I am officially bored by the Society of Homeopaths. But just when I thought it could not get worse, that cheeky monkey Gimpy
just had to keep digging.
On his blog
, Gimpy summarized his investigations into Ralf Jeutter, a Director of the Society of Homeopaths, who is offering homeopathic immunisation
on his website against dangerous travellers’ diseases, including cholera, malaria, yellow fever, tetanus and typhoid. He also, rather disgustingly, offers children’s’ immunisation programmes for many things including measles, mumps and meningitis.
It goes without saying that anyone following such a programme seriously imperils their own health and that of their children. What does this show? It is what we suspected: the Society of Homeopaths refusal to discipline its members over dangerous practices, its refusal to state categorically its opposition to homeopathic malarial treatment, and its willingness to be ‘misleading’
in its press statements is all because they really believe that their magic water can stop you getting malaria, or rid you of AIDS . But we knew that. Their AIDS symposium in London is a shockingly irresponsible
act in itself. Their refusal to discipline any member over their advice about malaria was not an attempt at cover up and the protection of a Fellow of their society. It is not even a whitewash of all their members’ transgression of their rules. It really just looks like the only thing that is important is allowing their directors, Fellows and Members to believe whatever they like.
And as such, they appear to present two faces to the world. One in private to their members and customers, the other in public on their press releases, to MPs and to anyone else with a slightly sceptical mindset. With such complex double-think, there is bound to be some incongruity in their statements.
For example, when they say,
The Society of Homeopaths, the UK’s largest register of professional homeopaths, acknowledges that malaria is a serious and life-threatening condition and that there is currently no peer reviewed research to support the use of homeopathy as an anti-malarial treatment.
that may sound like a good start. But, the problem is that, to a homeopath, this is neither here nor there. Remember, there is currently no sound peer-reviewed research that supports the homeopathic treatment of any condition. Even the favourite meta-analysis of homeopaths (Lancet, 1997
) concluded, “we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition”. So, homeopaths practice without good scientific evidence for any condition. If the above statement was intended to caution homeopaths, they would all have to shut up shop tomorrow. Such statement sound sensible and cautious to the outside world, but obviously their directors pay no attention to it.
People have asked me what can be done about this situation in order to protect the public. It is a hard problem.
Firstly, as we have seen above, even your most senior homeopath has a near religious belief in homeopathy as a real panacea and genuine alternative to the ‘corrupt allopathic’ medical approach. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, apparently came to his revelation through experiments
with ‘Peruvian Bark’ for the treatment of malaria. Malaria was subject to the first homeopathic ‘cure’. For any homeopaths’ body to turn around and say to its members that they should not attempt to treat or prevent malaria would undoubtedly jar with their members’ strongly held beliefs, undermine the foundation of their training and practice, and create a grassroots revolt.
Which brings me onto my second point. The Society of Homeopaths do not have a monopoly over their membership. There are about ten organisations in the UK that claim to provide ‘professional’ promotion, registration and regulation services for homeopaths. And there is currently internecine war between the two largest bodies, ARH
, with insults and allegations being slung about regarding alleged ‘attempts to discredit’, ‘unethical behaviour’ and member poaching. The ARH said
of the SoH,
SoH has sent out inaccurate and defamatory information to ARH members to coincide with ARH membership renewals. This communication has been accompanied by information and registering documents inviting ARH registered members to join SoH. This at the very least, constitutes unethical behaviour.
[T]he SoH’s recent actions suggest that they are more concerned about preserving their own position of power within the profession, than representing the actual needs of practising homeopaths.
In this climate, any organisation that takes a hard and unpopular stance with its members will push registration fees into the hands of their more lax arch rivals for homeopathic power. I feel for them. The reason the ten organisations cannot merge, despite their attempts at creating a single register, is not just because of squabbling about money and members. It is because they are denominational in their beliefs about homeopathy. And without a scientific method to determine who might be right, they will stay as forever divided as any religious fighting sects.
I am not an advocate of heavy handed legislation to sort this out. But maybe only allowing registered medical professionals to prescribe homeopathic preparations would indeed protect the public. The Faculty of Homeopaths (doctors who use homeopathy) have indeed been much more responsible
in their statements. They can be struck off by the GMC if they do something stupid. The non-medical membership of the Society of Homeopaths could be prosecuted for offering medical treatment without a license. Such a regime exists in many countries, such as France. Maybe there is merit in ring-fencing homeopathic treatment within the NHS. I am not convinced and I think such a move would be very hard to achieve. And, as I have said before
, NHS Homeopathic hospitals are doomed, with or without support from MPs.
As with all things, and although it will be imperfect, raising awareness is always the best option. I would hope that anyone who has dipped into this scandal will think twice about consulting a homeopath, no matter how dissatisfied with their GP they might be. Hopefully we are just seeing a current fashion for homeopathy that will fade as people realise what they are dealing with. Maybe in a decade’s time, we might have to look in a far flung tee-pee in the healing fields at Glastonbury to see a real life homeopath – between the ‘special’ fudge sellers and fairy-wing wearing crystal lay line diviners.