The New Age Medicine of Prince Charles


Imagine the not too distant future. You book an appointment with your GP, as you have had a persistent and bad headache for a while now, and before you talk to the doctor, you are encouraged to see a number of in-house ‘experts’ who take your pulse on your wrists and feet, examine the patterns in your irises and look at your tongue. You are given a cinnamon paste to rub on your forehead and then advised to see the in house osteopath. The osteopath uses his special sense of touch to realise that your headaches are due to an old ankle injury and encourages you to sign up to several months worth of ‘manipulation’ to sort the problem out.

If you are lucky, your headaches will clear up anyway. If you are unlucky, and have a serious medical problem developing, you are now several months down the line without a proper diagnosis.

All this has been possible because the new GP commissioning rules have allowed much more freedom for GPs to provide services that their patient base ‘demand’. And the demand is being fuelled by the powerful influence of our future head of state, Prince Charles. Indeed, the vision I have written above is explicitly set out in his new book, Harmony.

Max Hastings wrote an astonishing article in the Daily Mail yesterday saying that Prince Charles was ‘too dangerous to be King.’ Hastings identifies Charles’s almost messianic belief in various issues and his need to speak out as being a great threat to the role of the monarchy. Whether Charles is right or wrong – it does not matter, the institution of monarchy must be respected for what it is and not what it says and does, argues Hastings.

But, as is quite clear in Harmony, Charles is very wrong about a large number of things. And his inability to engage with criticism, combined with his desire to lobby for change through the powerful role of his office, make him exceedingly dangerous.

Harmony is a full frontal assault on enlightenment values. It explicitly argues that we must return to a more intuitive, spiritual and ‘natural’ way of viewing the world and we should be treating with high caution the ‘mechanistic thinking’ of science.

The book is a New Age manifesto that champions the key themes of this movement: a belief in the superiority of ‘ancient wisdom’; the innate goodness of Nature; the rejection of empirical knowledge and reason, and the superiority of faith, intuition and spirituality.

And as with so many other New Age writers, whilst rejecting science, he uses Quantum Theory to justify his position,

Despite the incredible leaps that Quantum Mechanics and Particle Physics and the lessons on the inter – connectivity of matter they so readily offer us, it still appears odd that many people seem not to have a knowledge of these things.

Whilst begrudgingly acknowledging that science may have some uses, he sets out to undermine science as an arbiter of truth,

The language of empiricism is now so much in the ascendant that it has authority over any other way of looking at the world. It decides whether those other ways of looking at things stand up to its tests and therefore whether they are right or wrong. [emphasis as in original]

Science has excluded our “spiritual relationship with Nature” whatever that means and has stopped us using intuitive views of nature,

Even many people in the West fail to recognize that so much modern science is not simply an ‘objective’ knowledge of Nature, but is based upon a particular way of thinking about existence and  geared to the ambition to gain dominion over Nature. The way in which this has happened has a lot to do with the numbing of our vital inborn or ‘inner tutor’, the so-called human ‘intuition’.

His arguments are childlike in their approach: “How can you explain love?” He sees scientists has claiming to explain everything and shutting people out of their spirituality. And he accuses scientists into misleading us that science can explain everything – a straightforward strawman. Science, for Charles, is what is stopping us from returning to living in harmony with nature – the theme of the book. His vision will not happen because, as he says,

[It] is hardly likely to happen as long as scientific rationalism continues to turn people away from any form of spiritual practice or reflection by perpetuating what seems to me to be a widespread confusion.

It is therefore no surprise to see Charles call for a greater role for quackery in public health.

Indeed, the book makes the greater public funding of pseudoscientific medicine his explicit aim –although, of course, he prefers to talk about ‘complementary’, ‘integrated’ and ‘holistic’ medicine.

He argues that,

healthcare budgets could make more use of alternative approaches. Whenever that are made available there is always good take up.

He uses the Duchy model village of Poundbury in Dorset as an example of what he wants. The private women’s health clinic in Poundbury, run by Michael Dooley, offers a range of quack treatments, including acupuncture, reflexology and craniosacral therapy. Prince Charles tells us that there is also a professional homeopath available. Dooley specialises in infertility treatments. There are no good reasons to suppose these superstitious treatments have any specific effects on fertility and, indeed, lots to believe it is all plain nonsense.

