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Remember Kate Birch? She was the homeopath who was caught out recommending homeopathic treatment for malarie prevention (“Homeopathy is more effective that any western medication”). Still worse she advocated homeopathic cures for malaria at a clinic in Tanzania”.

The follow up to that outrageously wicked claim is posted here.

Imagine my amazement when Kate Birch knocked on my door on the morning of October 16th. Like most of the homeopaths I have met, she was earnest and rather charming. She was also, I have to say, on the high end of the delusional scale. The good thing is that she was kind enough to present me with a copy of her book,

Vaccine Free – Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Contagious Diseases with homeopathy . She seemed genuinely to think that if I read the book carefully. I would be persuaded that she was right. That is the book that first attracted the attention of a correspondent. I would not have been willing to pay £25 to buy it, but I am certainly be grateful to have the chance to quote a few passages from it.

One curious thing about the book is that the disease descriptions are given in straightforward standard scientific language. But that approach is quite inconsistent with the letter I got from North American Society of Homeopaths (NASH), which said

“NASH does not have a policy on the treatment of any disease category, in accordance with the tenet that homeopathy treats the whole person based on characteristic symptoms rather than a diagnosis.”

The claims to be able to cure serious diseases are also quite at odds with NASH’s Standards of Practice Guidelines which say

“Do not claim that you can treat any disease, condition or ailment or imply that you can do so.

Be extremely careful when speaking or writing about the treatment of particular diseases or conditions (and never offer or claim to help anybody). “

Yet Kate Birch is vice president of NASH. That organisation seems to be as much in chaos. and just as incapable of controlling irresponsible behaviour of its members, as its UK equivalent. The Society of Homeopaths.

Here are a few quotations.

Rabies.

“Curative action of the [hoemopathic] remedy depends on the degree of neurological involvement. Remedies given at the same time as the bite will act preventatively for the condition. If the mental state is strong, the appropriate remedy will help resolve it in the days following administration”

That reads to me like a claim that sugar pills will cure rabies (or is the insertion of the word “help” the getout?).

Tetanus

“Remedies given at the time of injury will reduce the susceptibilty to developing tetanus”.

Polio

“Gelsemium. This remedy is useful in early treatment with polio paralysis“. What does “useful” mean if it does not mean cure?

Diphtheria

“Diphtherinum . . . As a preventive in an epidemic, this remedy can be administered in a 200C potency once per week”.

Measles and German Measles

“The best prevention for both diseases is the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla nigricans . . . If you are aware of being exposed, 30C daily for 7 days should be sufficient to subvert the disease.”

Smallpox

“Moreover, in the event of terrorist activity, may become prevalent once again. If this situation were to arise, there would be a need for and opportunity to use homeopathy in this area of public health.”

“The [homeopathic] remedies listed below will be useful for the treatment of the disease and for ailments from the vaccination”

Anthrax

“Homeopathy bases its prescriptions on the nature of symptoms. Because the disease progresses rapidly to death it is important commence treatment quickly and to monitor the recovery. Homeopathy can be used in addition to antibiotics if the case warrents.” Oops there seems to be a momentary touch of realism in that last sentence.

Plague

“Vipera, the homeopathic preparation of the snake venom, is useful for prevention and treatment.”

Tuberculosis

“As the person’s health deteriorates, and the tuberculosis becomes active, remedies such as Ferrum metallicum, Phosphorus, Stannum, Iodium, Kali carbonicum, or any of the remedies listed below may be more indicated to return the person to health”. See more on tuberculosis here

Hepatitis A, B and C

“In the homeopathic treatement of the acute form of hepatitis A, one would expect results within a few days to weeks of the correct homeopathic remedy.”

Dengue fever

“Homeopathy has been used succesfully around the world to treat and prevent Dengue fever.”

The list goes on an on. I am grateful to Kate Birch for giving me a copy of this book. Sincere she may be, but the advice given is, in my view a danger to humanity. This stuff leaves the Society of Homeopaths in the shade.

Follow up

The similar outrageous claims made by some members of the (UK) Society of Homeopaths have been investigated throughly on gimpyblog.

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30 Responses to A visit from Kate Birch

  • Years ago, I figured homeopathy was a harmless delusion, a little ritualized placebo which folks could take to help them psychologically weather the mild, self-limiting symptoms of living (ache, tired, blue). I was bothered by the inherent…um…lying… in homeopathy, but I thought it was a nudge-wink game, that no one would try to use the holy water for real diseases. Would they?

