Can We Trust Homeopaths to Accredit Their Own Training?

the pills, the pills In a recent submission to the House of Commons Evidence Committee on Homeopathy, the Society of Homeopaths proudly assert that,

The Society has long been committed to the highest standards for homeopathy, having run a voluntary regulatory system for the last 30 years and a course recognition process for the last 15 years. Further, it was the first homeopathy organisation to institute a Code of Ethics & Practice. Members must meet the stringent standards of competence for clinical and administrative practice set by the Society. Consequently our members are trained to very high academic and professional standards.

The government appears to be convinced that the public can be protected by ensuring that the practitioners of pseudomedical treatments have had proper, accredited training. Setting up the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (Ofquack) is predicated on that only people who have met standards of training can be registered.

I would suggest that the exact opposite is true. That training in irrational beliefs is likely to create a more dangerous practitioner.

To highlight my concerns, I want to discuss some course notes that arrived in my post. They were sent to me by a homeopath (let me call her P) who, after a great deal of reflection, had become quite concerned about what and how she had been taught.

The notes consist of a course outline, handouts and hand-written notes and describe a series of lectures on treating cancer with homeopathy. All the courses were given by the same lecturer, let’s call him homeopath H, at a college that was one of the first accredited by the Society.

First of all, it is quite a shock to see that a homeopathy college is giving lectures on treating cancer with homeopathy. Let us remember that homeopathy is just a chat and sugar pills. One would have thought that the best a homeopath can do is be supportive of their customer when going through difficult treatments – basic tea and sympathy. We would expect the homeopath to comply with the Society’s Code of Ethics and ensure that they have a “sound, open, co-operative and professional relationship” with their customer’s GP and act within “the bounds of their legal and ethical responsibilities and competencies”.

However, my previous investigations of homeopathy in the UK would suggest the exact opposite is true; that the Code of Ethics is a mere unenforced fig leaf and that homeopaths are trained to have a huge antipathy towards real medical practitioners. Furthermore, what homeopaths say to the outside world is quite different from what they say to each other.

These course notes are a horrifying example of this. Breathtaking in their stupidity, arrogance and cruelty.

At the centre of the lectures is a detailed case history and video of the treatment of a patient with cancer. Patient J appears to be refusing to speak to his GP anymore and H starts off by advising the patient to eat organic brown rice and drink spring water “to detox as quickly as possible”. Right from the word go, the homeopath puts their customer on a very restrictive diet for nonsensical reasons.

It gets much worse.

The lectures describe the homeopath’s responses to the progression of J’s illness and why different sugar pills are selected. And it is worth remembering this as you read the notes. No matter what justifications are given for each pill selection, J will have been given just plain sugar pills: the only difference being what might have been written on the labels.

A word of warning is given to the students on the course:

It is illegal to treat cancer. Treat patients who happen to have cancer

So, the lecturer understands that as homeopaths, advertising and offering to treat cancer would be breaking the law. Never mind. Use some weasel words in a shallow attempt to circumvent such inconveniences. Now, before I go on, I would say that I fully understand and could support genuine complementary therapies helping people with cancer cope with the emotional trauma of their disease and treatments. This is not what we see here though. We see nothing complementing a patient’s treatment and nothing about just happening to treat people who may have cancer. These notes describe a direct attempt to rid J of their cancer, no matter what word trickery H tries to pull.

Indeed, the antipathy to real treatments is clear in the notes. It is even suggested that it might be the chemotherapy (Rx) that kills patients:

It is the Rx that kills them. When people choose only to be treated homeopathically – have to have strength of character to see it through – pressure from allopaths and family.

It is not clear who has to have the ‘strength of character’. No doubt the patient must have their beliefs reinforced that homeopathy will save them, but also that the homeopaths must not buckle and allow the patient to return to real treatment.

Doctors are described as ‘allopaths’, the derogatory term used by the creator of homeopathy for those that did not adhere to his methods. From its inception, homeopath was never intended to be a complementary medicine to anything. It was designed as a complete system of medicine in its own right – suitable for everything and everyone. (The Society of Homeopaths still describes its methods as such on its home page.) Worse, Samuel Hahnemann saw the cause of many diseases as being due to treatments from ‘allopaths’. These beliefs obviously continue into current courses.

The students are told that,

Cancer in unvaccinated people tends to be in older people.

Another, near universal dogma amongst homeopaths are that vaccinations are ineffective and are actually the cause of many illness. Most see a conspiracy amongst ‘allopaths’ to keep us ill and in need of their drugs. The implication in these notes is that unvaccinated people are healthier and do not get cancer until later in life. These cancers, we are told, are slower growing and due to ‘psora’ (mythical homeopathic causes of illness), not vaccines, and these types of cancer ‘don’t kill them’.

If homeopathy is so good, then homeopaths are going to need good excuses for why their treatments fail. Homeopathy has had two hundred years to come up with good excuses. Again, allopathic drugs can destroy a patients ‘vitality’. H tells his students,

Not everyone has the vitality to deal with tumours – some people reabsorb – some people form calcification around it.

