If you were to believe the Society of Homeopaths, the quacks that were handing out lethal advice to Newsnight investigators about malaria prevention, were just a few rogue and unregistered practitioners and unrepresentative of the profession.
Peter Fisher , the Director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (currently funded by the NHS) told the programme that,
I’m very angry about it because people are going to get malaria – there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won’t find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.
UK professional organisation that supports and promotes a high standard of safe, effective homeopathic practice.
Fortunately for us, we do not have to subscribe to get an idea of what the ARH promotes through this journal. We have access to a list of contents and even some sample articles. A quick scan through shows one article entitled, Silent and deadly: Prophylaxis and treatment of malaria by Theresa Partington. Luckily, the full text is available for us to view. The article views the recommended homeopathic prophylaxis and treatment options as given by ‘experts’. On prophylaxis it says,
All recommended [homepathic] prophylaxis for visitors. The ‘African’ homeopaths recommended Malaria Co Nosode 30 on a weekly basis for visitors, starting a week before arrival and continuing for a month afterwards, Jennie also recommends the concurrent use of China 30, following recommendations of Susan Curtis in ‘Alternatives to Immunisation’; Liz Hennel, who works in Nicaragua, uses Plasmodium falciparum nosode (available as a single nosode from Ainsworths) and China sulphuricum in areas where this type of malaria is prevalent, but otherwise Malaria officinalis and China.
The same type of advice is given for treatment. Shockingly, the article proudly reports how a homeopath is teaching people in high risk areas of Africa about the ‘benefits’ of homeopathy,
[Assie Pittendrigh] is working in the Great Lakes region of Africa, teaching homeopathy to local nurses and doctors who run charity clinics in the region. The project began at the end of January 2006 and has two purposes:
1) To introduce homeopathy for First Aid and Acute Diseases (her quick reference guide is being translated into the required language).
2) To run a professional clinical trial to test the effectiveness of malarial prophylaxis using homeopathy. The exact format of the trial will be agreed with the medical staff and this information will be made available as soon as is feasible.
In other words, according to Peter Fisher’s above criteria, Assie (Alison) Pittendrigh is killing people. The title of this article is ‘Silent and Deadly’. The denial of Peter Fisher, and the silence the Society of Homeopaths, and the ARH is indeed deadly.
Again, this failure to set boundaries for the profession is not limited to its views on malaria. Grace DaSilva-Hill MSc LCPH MARH MAAMET RGN has written, in the Winter 2006 edition, a two part essay on ‘Treating acutes with homeopathy’. Fortunately again, the first part is available to us to read. DaSilva-Hill discusses the use of homeopathy in serious acute conditions, when the ‘most common reaction amongst people is to take the patient to the hospital’.
She says after discussing a case of bacterial meningitis,
It requires a great deal of trust between patient and homeopath, for a serious acute to be treated solely with homeopathy.
Amazing. I would also add a great deal of stupidity, negligence and arrogance too. The only reason we do not see too many deaths from thinking like this is that the vast majority of parents would be at their GPs and casualty in a flash if a serious illness threatened their children. The danger is that a few hours delay while a homeopath picked their ‘ultra-potentized’ sweetie pills, could make all the difference between a favourable and tragic outcome. A parent taught by their homeopath that this is the safer and gentler route to health might be misplacing a lethal trust.
DaSilva-Hill pulls back from saying that she does treat without recourse to real medicine by saying,
I guess it’s the voice of my nursing background still lurking somewhere reminding me of professional accountability to a statutory body.
Her inference is thought, that others may not feel such a compunction. Homeopaths have no statutory body to make practitioners accountable.
The journal gives us another freebie article worth checking out: Vaccinations: what cost? By Christina Head. It is as if being in one area of alternative medicine, you are required to adopt a full credo of beliefs about the evils of real medicine and science. We find in this article the usual discredited MMR-autism story and a general distrust of all vaccinations. Head gives us sentence after sentence of the usual anti-vaccination canards, including,
I have in my practice about 500 unvaccinated children of all ages. They are much more straightforward to treat because they don’t have a ‘kinked up’ immune system. But they still have their inherited or acquired susceptibilities.
Treating unvaccinated children is truly creative medicine and provides a real base for good health in the future life.
Now, as you know, vaccinations have saved countless lives. But on their own do not guarantee immunity from childhood killers. A particular vaccination may only be 80% effective, say. Real protection comes when the vast majority of the infectable community are vaccinated. The infection can then not get a foothold in the population and spread. If the level of vaccination drops below a threshold, then the disease can spread, even to vaccinated children. Thus, Christina Head’s advice not only endangers the children of parents who believe this rubbish, but all children too. Peter Fisher also supposedly believes that the homeopathic community supports vaccination. Is he in touch with his community?
It is easy to be lured into believing the homeopaths’ platitudes that their practice is without side-effects and is harmless. What does not appear to be recognized, as Ben Goldacre pointed out in the Guardian last weekend, is that the effluent and discarded waste of alternative medicine is bullshit. And bullshit can be very dangerous, especially medical bullshit. Complementary medicine undoubtedly has beneficial roles in health care, but not if it is in the business of dishing out pseudoscientific nonsense, lies about real medicine and doctors, and over inflated claims about its own efficacy. Quackery kills.