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.