Charles, naturally, defends his favourite quackery, homeopathy. And he tells us that defending homeopathy has been ‘a very frustrating business’. Indeed, he is quite aware that scientists are telling him that homeopathy is a ‘trick of the mind’ and that the pills are just sugar. However, he resorts to using the ‘it works on animals’ canard to defend homeopathy. Charles introduced homeopathy to his Duchy Home Farm (now supplying Waitrose through the Duchy Originals brand), and claims his staff, who ‘had no views either way’, reported animals getting better. Charles, despite his dislike of reductionist science, then asserts there are trials of homeopathy supporting this view and so he says “I wonder what prevents the medical profession from considering the evidence?”. Charles believes if it is a trick of the mind then he must have “some very clever cows in my shed!”.

Now, lets leave aside the fact that it is illegal for anyone but a vet to prescribe and treat sick animals. Also, I have no desire to dispute the intelligence of his cows. However, the herdsmanship, intelligence and knowledge of his farm management must be called into question. Charles and his staff are falling for the common fallacy that the placebo effect is all about the mind genuinely tricking the body into getting better. In fact, placebos deceive by creating beliefs and expectations that are then reinforced by natural processes such as variation in symptom severity, the natural course of illness and biases such as confirmation bias and misinterpretation of coincidence. The tricks are going on in the minds of his farm staff and not in the cows. Scientific trials of homeopathic treatment of cattle are not conclusively positive either and marginal results are used by homeopaths to mislead people into accepting its legitimacy.

Osteopathy also appears to be a favourite of Charles. He tells us that osteopaths have a special skill of touch by which they can diagnose problems of imbalance in the body. He describes how an osteopath might relate an old ankle injury to recurring headaches and then use the manipulation skills of the osteopath to restore harmony to the body. Its all utter nonsense, but somehow the rhetoric of osteopathic wellness resonates with his New Age views.

And most bizarrely, he tells us that ‘in consultation with experts’ that ancient diagnostic techniques of examining the iris, ears, tongue and other parts of the body, can pick up subtle clues to illness that modern technology misses. He says that modern technology is missing out on the medical wisdom of thousands of years in relying on its reductionist approach and not taking a ‘holistic’ view. He appears to be quite convinced that an Indian Ayurvedic approach to medical diagnosis can improve the reliability of modern medical techniques.

Now, such diagnostic techniques are often used by quacks to tell customers they have a made-up problem, like an imbalance in chakras, blocked chi, a subluxation, a vitamin deficiency and so on, and that their herbs, supplement pills, massage and diet are the way to cure it. When the patient eventually gets better (as people do, for a wide range of illnesses), the quack can claim success for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Charles also makes the mistake of thinking most of these techniques have roots in ancient cultures. For example, iris examination, or iridology, was invented by a Hungarian called Ignatz von Peczely in the 19th Century who noticed that an owl with a broken leg had a mark in its eye. He therefore concluded that looking for marks in the eye could diagnose illnesses in other parts of the body. Such techniques, such as iridology and reflexology, despite being relatively modern western inventions have been co-opted back into ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’ and can be found on the High Street with authentic looking ancient Chinese medical charts.

It would be nice to sit back and laugh at the absurd beliefs of this crank. However, Charles is no ordinary crank. He has direct access to government ministers and is prolific in his letter writing to them. He directly lobbies the Health department about these beliefs and he has the capacity to greatly reward those that comply with his wishes. And coupled with his reported dislike of criticism, he has great capacity to undermine not only public health, but the entire standing os science within government.

The poet Ben Jonson said, “They say Princes learn no art truly, but the art of horsemanship. The reason is, the brave beast is no flatterer. He will throw a prince as soon as his groom.” The Prince’s ability to surround himself with toad eating flatterers means that his absurd views of medicine cannot be directly challenged. But I fear this is a Prince that needs to be thrown from the saddle of quackery, otherwise we can expect huge damage to the role of science within public life.

You can read the Introductory Chapter to Harmony here.

62 Comments on The New Age Medicine of Prince Charles

  1. Thanks for the great post. This is actually really terrifying. Already so many people are misguided by the advice on holistic remedies and do not realise the potential dangers. If a figure as prominent of Prince Charles professes quackery as successful and enforces it in mainstream healthcare, that could be lethal just like it was in this case

    This is all particularly worrying when also considering the government’s plan to remove the statutory minimum of scientists on the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs – this country is going backwards and it seems it’s all being taken out of our hands.

