Homeopathic Thought in the 21st Century

Some of you around here may have noticed that homeopaths are feeling a little threatened at the moment. Some have responded to the perceived threats with rather impolite and aggressive behaviour. Others are setting up new campaigns.

A new web site has appeared in the last few days called Homeopathy: Medicine of the 21st Century. (I won’t link to it, they do not need the Google points, but you can find it here: www.hmc21.org). Now, leaving aside the obvious mistake that they have put a 21 in their name rather than an 18, their rational for setting up the site is as follows:

H:MC21 was set up in September 2007 to inform the public about homeopathy and its relation to orthodox medicine. It will do this through research, publication and campaigning. Our first project is to counter the wave of negative publicity by collecting signatures to the following declaration.

When you go to the declaration, you are presented with the following form to describe your homeopathic experience:

For me, nothing sums up homeopathic thinking more than this. It is the blind refusal to accept anything other than that homeopathy can be a positive experience. There is no acknowledgment that homeopathy needs to have boundaries and can pose dangers, if not practiced within its limited scope. Those of us who criticise homeopathy fully acknowledge that people can have positive experiences with it: the placebo can work wonders on some minor, self-limiting conditions, and a nice hour long chat with a ‘caring’ person is a wonderful thing. That is not our complaint.

Our complaint is that homeopaths appear to lack any insight into what they are doing. There is almost no critical self-appraisal of their own work. There is widespread denigration of ‘allopathic’ real medicine and you set yourselves up as an alternative panacea without the slightest shred of reliable evidence for this, and very good reasons to think that homeopathic theory is utter nonsense. In that climate, harm will be done. People may shun effective treatments and homeopaths may attempt to manage dangerous conditions on their own. The BBC/Sense about Science report into homeopathic advice on malaria prevention was a scandal that should have galvanised the homeopathic community into action. The silence was deafening. And it gets worse, with conferences being held on the management of AIDS with homeopathy which give platforms to people who really ought to be subjected to heavy criticism because people will unnecessarily suffer and even die.

The worldwide criticism of homeopathy will not stop because homeopaths cover their ears, or worse, reach for their lawyers. It will stop when someone within the homeopathic community has the courage and leadership to tackle these issues head on. I believe that there is possibly a useful role for a homeopathic community to offer a genuine and responsible complementary therapy in the 21st Century.

But, where is that responsible and courageous leadership going to come from? Can anyone see where?

16 Comments on Homeopathic Thought in the 21st Century

  1. From the website of Michelle Shine, one of the campaign’s directors, explaining what to expect when you take a homeopathic remedy:

    “The first thing that a lot of people experience after taking a remedy is an increase in energy and well being. If this happens it is a good indication that the remedy is working… Alternatively, if you experience a worsening of symptoms, it means that the remedy has been well chosen but the potency is too high. … if absolutely nothing happens it could be that you were given the wrong remedy [or] it has acted like a key to unlock the next and more curative prescription [or] it might be that your health has improved but you have forgotten just how awful you were feeling.”

    If you get better, it means the remedy’s working. If you get worse, it means the remedy’s working. If you come down with something else, it means the remedy’s working. If nothing happens, it could well be that the remedy’s working. Given those criteria for success, I’d be amazed if any homeopath’s client couldn’t say that homeopathy worked for them.

  2. “We plan to organise a march on the 22 June 2008 to coincide with the end of Homeopathy Awareness Week. Organisers will take the complete list of names to No.10 Downing Street with the demand that the NHS honours the commitment to homeopathy enshrined in its charter, and that positive steps be taken to enable everyone who needs homeopathy to obtain it through the NHS.”

    This could be a fun thing to crash.

  3. Let’s see what the Office of Fair Trading has to say about medical products that rely on patient testimonials (and that is effectively what this petition is):

    “don’t accept testimonials or case histories from ‘satisfied customers’ as the only evidence that the product actually works” (from their “Miracle health cures” page).

    That’s all right then.

  4. On the subject of why it works, why not how, hmc21 has the following statement.

    This page should be ready soon, but there are some technical difficulties to resolve.

    Oh the irony…..

  5. Hi Andy,

    I wandered through the site and was almost convinced it was a wind-up.

    But no, put The Old Farmhouse, Filgrave into Google (the address on the website) and you are rewarded with:


    That’s your laydey and a honey to boot.

    I went to read some more, but felt the ‘red mist’ descending and had to sit in a darkened room for a bit 🙂

    Dr* T

  6. Very funny – I thought the site for Milton Keynes was delightful! The fees for the homeopathic services were stunning. 60 pounds!

