Look what just appeared in my inbox.
It a communication that appears to have gone out to most homeopaths in the UK, both medically trained and lay, about the current complaints against homeopaths being considered by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA have a large number of complaints to deal with as a direct result of the activities of a new pressure group called the Nightingale Collaboration. The NC was formed this year with the goal of reducing the number of misleading claims being made in advertisements by practitioners of superstitious and pseudoscientific medical therapies. Their first focus was on homeopaths and their web sites. At the same time, the ASA changed it’s remit to look at claims made on web sites. The result has been many dozens of complaints being made as a result of people taking part in the NC initiative.
So, what is important in this note?
1) Most strikingly, it is a joint and coordinated effort between doctors, vets and non-medically qualified homeopaths. The professionals have got into bed with the dangerous amateurs who vehemently claim that real medicine is an evil, vaccines kill babies and sugar pills cure AIDS. This is desperation and I would suggest completely discredits the Faculty of Homeopathy (which represents medical homeopaths) and makes them deeply irresponsible.
(Note that the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths are not included – an organisation that is not on speaking terms with other organisations and represents an even more ludicrous wing of this cult.)
2) The organisations took their lawyers into see the ASA. For what possible purpose? The ASA enforces a voluntary code of standards on bodies in the UK. Only with persistent offenders do the ASA refer to Trading Standards where criminal prosecutions may start. My guess is that this is just an intimidatory move.
3) What is missing is a recommendation for their members to comply with what the ASA is asking for. The ASA have been somewhat lenient on them so far and given them a special period for them to get their web sites in compliance with ASA guidelines. (ends next Monday) This is despite the fact that on joining the Society of Homeopaths all members must sign a code if ethics that compels them to ensure that their advertising meets CAP guidelines (as enforced by the ASA.) So the homeopaths want to fight. This blog has documented just how meaningless that code of ethics is.
4) That the homeopaths want to fight is made clear by the fact that the organisations themselves intend not to comply with the ASA requests and to challenge them. To do so, the homeopaths are trying to rubbish the House of Commons Science and Technology committee report on the evidence behind government policy on homeopathy and to produce their own dossier. That will be interesting. The MPs in their report castigated the homeopaths when they submitted their evidence to the committee for being highly selective and misleading. I doubt the ASA will fall for cherry picked substandard studies that try to support claims.
5) It would appear that the homeopaths tried to offer a BNR (But Not Really) disclaimer on their web site as is so often seen on quack web sites that to try to distance themselves from regulatory scrutiny. A claim would be made and the in the subtext some sort of weasel words that say that the claim is not medical advice or approved by any specific body. It’s childish at best and a deliberate attempt to mislead at worst.
The ASA are going to have their work cut out as homeopaths try to use their usual pseudoscience and substandard research to back up ludicrous claims that sugar pills cab treat illness. It is going to be interesting to see how this unfolds. Personally, I believe this could turn into a war of attrition until such time as homeopaths start to be prosecuted. The sooner that happens the better for all, I fear.
Homeopaths really believe they hold a sacred truth about healing. They are stuck in one of philosopher Stephen Law’s intellectual black holes. They are so surrounded by their anti-intellectual justifications and myths that there is no escape back through the event horizon of delusion and back into the real world.
And the goal of the NC campaign is to stop other people falling through that trap into a world beyond reason.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR HOMEOPATHS ON ASA
Status with Advertising Standards Authority following
meeting of 23 June 2011
The Society, Faculty and BHA along with our lawyer and
representative from our communications firm met with three
representatives from the ASA late Thursday to discuss
their guidelines to homeopaths about advertising.
The profession has opened a dialogue with the ASA but they
are not going to be easily shifted from their positions,
and they will not stop the course of action they have
already set in motion. What was gained from the meeting
are the following:
. Agreement by the ASA to consider our proposal for a
proper evaluation of the evidence in homeopathy, which we
will send to them by 1 July.
. To meet and work with one named person from the CAP
(Committee of Advertising Practice) team to develop a
vocabulary for use in websites that is appropriate and
useful for our professions and meets the Code.
We will therefore be following up these developments
directly with the ASA along with professional advice.
However, if you have received a letter from the ASA for
action by 1 July:
. In the short-term the ASA are not shifting their
position on the evidence. We have made clear this is not
acceptable given that they are inappropriately using a
non-scientific document (House of Commons Science and
Technology Committee Evidence Check Report) as
. The ASA have made clear that, from 4th July, they will
be reviewing and reassessing websites that were complained
about to see if modifications have been made.
. If you have made some but not all changes required, you
will be sent a second letter from the ASA.
. If you receive a second letter from the ASA, contact
your registering body immediately.