  2. Neither an elected nor an inherited position guarantees competence in anything, especially as complex and confusing as medical science. Given the access to the best care, it is strange that some in high positions will opt for suboptimal options.

    I wonder what motivates Prince Charles to so highly value the alt-med community. It is also interesting that he is so passionate about his promotion of it. None of the base motivations apply. I assume his general good health has never led him to seek serious treatment from the alt-med community. So the question is, “WHY”?

    Does anyone know?

    • He actually does benefit from consultations with homeopaths. Of course it’s the placebo effects – and the problems are psychological. But he can’t say “I’m a bit of a worrier and getting stressed out – I need help.” Instead he has “homeopathy” for a cold or sommat like that. And he feels better1

      Doctors call it TLC.

      Your mum might call it “having a huggie”.

  3. “I wonder what motivates Prince Charles to so highly value the alt-med community. It is also interesting that he is so passionate about his promotion of it. None of the base motivations apply. I assume his general good health has never led him to seek serious treatment from the alt-med community. So the question is, “WHY”?”

    No I don’t know however it seems to me that:-

    I have read many, many comments on Zeno’s and other Rationalist web sites written by clueless yet passionate woo-ists. It just seems to go naturally with the religion of woo. Irrational belief seems to readily flow into irrational conviction and evangelism based on nothing at all.

    That someone of such apparent influence, even though I thought we were a parliamentary democracy, is aggressivly peddling this rubbish is enough to turn me into a convinced Republican. The subversion of a significant fraction of the population into anti-science seems to be too high a price to pay for the presence of what amounts to a tourist attraction in London. Off with their heads! (PS The last sentence is a metaphoric reference to the French Revolution and is not intended to be interpreted literally.)

  4. “I wonder what motivates Prince Charles to so highly value the alt-med community”

    Alt.Med. = Paternalism + Bullshit

    Monarchy = ………… + …………..

    Anyone care to fill in the spaces?

  5. I loved this post. Especially seen in the light that Homeopaths love to use Charles as their “proof” for the “efficacy” of their pseudo science.

  6. Many people have deep seated psychological problems which give rise to emotional states they find it hard to talk about.

    For some, these problems can be thought of as being pathological, part of a distinct disease entity. By defining such psychological states as such, understanding of them can be refined, and slowly, oh so slowly, rational treatments devised.

    For others, their psychological states are not pathological,simply at one end of what we might think of as a “normal” spectrum. The curve in a statistical sense is not a bell shaped normal distribution but skewed, as most people are to the right, not in the centre. That is, if the x axis represents a vague measure of intellect, reasoning ability, intellengence, insight, wisdom.

    The folks left behind to the left of the distribution are still “normal” in a general non-statistical sense, but simply out of touch, old-fashioned, lacking modern insights, and failures who have not moved forward with the times.

    They probably realise this in their heart of hearts, but cannot bring themselves to admit so. They like to have the affirmation and appropriation of like minded folk, and to feel they, and their opinions, are of value. Don’t we all. That is the way animals evolved.

    They certainly cannot admit to needing any form of counselling. Those treatments stll have too much stigmata. Particularly for folks in the public eye. But if they do have any ‘little niggles’, an hour or so with a homeopath or acupuncturist will allow those deeper problems to be quietly assessed, even dealt with, under the umberella of have a ‘remedy’ for some more personal psychological problem.

    You and I might be able to fess up and be honest about our health, and psychological status, but others just find it all too difficult. By enveloping themselves in the Cloak of Woo, they are able to have some satisfaction and well being.

    They deserve our sympathy and understanding.

    They can of course have their own private vies and beliefs, but
    if they seek to influence other patients and folks in need of succour, then they should be held to account in the Court of Public Opinion. They should be prepared to offer evidence for the beliefs they hold and to debate their views publically.

    Max Hastings seems prepared for such an honest open debate. So should all be if they want to be taken seriously. Or else they run the risk of being laughed out of court and being permanently damaged in the public eye as being willfully foolish and not worthy of holding any high office.

    Thank goodness we live in a society where these issues can be openly debated. But all who are seriously interested in the debate must enter into it freely and whole heartedly, and not hide behind their mother’s skirts.

  7. It is shocking that firstly someone could have such absurd beliefs (as with other believers in alternative “medicine”) and secondly that such a person can hold an influential position with the capability to make things worse for everyone. The sooner we get this country sorted into a Republic, the better. Then there will be no more privileged influence on the government and hopefully less danger of ideas like this becoming instituted into healthcare.