  7. £60 isn’t bad at all if you’ve had an hour and half of the homoeopath’s time, and it includes the remedies. My wife had half an hour’s private consultation with a specialist (who took two phone calls from other patients during this time – I’d have deducted a sixth from his fee). He couldn’t give her any treatment or help in any way whatsoever and charged her £300!!!!!!!! A friend took her daughter to a homoeopath: the girl had a molloscum. The fee was £30 (an hour’s consultation) and after one pill the girl was healed.

  8. Anonymous: while we’re swapping anecdotal evidence, I went to a homeopath once. Very nice lady, listened very carefully to everything I had to say, then gave me some pills which did sod all. I can’t remember how much it cost (this was about 12 years ago).

    About that molloscum which the pill healed: I’m not ruling it out but do remember that “individual molluscum lesions may go away on their own and are reported as lasting generally from 6 to 8 weeks, to 2 or 3 months.”

  9. Yes, I know that about a molloscum. The girl’s GP hadn’t helped (or that was the perception), whereas the homoeopath gave satisfaction.

    Nice word, “anecdotal”. Makes it sound like it’s a fairy-story. Another, neutral, word for such evidence is “empirical”. It’s used all the time in general practice. The GP knows that a drug does certain things for which it isn’t licensed, but prescribes it anyway because empirically (i.e. in clinical practice) there are anecdotes to show it works for a particular complaint although it was tested and licensed for another.

  10. Well, that’s exactly what it is, isn’t it? It is empirical, that’s true, but it is also anecdotal.

    You state that the homeopath had given satisfaction while the GP had not. Yet you acknowledge this could have been due to coincidence. Don’t you find that confusing?

  11. Your website, whilst I’m sure it was originally set up with good intentions, feels more like “witch-hunting” rather than rational, objective thought.

    Homeopaths spend many years and thousands of pounds to train for two reasons: 1) they, like the medical profession, are driven by the desire to make others well and 2) because they beleive in their study.

    Speaking of study’s have you read this? http://homeopathyresource.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/successful-use-of-homeopathy-in-over-5-million-people-reported-from-cuba/

    Now, Cuba is where many Doctors train as they have outstanding facilities, and many doctors there are also homeopaths.

    Don’t forget that it was only in 1971 (!) that Doctors discovered how Aspirin works. Did they call it a placebo until then?

    I can only hope that those who read your site choose to make an educated decision for themselves and that we leave “Witch-hunting” to the pages of history.

    With best wishes,
    K Vernon

    • a) Studying something really really hard doesn’t make it true. I can for example study Tolkien’s languages from the Lord of the Rings universe, or the physics and technology in Star Trek. Very fascinating stuff – but at the end of the day it’s all just made up. Like homeopathy.

      b) If these people you are talking about are so passionate about medicine and helping people, why then do they not study medicine (or related subjects)?

      c) You fail to understand that the most important thing in medical science is not the precise knowledge of HOW something works but the unbiased certainty THAT something works. This is a key difference and should be kept in mind whenever the argument about how “science doesn’t have all the answers” is made. Science is pursuing the answers. But for the time being, some good trials that show the efficacy of some drug or treatment will do.


  12. Hello kmv.

    This is no witch hunt. Just a critique of the batshit nature of much thought in alternative medicne.

    Let me address your points:

    You say homeopaths train because they have good intentions and because they believe in their study. Neither of these points make homeopathy true. If they studied because of their fascination with the amazing science behind homeopathy and because of the overwhelming positive evidence for its effectiveness, you might have point. But most people have been impressed with a few anecdotes and maybe a headache or two has got better after a magic sugar pill. Their study just reinforced delusion rather than challenges it.

    And yes, I have read the cuba study – so far unpublished and basic facts and being reported that are wrong – such as “5 million”.

    You can read my detialed thoughts here…

    Hasta el Absurdo Siempre!

  13. as much as i am used to all this it disheartens me to read that a bunch of jealous so called allopaths think they are fit enough to comment on homeopathy without doin any background check.as for u all i only say that even when homeopathy was introduced there was criticism n till now it is but wat we are taught is that we should not waste our time in criticising others and insteda use the time to help patients.

  14. It is about time homeopaths started listening to some criticism. In two hundred years you have been unable to demonstarte that your sugar pills do anything. And yet you plough on regardless and support lunatic attempts to cure really sick people. Utterly irresponsible.

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