    They would. More and more evidence (and thanks, Prof DC, for bringing it to light) that delusions of homeopaths can be deadly. I think I fooled myself about homeopathy much the way we give the Church of England a break. It is just ritualized, harmless habit which mild citizens indulge in to take the edge off symptoms of living (marriage, funeral, education). The problem is, a lot of folks take religion deadly seriously, and when we coddle the mild fogs of vague, polite “theology” as a “just another way of knowing”, we give cover to some dangerous delusions.

    Likewise, using reiki and homeopathy in real hospitals is thought to be a harmless, relaxing placebo, and even encouraged as “respect” for the “whole patient.” But, so insidious is the culture of CAM that a little detente goes a long way to muddying the medical mission. Give CAM an inch and it wants a mile.

    I have a nasty bacterial bronchitis (it snuck in behind a cruddy rhinovirus). I could try my luck with specks of lactose that have been kissed by the vaprous angels of pulsatilla. Or I could pray to Saint Audrey, patron saint of throat ailments. “She died of an enormous and unsightly tumor on her neck. She gratefully accepted this as Divine retribution for all the necklaces she had worn in her early years.” (From catholic-forum.com)

    I opted for the azithromycin.

  • Skeptyk has hit the nail on the head. Delusions are not harmless. They kill people,

  • Has she got a treatment in there for Ebola virus? I am agog to find out.

    Some unforgivable pedantry approaching:

    “She seemed genuinely to think…”

    May I suggest: “She seemed genuinely to believe…”

    Not much evidence of thinking, in my book (or hers?)

    I suppose if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

  • You were visited in person? I can’t even get an email reply from NASH. No free book either. Damn.

  • It’s interesting to hear her comments about her ‘delusions’. I’ve been hanging about on the ‘JABS’ forum and can vouch for how far removed from planet rationality these people really are.

  • Though not immediately relevant to the alternative v. scientific medicine theme, I found that this review by Hilary Mantel in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago made some pertinent observations – http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2189643,00.html “All hail to the lizard queen”

    Principally:
    “…His complaint is a familiar one: “modern science is killing off wonder by telling us we know it all”. But he is also subject to a completist urge, believing that if you accumulate enough bits of information they will all connect, and that if they do, that will per se be desirable. Black believes that history is made by “great men and women” who share “a remarkable unanimity of purpose”, which becomes apparent if you “weave together the stories … into a continuous historical narrative”. If you go in for that sort of weaving, all you’ll achieve is to strangle critical thought in a noose of wishful thinking…”

    or:

    “…Which element of the idea of a “secret society” is most appealing? We assume it is the “secret” bit, but maybe it’s the promise of “society” – the notion that you can find partners in your belief that powerful people are hiding from you the secret of their power; to hold such a belief, and share it, is to validate your own lack of get-up-and-go…”

  • weasles. by using clever semantics, Birch and her ilk – including the comedians/fraudsters @ the British SoH – seem to wriggle out of their own regulatory system. DC, as you said, they never use the word “cure,” but they sure as hell imply it.

    is their scope for legal action under these circumstances, whereby legal principles like noscitur a sociis could apply (as suggested by troubledjoe on badscience forums)? in other words, if they appear to mean cure, but never use the word cure, they could still be liable?

  • Can I be utterly shameless and just mention that I blogged about NASH after reading this post? I’ve basically just posted the email I wrote to them back in August to ask about Kate Birch and their Code of Ethics.

  • Thats not the half of it. If you spend any time on homeopathy or Alt Med web forums you will find loads of people who assert that conventional doctors are actively killing hundreds of thousands of their patients. Just google “Death by Medicine” for a taster.

    They don’t just offer a deluded alternative. They are actively disuading people from using effective medicine. Which of course is entirely logical if they really believe in the superiority of homeopathy.

  • …and, surely, entirely against the bit in the SoH’s Code about “claims of superiority”.

  • The thing is that homeopathy has a philosophy that defines itself in opposition to other forms of medicine. Early homeopaths invented the term ‘allopath’ to describe those that did not subscribe to hahnemannian homeopathy. Allopath means ‘different suffering’ – an allusion to the side-effects of the treatments of the time. Other doctors tried to suppress symptoms with chemicals and herbs – homeopaths tried to trick the body into suppressing symptoms.