  8. I’ve only just read PC’s book title properly.

    “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at the World.”

    No it’s not. It the same old way little advanced from the times of Aristotle, Galen and their ilk.

    Should PC be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority for seeking to mislead and pass off?

    Even if ASA did not act, there might be some media traction in the fact he had been reported.

    Can any onbe take this up?

    Mr Duck?

    Merry Ecezemas every one!

    • Ha! You are absolutely right, it is the same old way of looking at the world; sadly I think the ASA would never take such a case seriously… and anyway, people are allowed to title their books as they wish.
      I think the one thing that irks me the most in all this is the fact that PC had access to a great education (or at least potentially a great education– certainly he went to private schools and university), and yet even he is subject to pseudo-science. Oughtn’t he have been encouraged to study things that actually exist?
      I guess it comes down to that age-old question– can an old dog learn new tricks? Can an old man be taught science and reason?

  9. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs but a person in Charles’ position should not be trying to hawk such quackery in public. Vulnerable folk could well end up with medical problems not being diagnosed and treated properly at an early stage. In my book, this waffle comes under the same category as faith healers, who are also preying on a gullible section of the public in my opinion.

  10. Sorry to be back, but I’ve just read the opening page of PC’s book – helpfully provided by Mr Duck. (When I recently saw a copy on the ‘remainder’ table of a bookeseller, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase a copy).

    Please note the very first words:

    “Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”

    Now, frankly that is misleading. The full quote from “As You Like It” act two, scene one, 12-17 is:

    Duke Senior:

    “Sweet are the uses of adversity,
    Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
    Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
    And this our life,excempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in every thing”

    I am indebted to for their commentary:

    The Duke is describing the world view he’s been forced to adopt now that he’s been deposed and exiled by his villainous brother-this is the “adversity” for which he has found “Sweet uses”. By “uses,” the Duke means “profits.” He compares his seeming suffering-for example, exposure to the elements-to an ugly toad, which legendarily had a “precious jewel” with healing qualities embedded in its temple. The jewel he discovers in his condition-its profit-is freedom from “public haunt,” or society. The Duke concludes that nature “speaks” more eloquently and truly than tongues, books, and sermons; stones turn out to be better company than courtiers.

    Our Duke certainly seems influenced by toads and I’m not surprised he finds nature speaking more eloquently than his courtiers. He obviously also feels his life should be exempt from public scrutiny. Which it would be, if only he did not seek to influence public opinion.

  11. Ironically the conclusion of the second paragraph is also quite likely via the GP route and has happened on more than one occasion.

    For something as common as a headache anyone who gets anything like a considered diagnosis from their GP as opposed to an educated guess based on general probablities is doing well.

    In this instance it’s probably not a good example.

  12. The hunting, farming prince could indeed listen to the voice of nature: the luckless animals he victimises begging for their lives. Or isn’t that part of the “Harmony” picture?

  13. Leaving aside the question of Charles’ influence as a Royal for now, I think the wider question is why so many members of the public have little trust in science, and value woo so much. Unfortunately, I do think that some messianic rationalists have the effect of repelling ordinary people. There is a certain arrogance among some rationalists; mockery of ordinary people and their beliefs is not helpful. As scientists, we need to be a little more humble in pointing to real evidence as opposed to irrational belief, and a bit less strident. And I am not convinced philosophically that science either has all the answers, or will at some time in the future have all the answers; we need to be clearer as to the limitations of the scientific method.

    • Of course the scientific method has its limitations. Of course science doesn’t have all the answers. And, of course, it never will. But it is the only way we will ever know anything. And we do know some things and we know that some ideas are incompatible with the things we do know. And when such ideas are really too stupid to be worth a considered response, the best response is often ridicule.

    • I agree completely. I sometimes hear that certain tone in my voice (I’m sure you all know the one I mean), and I know very well that it shouldn’t be there. I don’t want to sound condescending, but sometimes it just happens anyway. Science is full of laughter and tears and the most exciting, heroic and eccentric characters, and we should endeavour to make it look that way, because that is the way it is.
      Also, I would like to make a suggestion that we send the good Prince a book of our own: Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World (Science as a Candle in the Dark). I think he would benefit from reading that– as we all would.
      Seriously, that book should be mandatory reading i high schools, rather than The Chrysalids or what have you.