For those patients who kill themselves, “most people who commit suicide have been on antidepressants.”

The lecture notes are full of details about what homeopathic remedy can be used with what cancer symptoms. You can see similar sorts of nonsense on popular homeopathy web sites, such as hpathy. Along with these remedies, there are lots of unevidenced and irrational assertions about the nature of cancer, such as,

Breasts are the seat of mothering and there is usually a mothering issue in breast cancer.

When pain continues it is usually because we are denying something. When we deal with issue, pain goes away.

These ‘emotional’ issues are important for homeopaths as they see this as being ‘holistic’. We must not think that in describing these emotional states homeopaths are attempting to treat specifically these states – no, treating these emotions is indistinguishable from treating the disease. The direct implication is if that a sugar pill remedy can counter ‘mother issues’, the breast cancer will go away.

The remedy selection also contains advice for how to treat patients who have refused to go it alone with homeopathy and are also being treated in a hospital. There are remedies to ‘strengthen the kidneys’ after chemotherapy and bizarrely,

Potentised MRI can be used after scans.

Quite what this means is at first a little difficult to fathom. However, homeopathy is not just about diluted herbs. This is an example of an one of the more bizarre remedies where an ‘intangible’ essence is captured, usually by holding some vial in the vicinity of what you wish to make a remedy from, and then carrying out your magic dilution. You can find remedies made from ‘mobile phone’, the ‘light from venus’ and ‘antimatter’. Here, the MRI scan has been capture to counteract the bad effects (whatever they are) from an MRI scan.

It gets much worse.

At some point during the treatment of J, it became clear that he had TB and that this was being treated by a dreaded ‘allopath’ with their poisonous cocktail of drugs.

The lecture notes describe the drug regime that J was on. H makes it clear that TB is a notifiable disease.

Now has TB – TB notifiable disease.

So have to have Rx by law – or can be sectioned.

TB is notifiable because it is contagious and dangerous, killing about half of untreated infected people. Very effective treatments now exist, but it takes a long time on a cocktail of drugs which can have side effects.

In the notes, H appears to conspire with the patient to only take rifampicin, which can colour urine red, and another drug which may show up in a urine test, to convince the doctors that the treatment regime was being adhered to. In place of the real therapy, J is given more homeopathy and vitamin pills. (H, the lecturer, also runs an online vitamin store.)

P’s notes simply say, “This was illegal – [H]’s conscience dictated what he did.”

You may be shocked by this and quite rightly. Taking only part of the drug regime can lead to very bad complications, such as drug resistance. Such actions stand a high chance of killing someone with TB. But, even within the world of homeopathy, such actions are explicitly forbidden by the code of ethics. We can only ask, just what does this code mean when a homeopaths ‘conscience’ so easily overrides it?

J did not get better, as you might have guessed. The case study documents the terrible pain, fear and inevitable deterioration experienced by someone essentially untreated for cancer. Eventually, J declines further homeopathic help and dies some time later.

Now, all I have here is one student’s notes from a lecture series that happened over a decade ago. The college that this took place in has since changed hands. The lecturer is now running another accredited college and has since been made a Fellow of his registration body for services to homeopathy.

But this is not the only evidence to suggest that serious disconnects are manifest between the stated code of ethics of homeopaths and the actual practice of homeopaths in their training. Blogger ‘land tim forgot’ has documented his concerns about the Allen College of Homeopathy and their approach to cancer. Again, shocking stuff. Edzard Ernst has been reported in the BMJ talking about how the Society of Homeopaths appear to break their own code of ethics on their web site by posting “speculative,” “misleading,” and “deceptive” statements.

Can we really trust homeopaths to police themselves? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. They have failed to stop the extremes in their trade that threaten lives. They refused to condemn the homeopaths caught out handing out sugar pills to prevent malaria. When the WHO issued a statement saying homeopathy should not be used for the treatment of HIV/Aids, they resorted to misleading bluster. And it appears to be not just a fringe that have dangerous views. Fundamentalist approaches to homeopathy are taught as mainstream. In discussions with P, she tells me homeopathy in the UK has become dominated with a dogmatic approach to issues and that those that might question lecturers are bullied into silence.

Homeopathy in the UK has become a pseudomedical cult where the novitiates are quickly taught not to question, where conspiracy theories about Big Pharma are used to ensure external criticism is ignored and where irresponsible practices are taught as heroic actions.

All homeopaths need is blind and ignorant faith. One line in the cancer notes chillingly stood out,

If you do not understand what is going on – trust and wait. Homeopathy is the ability to trust and wait.

And in the meantime, their patients are being denied life saving treatments. Their fears about medicine are being turned into a distrust of doctors. Their autonomy is being replaced with false hope. Their chances for a longer life are being replaced by conspiratorial fantasy. This is not complementary medicine. It is the despair of our capacity for irrationality and delusion.