    Homeopaths cannot now get over this. Side-effects define modern medicine for them. They have not moved on. Homeopathy is a complete description of what causes illness and how to cure illness. They have no need for other forms of thought. Indeed, a strict Hahnemannian would be forbidden for using other forms of medicine other than ‘like-cures-like’.

    As such, homeopathy can only ever be an ‘alternative medicine’. It explains how they consistently fail to be complementary, despite their rhetoric, and how they are so consistently disparaging of modern biomedicine. Iatrogenic harm, conspiracy of allopaths and their ‘holistic’ nonsense are thumped into them from day one at homeo-school.

    Homeopaths see themselves as a real and better alternative to all of what we call medicine. Their ‘codes of ethics’ that prevent them saying they can cure named diseases are a product of two things: the strict hahnemanian description of illness that does not recognise modern pathogens and pathologies (miasms are the cause of illness) and a handy desire not to get fined for practicing medicine without a license. Their code to prevent describing themselves as superior to ‘other forms of medicine’ is a figleaf – no one believes it.

    Shit – I have just written a blog post and I am on David’s site. What a waste.

  • lecanardnoir – cut and paste is a wonderful thing.

  • Is it fair to describe one of these loons just turning up at one’s house unannounced as being just slightly creepy?

  • I agree with le canard noir about homeopathy being, in terms of its own definitions, alternative and opposed to scientific medicine rather than complementary (which suggests supportive of conventional treatments). I do have concerns, however, about the ‘sciency’ claims made by some who would term themselves ‘complementary’ rather than alternative. For instance, nutritional therapists often recommend tests which are not clinically proven, and today’s ASA ruling on YorkTest is relevant here. With regard to my specific interest, asthma, I have been concerned for some time about the claims made by certain Buteyko therapists, e.g. here where, it is implied, an ‘almost complete cure’ is wilfully being withheld: http://www.asthma999.com/spotlightnews/ , the culprits being those nasty pharmas. Conventional medical opinion about this therapy is that, while it is of some benefit as an adjuvant to medication for some asthmatics, it is not the panacea some of its proponents claim, nor is it being suppressed.

  • Following on from my comment above, the number of comments from supporters of Butyeko on this breathtaking post – http://community.wddty.com/blogs/lynnemctaggart/archive/2007/10/09/The-problem-with-asthma-treatments.aspx – worried me, as none commented of the dangers of suggesting to asthmatics that the ‘gold standard’ medications are ineffective and harmful. I’ve added my tuppence worth (last comment)

  • Thanks for the pingback DC, more coming up this morning.

    It’s deeply worrying that organisations such as the SoH and NASH seem to exist in their own paradigm where their explanation of the Life, the Universe and Everything holds true and the Scientific Method can just bugger off and kill.

    Considering the parlous state of the understanding of science within the population, the education system and the media it is hardly surprising that misleading untruths and egregious misrepresentations in alternative medicine go unchallenged.

    I’m unsure of a solution to this but feel that blog posts and internal academic debates won’t change anything unless we attack the very foundations of society that encourage and propagate these dubious concepts. How we do this I don’t know. Does anyone?

  • Well I’m mildly optimistic. Bloggers and letter writers have had some real successes in getting more sense into NHS policies.

    Perhaps a generation of endarkenment is enough, and as the Bush-Blair era draws to a close, we’ll see a swing back to reason. In another generation the time in which we live will seem like a little hiccup in the progress of the enlightenment.

  • if i may continue……….

    At the risk of invoking Godwin’s law I would make a comparison between societies attitudes to Holocaust denial and vaccine denial.

    Both are allowed under principles of free speech enshrined in law. However, the former, which denies a demonstrable historical event is considered unacceptable in mainstream society whereas the latter, which denies scientific facts, is considered quite acceptable and even encouraged in mainstream society. We have to make discussion of the latter as unpalatable as discussion of the former.

  • Oh and the way society punishes scientists/doctors and alternative practitioners is different too. The righteous and right furore over Thalidomide resulted in a loss of trust in the automatic authority of science and medicine. This is of positive benefit to society as scientists/doctors shouldn’t simply preach and practice their conclusions in arrogance and without due caution. Authority should be earned rather than assumed.
    However, alternative practitioners preach nonsense with no evidence, endorse this nonsense with pseudo-medical authority and cast aspersions on the ethics of researchers while society just lies back and accepts this, even encourages it.