  14. Thank you for ruining 30 minutes of my life by including the link to the first chapter.

    Rationalists by their nature should be suspect of an agenda led critique by a site devoted to quackery. Rationalists should not let themselves be constrained by the long turgid tradition of joojoo fruitcakery evangelised by our heir apparent.

    No, this time it could be different. Charles could really have had a true revelation and have a global solution. Well if you google reviews – most of the US based eco/green establishment say just that.

    Wrong. It is just much more of the same or even worse. That Charles becomes head of state may be unhelpful but it illustrates the future of our planet may be as much at risk from people who switch their critical faculties off because the book has all the sustainable, organic, natural order terminology associated with a new age approach to global warming.

    About as helpful as an Exxon Ad.

  15. Another great article Andy.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge had many interesting things to say about human nature. Here’s one in which Christianity can be replaced by many belief systems:

    ‘He who begins by loving Christianity more than Truth, will proceed by loving his sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all’.

    I got this from Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography, the single edition published by Routledge, page 587.

    It always amazes me how people have a belief in something and then try and find things to justify their beliefs. I used to find the most extraordinary the convoluted and illogical arguments for the existence of God, based solely on intuition and reason. Now I find New Age beliefs are the most extraordinary of all.

    • “It always amazes me how people have a belief in something and then try and find things to justify their beliefs.”
      It shouldn’t: this is how humans work. Feel something, look around for a reason to hang the feeling on, then spend a whole lot of time and energy vindicating the “reasons” and so on. The only hope is to recognise the process and factor it into one’s thinking.

    • As it happens I was just on CiF responding to a guy who claims a very personal god due to revelations while under the influence of drugs, and his knowledge of physics. It was quite close to those purveyors of woo who try and claim ‘quantum’ effects. So I think religious and woo based confabulations are part of the same phenomenon: the seemingly endless ability of humans for self delusion (and I do not disbar myself from that group).

  16. I won’t comment on Prince Charles. His own words are enough !

    As a GP commissioner I can assure all readers that not a single penny will be spent in my locality on any service which is not evidence based. I have a particular antipathy towards Chiropractic. The honest ones should become physios, those who tend to quack should be hounded out of business.

    • Absolutely. Clinical Evidence provides a clarion call for better evidence based treatments. And over the past 20 years or so, the rise of Evidence Based Medicine is having great effects in that there are many public sources, such as Cochrane, where doctors and their patients can discuss the evidence base behind their treatments.

      What many homeopaths do though is take the BMJ Clinical Evidence data to mean that treatments being used in hospitals are unevidenced. If you look at the frequency of evidenced vs unevidenced treatments, you will find that you are very much likely to get a treatment with a good evidence base. Directories like that you point to allow the unevidenced treatments to be used less often and rejected. And for more research to be done where the evidence base is weak and a treatment is promising.

      And that is where homeopathy suffers since it is most definitely on the unevidenced side of that equation. And also, quite obviously based on pseudoscience.

      • Homoeopaths also try to use the BMJ Clinical Evidence data as an argument that the lack of evidence doesn’t matter. And that is the very opposite of its intent.

  17. Indeed – there is a HUGE amount of work to be done, it will take time (and I’m not fully convinced its a money saver – we shall see) but one thing’s for sure, we’ll have LESS money and services WILL be cut. Those services that continue to be funded will have to demonstrate real clinical effectiveness. There’s nothing like a shortage of cash to concentrate the mind on what works and what doesn’t.

  18. Addendum – yes indeed there is a whole lot of “accepted” medical practice which has a lack of “strong” evidence of efficacy. Physiotherapy for example (for some “indications” at least) – I suppose we’ll be chucking out the stuff with little or no benefit first. To be honest in my locality we’ve been historically strapped for cash for years and we don’t fund any pseudotherapies as far as I know already.

    • EBM means Evidence BASED Medicine. Practice based on the best available evidence, not necessarily that whch has un-equivocal evidence.

      How come we never hear from homeopaths who have reviewed their practice, found lack of evidence, and moved on?

      Have they failed to review their practice? Why are they silent? We would all benefit if they were more able to be honest about their experience and practice.

  19. I love the wisdom of the ancients. It’s a phrase that rolls so easily off the tongue in an empty head. Such wisdom that led to obscene rates of infant mortality. The wisdom that a couple of thousand years ago led to an average life span of less than 30 years. How to die from what are now, in the absence of ancient wisdom, routinely treatable and curable conditions.

