The end of homeopathy?

Probably not, but one can hope.

British homeopaths are celebrating Homeopathy Awareness Week, yet it seems to me there is very little for them to celebrate.

Earlier this year, a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that the principles of homeopathy are implausible and that the evidence fails to show that it works better than placebo. The MPs also criticised homeopaths for trying to mislead the public by providing inaccurate information. Their recommendation to government was to stop funding homeopathy on the NHS.

Then the Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health, a staunch supporter of homeopathy in the NHS, folded in the midst of a police investigation for fraud and money laundering.

Last month, the British Medical Association described homeopathy as “witchcraft” and called for an end to all funding on the NHS.

A streak of bad luck? Not really. Homeopathy’s fortunes have been crumbling for quite some time. The evidence to suggest that it has effects beyond those of a placebo has become less and less convincing. In 2005, The Lancet even pronounced “the end of homeopathy”.

I suspect there will come a time when homeopathy becomes far less significant in society, but I believe that day to be very far off. People are just too willing to believe the snake oil salesmen out there – and the snake oil salesmen are all too happy to oblige that will to believe.

But there is some immediate good news. (In fact, so immediate, it’s in the past.)

As a result, one of the five NHS-funded homeopathic hospitals had to close. After assessing the science, its NHS trust found that the evidence did not justify any further funding.

Of course, even the homeopaths knew their junk had no evidence. They aren’t interested in any real science. And just to prove that point, they became bold and made their lying all the more public.

Faced with increasing criticism, UK homeopaths become more and more desperate. My team has found that the Society of Homeopaths even appears to have been in breach of its own code of ethics in attempting to promote homeopathy. On the society’s website, numerous statements about efficacy were made that were not backed by science and so were not allowed under its own regulations.

The society’s chief executive commented at the time, in November 2009, that she was grateful to me for highlighting these issues and that the society would investigate and make amendments where appropriate. The website has since changed but many, perhaps even most, members of that organisation continue to make claims that violate their society’s ethical standards.

I don’t for a moment expect the ethical standards of a fundamentally dishonest organization do anything significant with all these violation. Even if they do manage to clean up some of their act, their basis is still magical thinking that has no roots in science. The only way they could ever be called ethical sans a smirk is if shut down their whole operation.

7 Responses

  1. I agree with most of what your saying, however I do take issue with the statement that there is no basis in science at all.

    Many drugs we use today come directly from nature. I won’t say most, My BA is in history after all I have not idea, but I know for example the bark of the willow tree contains aspirin. There are lots of others too. Its not outside the realm of possibility that people can get relief from SOME natural remedies.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that nothing you can find in nature is as pure as you can get at rite aid, but like I said SOME of this stuff has scientific basis. A very limited amount, true. You can’t discount the placebo effect too. I’ll still go to my real doctor for real medicine though, thanks.

    The claim that they can cure everything real medicine can is of course crazy talk.

  2. Anecdotes are not scientific evidence. Large, controlled, double blind trials after dosage, toxicity and effectiveness tests is the only true scientific evidence for drugs.

    Homeopathy has no scientific basis. It is based erroneously on “like cures like” which is bogus to begin with. It is then followed by dilution to absurd proportions with the claim of dilution making it stronger. This is beyond gullible, beyond ignorance, beyond stupidity and right into malicious, criminal actions.

  3. I seriously doubt you could find much malice or evidence of criminal misconduct.

    Being wrong isn’t yet a crime.

  4. Did you read the article above?

    Faced with increasing criticism, UK homeopaths become more and more desperate. My team has found that the Society of Homeopaths even appears to have been in breach of its own code of ethics in attempting to promote homeopathy. On the society’s website, numerous statements about efficacy were made that were not backed by science and so were not allowed under its own regulations.

    Lying about pseudo-drugs is malicious and probably criminal, but I don’t have a clue on UK law.

  5. It might be fraudulent, malicious…. is their intent to cause harm? Some maybe but the same goes for real doctors.

  6. They aren’t acting in good faith when the peddle bullshit, even if they really, really want it to and hope it will work.

  7. True enough, but calling it malice is a stretch. Negligence at worst.

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