  • Talking of homeopathy, David, Nick Cohen has a good go at our Homeopathic Friends in the Observer today. A welcome departure from the Absurder’s recent credulous new-age-ery and pseudoscience.

    Have to say, though, that Nick Cohen’s article looks as if he owes you a credit. Although maybe he got his info from the Sense About Science lot.

  • it is a rather remarkable coincidence that Nick should publish that article this week. ;-)

  • well, obviously all you naysayers have not used homeopathy. nor have you read any of the ‘scientific’ research that supports it. i also notice that while railing against what you call sugar pills, there is no discussion of what creates healing in babies, animals or plants when homeopathic treatment is given. the placebo effect cannot work on beings that do not a psychological defense mechanism.

    our western culture demands intellectual understandings of the world but we are really very anti-intellectual and emotionally manipulated and biased in most understandings. this argument against holistic healing and homeopathy in particular is one example of this.

    it amazes me that in the face of fraudulent claims by people who control pharmaceutical corporations supported by the government pimping agencies like the fda, that people will still continue to support the myths they promote. most people don’t realize that only about 20% of allopathic medicine has been researched. or that once a drug is fda approved, doctors can use it in unresearched ways. and maybe people should really look at the numbers of deaths caused by legally prescribed drugs. these numbers are from hospital records and do not reflect deaths and negative reactions in private situations. doctors are not required to report adverse reactions. and the medical industry consistently neither reports adverse reactions or is willing to acknowledge patients reports as valid.

    look at the situation with adverse effects of vaccines. the latest debacle is in india where they are experimenting on children with a pneumonia vaccine. 6 children died within a couple of days from this minimally ‘researched’ drug. what is known is that it increases asthma in children and is lethal.
    ah, but the folks on this list sound like they will consider this legitimate collateral damage.

    in the meantime history shows the power of homeopathy to deal effectively and safely with epidemics such as the 1918 flu epidemic that allopathic drugs are helpless to handle.

    and lastly i would note that homeopathy does not have a history of deaths caused by side effects or toxicity. that in itself should perk the interest of anyone concerned with real healing.

    wake up to your own prejudices and be willing to look at evidentiary evidence. you will be much healthier for it.

  • I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when a homeopath invents things, but I am always a bit shocked when people like tamarque accuse me of having not read the evidence. It is precisely because I have read it that I realise it is nonsense. It’s ironic that tamarque should choose a description of Kate Nash’s lethal nonsense to mount a defence

    Homeopathy is, in my opinion, simply murder when used to treat infectious diseases like AIDS, polio and diphtheria and those who defend it should be in court (as has happened with some doctors who have neglected their duty).

    The intellectual battle against homeopathy was won in the 19th century, when the real causes of diseases were uncovered. It would not be worth wasting breath on if it were not for the fact that some homeopaths are killing people.

  • You are too polite, David.

    I think I would reduce it to:

    Crusading Homeopath = deluded f*ckwit.

    Anyone who thinks that the solution to any futuree avian flu pandemic lies in homeopathy truly is in a parallel dimension. Although they will likely eliminate themselves from the gene pool by Darwinian selection.

  • Eight years on she sounds as immersed in her cult as ever. This is the email we received from her this morning, addressed to the Nightingale Collaboration:

    “I feel you are doing a disservice to humanity with your anti-homeopathy agenda. If you only knew what blind fools you are. Everywhere around the world homeopathy is flourishing because it works. The only reason why you have such success in the UK is because of bullying. Bullying is as old as  he hills and this way you have controlled the public media by shaming people about their homeopathy usage. If the Brits knew how to stand up to a bully they would. unfortunately for them they do not and it looks like you are winning but you are not. Only your domineering nature wins. not the truth.

    I hope you are proud of your delusion and dysfunctional ways to remain in ignorance about true healing. 
    Shame on you.You are so wrong about everything you do. It is misguided, full of hatred and ignorance.Keep it up. It will come back to you.”

  • @Skepticat

    That letter is truly sad. She simply can’t seem to understand that her ideas are very likely to kill people.  Your use of the word “cult” seems very appropriate. She shows all the signs of belonging to extremist, fundamentalist religious mania.  

    That is her right. Killing people is not her right.

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