    The other name by which “the wisdom of the ancients” is more commonly known is “ignorance”. Prince Charles worships at the alter of ignorance and I don’t doubt his sincerity in his so doing. He is an ignorant and vain man, in the manner of one convinced of his own divinity. But the sycophants with which he surrounds himself are another matter – altogether a much nastier, malevolent proposition.

  20. Shocking and it comes as no surprise the charlie prince of woo supports a quack cancer care “charity” called Penny Brohn Cancer Care please take a look at this business in Bristol, run as a charity but look at their shop! and their information about vitamin mega doses! I can hardly believe this is legal. It seems even worse that the public probably support this charity(check out their news section) I suspect only because they are oblivious to quackery. Many Thanks Graham

    “His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has renewed his patronage of Penny Brohn Cancer Care, the leading charity in complementary cancer care. The Prince has been a committed supporter of the Charity since its creation in 1980, becoming Patron in 1997.

    Said Francesca Barnes, the newly appointed Chairman of Penny Brohn Cancer Care said: “Prince Charles continues to be a wonderful Patron. With his long established interest in integrated medicine, he has supported our activities in all sorts of ways. We are delighted and honoured that he has renewed his patronage”.

    Penny Brohn Cancer Care is the United Kingdom’s longest established centre for using integrated therapies to support people living with cancer and their supporters. Each year, the Centre works with hundreds of people on residential courses and thousands more through its telephone Helpline.

    • Quoted in that link;

      ” ‘We have found that the concentrations reach a plateau at the 6c potency and beyond. Further, we have shown that despite large differences in the degree of dilution from 6c to 200c (1012 to 10400), there were no major differences in the nature of the particles (shape and size) of the starting material and their absolute concentra tions (in pg/ml).’”

      Well, this is brilliant! The absolute concentration of metal nanoparticles remains constant despite serial dilution. The means they are creating matter do novo. Our material and energy worries are permanently solved. We have to be careful or we could disappear under piles of propagating homeopathic nanoparticles a bit like in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice

      Or could it just be that once the original solution has been thoroughly rinsed from a container you have a constant level of background contamination that depends on the nature of the container and the fluid?

      I suspect the latter is true.

  21. I was unaware until now that Charles’ farm used homoeopathic remedies in place of proper veterinary medicine to treat their livestock.

    Waitrose stocks meat and dairy produce from Charles’ “Duchy Originals” range in their stores. Considering that such produce must have, at least in part, have been drawn from animals which were harbouring diseases at the time they were slaughtered or milked, could they not pose a health risk?

    And if so, should we not organise a response?

    • @sosolidshoe

      The same rules apply for food coming from every single farm in the country, regardless of the method of production. So your question about what diseases may be in “Duchy Originals” it would appear to be irrelevant. That should spare you having to “organise a response”.

    • Actually, it’s the danger to animal welfare that homeopathy poses rather than any disease risk to humans that we should worry about.

      • Perhaps an FOIA request to DEFRA to find out whether any farms that purport to use homeopathy have had any biosecurity restrictions or conditions or welfare conditions imposed on them? And whether they’ve used proper medicines as well.

  22. I was once assured by a leading Dermatologist who used EBM that my 15 yr old son’s acne was not in any way diet related and before I could object he was writing out a prescription for a drug known to cause birth defects.I did not fill that prescription saving myself quite a considerable amount of money.My son eventually admitted to me that he and a group of his little mates were gorging on 30 cent icecreams from a newly opened fast food cafe that had opened round the corner.After eliminating that item & as much other ‘junk’ as I could from his diet and relying on his cooperation we achieved almost 100% improvement within a relativey short time.Any recurrences in his later teenage years were attacked & solved in the same way.So I would say that leading dermatologist was promoting ‘woo’ & dangerous ‘woo’ at that.We didnt need orthodox medicine nor indeed homeopathy to find a remedy,just applied good old fashioned common sense.Maybe we should all investigate lifestyle change and elimination of harmful practices as a first line of defence to enhance personal health before rushing off to EBM doctors or homeopaths for drugs or pills.Of course medicine is required in many instances in cases of emergency and trauma and it does an excellent job and I think there is a place for homeopathy maybe for minor illnesses,non life- threatening obviously, for those who want it.

    • “I was once assured by a leading Dermatologist who used EBM that my 15 yr old son’s acne was not in any way diet related and before I could object he was writing out a prescription for a drug known to cause birth defects.”