On this theme…

13 Comments on Can We Trust Homeopaths to Accredit Their Own Training?

  1. How absolutely extraordinary LCN – thanks for the detailed post.

    What I find shameful is that even if such practice was uncommon (I'm willing to wager it ain't…), it shows a failure of regulation, which is not uncommon for sure as you've mentioned.

    Putting aside the question of homeopaths breaking their own ethics codes, have you or P considered that the lecture may well have broken the law? It is indeed illegal to claim to treat cancer – usually the law is applied to advertising but I wonder if it applies to teaching material too? Worth investigating I would have thought…

  2. No doubt the new OfQuack, having recently risen like a phoenix from the ashes of it's former self, will take these damning criticisms on board when it reviews all its 'disciplines' and makes sure places like these only teach evidence-based AltMed…

  3. "Edzard Ernst has been reported in the BMJ talking about how the Society of Homeopaths appear to break their own code of ethics on their web site by posting “speculative," "misleading," and "deceptive" statements."

    An interesting comment, which appears to relate to the same article, from an article in The Times:

    "Professor Edzard Ernst, director of the complementary medicine group at Exeter University, said the Journal of Medical Ethics had rejected a paper in which he had claimed homeopaths were violating their own ethical code.

    "“It was galling because they had accepted it and then their lawyer advised them not to publish on the grounds that it could risk a libel suit,” he said.

    "The article was eventually published in another journal, but Ernst claimed that many other papers he writes now have to be “toned down”."

  4. Yes. It is a good question – and I do not know, although the characters involved are still there and very high up. My guess is that, if anything, positions have entrenched further.

    If any current homeopaths are having concerns and would like to get in contact with me then I would be happy to discuss this with you and, with more up to date evidence, take appropriate action.

  5. Hi teekblog

    The reason I sent these notes to Le Canard Noir was precisely because I knew that one law, at least, was stated to be broken. Aiding someone to circumvent their TB medication. I wondered if it was possible to take action. Le Canard Noir has, in my opinion, done well to bring this into the open. These lectures used to be given annually and I would expect that they still are.

    I was concerned that other laws have been broken too. My feeling is that to do anything about these matters would require corroborative evidence. As Le Canard Noir states, if anyone else is concerned and has corroboration, even if that is oral and a witnessing, please do get in contact.

    To throw a spanner in the works, always bear in mind the possibility that he was 'selling the dream'. It is equally possible that these were stories and videos made up to sell us the wonders of homeopathy. Since that IS the story given to us, I feel it should be treated at face value; for the arrogance and disrespect for the law and public welfare that it claims.

    I affirmed to Le CN that these are the actual notes, unamended that I took on the day, and would stand by that in Court.

  6. Zero chance of this ending in court Wendy. Who could possibly sue you or the duck?
    You seem very hurt even after 10 years- I hope writing all this helps you get over it.
    I understand that you still use homeopathy? So why not try the Andy Lewis Homeopathic Remedy making method for a remedy.
    Take a bottle of blank pills. Label it Sepia 10M or Nat Mur 10M if you like (you will know what I mean)and bingo.

  7. I, also, am tempted to take a course. The problem is time and money; I've occasionally (usually while reading DC's blog) toyed with the idea of setting up some organisation where those who can spare the latter can fund those who can spare the former in an effort to uncover exactly what is going on in these courses. Amethysts emitting high yin energy is farcical, but this (and AIDS / vaccine denialism) is tragic and dangerous. It would be good if more resources could be brought to bear to uncover such teaching and practice.

  8. How about coming out with "Woo Water" containing DHMO (Dihydrogen Mono-Oxide) (see DHMO.org)? This marvelous substance recreates all the properties of homeopathic medicines in a single elixir. Truly the "Philosopher's Stone" of alt-med.

  9. Just to reiterate how extremely serious it is for a TB patient to interrupt a course of antibiotic drug treatment.

    This is worth spelling out absolutely explicitly – the resulting drug resistance does not only "stand a high chance of killing someone with TB" although that would be bad enough in the case of what is now a highly-treatable illness from which people can make pretty much a full recovery.

    Interrupting treatment also raises the possibility of allowing drug-resistant strains of the illness to enter the general population – through simple methods like coughing, sneezing or talking – and to ultimately cause a new TB epidemic. That could in turn be hard to treat with the cheapest and most effective available antibiotics.

    "In the notes, H appears to conspire with the patient to only take rifampicin, which can colour urine red, and another drug which may show up in a urine test, to convince the doctors that the treatment regime was being adhered to."

    I was also very interested in the fact that the homeopath, who presumably is contemptuous of science-based medicine, still appeared to have such a comprehensive understanding of the drug treatments that they knew how to circumvent medical checks.

    The consequences of the actions described above are severe enough if those were carried out on a single occasion and affected one individual.

    If it is established that this has happened repeeatedly, it should be sufficient grounds to get every homeopath on this bloody island shut down with immediate effect.

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