dental professionals in holding that the fluoridation of public water supplies would not be considered the practice of medicine. Several other courts have come to the same conclusion. Attaya v. Town of Gonzales, 192 So. 2d 188, 192 (La.App. 1 st. Cir. 1966); Dowell v. City Of Tulsa, 273 P.2d 859, 863 (Okla. 1954); Kaul v. City of Chehalis, 277 P.2d 352, 625 (Wash. 1955); Rogowski v. City of Detroit, 132 N.W.2d 16, 24 (Mich. 1965); Readey v. St. Louis County Water Co., 352 S.W.2d 622, 628 (Mo. 1961).
Other arguments have stemmed from the unfounded claim that fluoridation is the unauthorized practice of medicine. For example, in Dowell v. City of Tulsa, 273 P.2d 859, 863 (Okla. 1954), it was alleged that fluoridation violated the freedom of religion, presumably because it required certain citizens to submit to medication against their religious beliefs. In rejecting the argument, the court adopted the decision made in the DeAryan case that fluoridation was not the practice of medicine. Id.
Additionally, courts considering these arguments have stated that adding fluorides to the public water supply is not technically compulsion. “The United States Supreme Court, in establishing and clarifying the Constitutional right of religious and other freedoms, has distinguished between the direct compulsions imposed upon individuals, with penalties for violations, and those which are indirect or reasonably incidental to furnished service or facility.” De Aryan v. Butler, 260 P.2d 98, 102 (Cal. Ct. App. 4 th Dist. 1953). In other words, because fluoridation of public water is reasonably related to the state’s interest in protecting the public health, the resulting burden on citizens to drink the fluoridated water is considered “reasonably incidental” to the state’s justified action.
To date, no court has accepted the proposition that fluoridation of water should be considered medication. In rejecting this proposition, most courts have recognized the opinions of medical and dental professions that the addition of fluorides to public water should be viewed as a preventative mechanism, and not as medication. Because water fluoridation is not the practice of medicine, it follows that all arguments based on this suggestion should not succeed.