      Your 15 year old son was pregnant?

  23. Oh Mojo you are a silly lad(or lass?).If a drug is toxic enough to cause birth defects in the offspring of a female recipient (& pregnancy is not advised within a two year period)it is not irrational to conclude that this is a drug to be avoided( unless absolutely necessary) for either sex. After I submitted my offering I realised someone lacking skills in extrapolation would react as you did. Oh dear!

  24. I am using the precautionary principle Mojo.The drug was not necessary and the condition was dealt with completely satisfactorily by less risky means.Acne is hardly life threatening.
    Also I taught my son the importance of good diet in ones general health and of the skin in particular-a lesson worth learning in my humble opinion.He didnt need the magic pills!

    • Dusty, even taking your story at face value and accepting the causal inferences you make, what we have here is a situation where a doctor may not have taken a sufficiently holistic approach and identified lifestyle factors in a patient’s problem. 

      However, none of this means that the retinoid, or whatever, would have been ineffective. 

      Nor does it mean that homeopathic sugar would have been effective because that is just not possible. 

      As an aside, my experience of homeopaths themselves is that, contrary to their rhetoric, they are less holistic than real medics. Their self-proclaimed holism is entirely defined by the way they take a laborious history in order to pick the right bottle of sugar. Indeed, because their version of holism is exhausted by their repertorising process they are less suited to engaging in real holism than a doctor. This was evident in the notorious malaria sting operation. Having sold some sugar pills, the homeopaths utterly failed to give advice about lifestyle and other strategies to reduce the risk of malaria. This is why these inadequately trained incompetent fools should be allowed nowhere near real medical problems. 

    • “the condition was dealt with completely satisfactorily by less risky means”

      No, you changed his diet and it went away. That isn’t the same thing. Post hoc does not mean propter hoc.

      “Acne is hardly life threatening.”

      It was severe enough for you to take him to the dermatologist.

      “My son eventually admitted to me that he and a group of his little mates were gorging on 30 cent icecreams…”

      You were objecting to the dermatologist’s opinion that the condition wasn’t diet related. You didn’t know that your son was gorging on these ice creams, so presumably the dermatologist didn’t know either. If he didn’t, how could he know that they were causing it? Given the evidence presented of a boy with acne and a diet that didn’t include anything that would cause it, how was it “woo” to conclude that it wasn’t diet related? It isn’t the dermatologists fault that your son didn’t let on about his diet.

      And how was it “woo” to prescribe a drug with (presumably) established efficacy? In the absence of evidence that your son’s condition was caused by his diet, the dermatologist offered an effective treatment that wasn’t contraindicated for the patient. It isn’t as if he forced your son to take the medicine. You had (and exercised) the freedom to not give him the medicine.

  25. Actually, I hadn’t thought of that, Mojo is right. If you failed to provide a complete history to the doctor that would not help his treatment decisions.

    • Of course, if this was an episode of House, he would have sent Foreman and Chase out to burgle Dusty’s house and find the stash of empty ice-cream packets. The real world dermatologist, though, had to rely on the evidence Dusty and her son presented about his diet, and came to a conclusion based on that evidence.

  26. To those who left replies,thank you.
    BSM:Of course the drug would have been effective if we were only looking for removal of symptoms -I was looking for removal of cause.This is where so called EBM & homeopathy both fail.Also I dont think you actually read my posts-I am not pushing the agenda of homeopaths any more than EBM practitioners.I have virtually no experience withthe former.
    Mojo:The dermatologist did not inquire into his dietary habits at all.I suspected he was eating lots of junk but the doctor dismissed my concerns( that this could be a causative factor) out of hand and reached eagerly for his prescription pad.
    All that matters is I am happy with my decision and there was a good outcome short term and longterm so I dont know why you have only criticism.This was a long time ago as he is now 30.Maybe attitudes have changed since then.I hope so.

  27. i was wondering: what do you care if some stupid people choose homeopathy, flying carpets or magic rings?
    people who choose homeopathy are a minority anyway. why bother?
    put the computer aside, you poor soul, and go out – talk to real people, get some sun, walk in the forest, look at the sky…

  28. From Steiner Academy Hereford’s most recent Ofsted:

    “not all lessons challenge pupils to think for themselves or engage them in developing independent learning skills such as investigation, research and problem solving.”

    So that explains a lot of the comments from Steiner’s on this site.
    Nuff said.

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