As a profession we wish to comply with the ASA and CAP
guidance on advertising so it is “legal, decent, honest
and truthful.” However, we are very prepared to defend
wording that is appropriately referenced to the evidence
base that does exist.
Unfortunately, the ASA made it clear that they do not see
merit in developing a disclaimer that would go on all
websites, as it would not change the fact that other
statements within the websites are not ‘compliant’.
However, we can take heart in the fact that the ASA are
willing to consider alternatives to its current blanket
approach to the research evidence (in which it applies the
Science and Technology Committee Evidence Check Report as
the final word).
We were told at the meeting that a number of complaints
have been made about organisational websites, particularly
the BHA, Faculty of Homeopathy and Society of Homeopaths.
These organisations will respond to these complaints with
a robust supply of evidence, and hope that through that
process we will gain further clarity on specific wording
that is acceptable to the ASA investigations team.
Naturally we will keep you posted.
Next steps will be shared as soon as possible but it is
very clear that as a profession we must be thoughtful and
strategic in response and not reactionary. A dialogue has
been initiated with the ASA, and that in itself is a
I’m still wondering if MacLaurin Media might be the Communications company involved. It seems they had a meeting with the British Homeopathic Association at least, though of course that doesn’t mean that one organisation’s PR company is necessarily the comms company for this joint effort. Also my only ‘evidence’ is a tweet 😉
There are a couple of things going on here which concern me. One is the idea of working with the copy advice team on a form of words that is “helpful” (i.e. allows them to pretend to be something other than placebo). The other is a supposed review of the evidence which will not, as far as I can tell, solicit input form anyone other then believers. We know of old how homeopaths will cite as evidence things which have been shown multiple times to be false (e.g. Benveniste).
I think the Nightingale Collaboration should write to ASA saying they are aware of this email, and alerting ASA to the history of homeopaths of using a blizzard of anecdote, misrepresentation and multiply-refuted claims, and noting the WHO statement re serious disease.
They are presumably already aware of the “selective approaches to the treatment of the evidence base” that have been used by homoeopaths.
So, they took their legal advisor to this meeting – I think it’s safe to assume they wanted to question the authority the ASA has over them. I think it’s telling that there is no mention in the email of any legal matters discussed, or, even if they were discussed, that they were able to influence the ASA!
Guy: I share your concerns and it’s already half written!
“the goal of the NC campaign is to stop other people falling through that trap into a world beyond reason”
We’re all already trapped in a world beyond reason. Bernie Madoff is probably going to spend most or all of the rest of his life in jail, and all he did is hurt some peoples’ wallets. Why the fuck wallet *and* health hurting – sometimes to the point of ‘murder’ – quackery is not only legal but widely explicitly or implicitly¹ endorsed by ethics-illiterate morons is a goddamn mystery to me.
¹ “It’s a self-imposed tax on the gullible”, according to Ben Goldacre and others.
Some people were cleaned out of their savings, had their retirement or children’s college plans reduced to ashes and at least two suicides are attributed to Bernard Madoff, including one of his sons. That’s “all he did”.
None of this is a free pass for homeopathy, by the way.
Right. Apologies to Madoff victims. I should’ve at least put scare quotes round the second “all”.
i kind of get the feeling that the regulatory boodies have once again failed. They obviously have no idea how their members are advertising their practice and homeopathy, or even care. if they did know what people can legally claim they they would have said so long ago or said so now. it looks like they are going to throw a lot of evidence to the ASA and see what they say they claim legally. The fact that they thought a disclaimer at the bottom would be enough to satisfy the ASA just shows what they realy care about as they are not bothered about noncompliant claims appearing on the same page.
I think the medical profession should finally admit the truth, the naked but unpalatable truth that homeopathy treats and cures practically all ailments and diseases and that perhaps only ten percent of the population needs the medical profession. Here is the proof.
You all know the principles of homeopathy, a substance causing the same symptoms as the illness is diluted, the more the dilution, the stronger the effect. It is not the substance but the memory of the substance in the water that effect the cure. In the last few generations, there has been a major impetus from the medical and health professions to drink lots of water. This was actually a secret cabal of homeopathists that sneaked into the profession and did this sterling work. They knew water is almost indestructible, that water from the time of creation is still raining down on us today, that every substance known to man has been dissolved in it and that water is one. The drop of rain that fall on you today in England may fall next week in China and run down an American sewer the week after. And the proof of that is right in front of your eyes if you would only admit it, 90% of people are healthy. All that remains for you to do is give your thanks to homeopathy, they have done their work, you have yours. That poor unfortunate 10% that could not be cured by homeopathic means. It is understandable that they hate the thought of having failed in some cases, but it is not failure, assure them, 90% success is enough to be proud of.