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Homeopaths’ Newsletter shows panic

December 4th, 2007 · 13 Comments

Well, guess what turned up in a brown envelope this morning. A copy of the Society of Homeopaths’ Newsletter

It makes interesting reading, not least when the homeopaths’ discussion group are abuzz with talk of the demise of homeopathy

newsletter scan

“The Society is urging its members to be cautious when responding to phone calls and e-mails following reports of enquirers appearing to be trying to catch out homeopaths”

“It seems to be part of an organised campaign to discredit homeopathy, with enquiries focusing on AIDS, malaria and vaccination. Members’ responses are then being used on anti-homeopathy blogs and web sites”

Dead right there. And the reason that the answers are being used on anti-homeopathy web sites because they are very often utterly irresponsible. Now we see they are being told to tone down their claims in public, so if you want to know what a homeopath really recommends, the only way to discover is to ask them in private.

” . . . the Society is asking all members to check that their [web] sites adhere to the code of ethics and practice, and clearly differentiate between ‘evidence’ and ‘speculative theory’ “

Well of course that distinction is very rarely made – that alone shows that the SoH’s “regulation” is utterly ineffective.

“Chief executive Paula Ross said: “it is a sad state of affairs when members have to be suspicious of every call or e-mail, and it’s important not to let it cloud genuine interaction with people who are interested in having homeopathic treatment”

All this can have only one meaning: if a homeopath suspects that the enquirer is a sceptic, tell them one story, but if they are a paying customer tell them a different story.

Why on earth should the SoH make such a fuss about enquiries from anyone if they have nothing to hide?

Later, on page 21, the theme continues.

Members urged to be wary when questioned” (by Trish Moroney, their Professional Conduct Officer)

“Case histories are useful and you can always preface your comments with ‘it is my opinion’, this makes it clear that what you are saying is opinion not fact.”

That comment is certainly well-worded. Indeed most of the advice you get from homeopaths is “not fact”.

“The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has clear guidelines for what may or may not be used in written advertisements, but this does not cover the web.

Words like ‘cure’ and ‘treat’ are not allowed to be used in advertising in any published form.”

Not allowed? You must be joking Ms Moroney.

You yourself are quoted thus: “Trish commented: “One of our products is a homeopathic birthing pack and I complement this with a treatment programme tailored specifically to the requirements of the individual.”. Or here ” She [Moroney] has also found that homeopathy is useful for treating a number of women’s problems including heavy or painful periods and the menopause. It can also help with a number of ailments in pregnancy including tiredness and nausea.”. Or how about this. “I was suffering from high blood pressure,” she [Moroney] said. “I went to a homeopath and after taking the right remedy my blood pressure dropped, even though my work situation had not changed. Homeopathy really can help.” If that is not a claim that homeopathy can treat high blood pressure, what is?

Moroney ends her article, by modestly comparing herself with Galileo

Yet again, one must quote Robert Park

“Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment; you must also be right.”

But Moroney’s claims are very mild compared the those of people like Jeremy Sherr. Read all about him at gimpy’s blog. Sherr is (in)famous for his “provings” of hydrogen, plutonium and chocolate, and for his advocacy of homeopathic treatment of malaria and AIDS And look at the results of a complaint against the dangerous fantasies of homeopath Sue Young here.

The fact that Sherr is a Fellow of the Society of Homeopaths shows very clearly that the Society of Homeopaths’ attempts at regulating professional conduct are a no more than a pathetic sham.

A letter from the Chief Executive Paula Ross

The letter on page 5 starts “It’s been a tough few weeks for homeopathy” and it continues the grumbling about the number of complaints the SoH has been getting. More remarkably, Paula Ross boasts about the legal action that SoH took against the quackometer site (which she mistakenly confuses with the US site, Quackwatch). When one realises the major disaster for SoH that this legal action caused, it’s a bit surprising that the Chief Executive hasn’t been fired. The banned page, the Gentle Art of Homepathic Killing, popped up on at least 60 sites around the world, and a Google search for “the Society of Homeopaths” soon produced eight out of ten results on the first page of results that pointed to the banned page.

Is there a homeopathic remedy for shooting yourself in the foot?

Institute launch marks a new era of research

The Newsletter has this headline on page 4. “The aim of the Homeopathic Research Institute (HRI) is to promote and facilitate high-quality scientific research, and communicating about the science relating to homeopathy” . Don’t hold your breath, I suggest. Neither of the two projects they list addresses the main questions . Their publications page lists only two papers, both by Clare Relton. The first of them is Patients treated by homeopaths registered with the Society of Homeopaths: a pilot study C Relton, K Chatfield, H Partington and L Foulkes Homeopathy 2007 Apr 96 (2):87-9 This paper concludes

This was an uncontrolled study and participants were self-selected; there were no checks on whether homeopaths returned all MYMOP forms for consecutive patients. Despite the apparent improvement overall in MYMOP2 primary symptom scores and MYMOP2 profile scores reported by patients, due to the uncontrolled design of this pilot study we cannot draw any firm conclusions regarding the improvement that patients gain from homeopathic treatment with SoH homeopaths.

Can you imagine a paper with a conclusion like that being published in a real journal?

Are medical homeopaths any better?

The same brown envelope that contained the SoH newsletter also brought me a copy of Health and Homeopathy, the magazine for friends of the British Homeopathic Association. This magazine, unlike SoH’s Newletter is available to anyone. Try it yourself. Mostly it reads like a medical textbook that was written at the beginning of the 19th century. Which, of course, is exactly what it is. So 200 years and no progress.

The British Homeopathic Association is a quite different outfit from SoH because it is allied to the Faculty of Homeopathy, which is for the small number of medically-qualified homeopaths. Needless to say, it has far fewer members than the non-medical Society of Homeopaths.

The Winter 2006 edition already had references to the declining support for homeopathic fantasies (as I would put it) . They had a whole article by Sally Penrose, Homeopathic Hospitals under Threat. Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital has gone. The Royal London is under great threat, and the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital is endangered. The only outposts of delusion that seem safe (for the moment) are in Glasgow and Liverpool.

This magazine may emanate from medical homeopaths who balk at claiming to be able to cure malaria and AIDS, but is in other ways no less delusional. For example eczema, it seems, can be cured by eating tiny amounts of common salt, as described here.

“He prescribed six powders of Nat mur in increasing potencies to be taken on consecutive days and my eczema got better within a matter of weeks,”

Of course “increasing potencies”, in the topsy-turvy world of homeopathy, means decreasing amounts. Presumably the far greater amounts of common salt in your diet have no effect because the dose is too high.

You couldn’t make it up.

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Tags: Anti-science · CAM · Dangerous advice · homeopathy · PR · science · spin

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gimpyblog // Dec 4, 2007 at 16:26

    Hypocrisy and self-deception comes easy to the SoH doesn’t it? Thanks for the link to Jeremy Sherr. I complained about him to the SoH and was told they could take no action because he wasn’t a member and FSHom is an honorary title. Obviously being a Fellow allows one to boast of Society support without being bound by the, admittedly ineffectual, Code of Ethics.
    That the SoH is prepared to reward people who treat malaria and AIDS (and autism in the case of Louis Klein) with honorary titles speaks volumes about their attitude to responsible practice.

  • 2 Lindy // Dec 4, 2007 at 18:29

    ‘Health and Homeopathy’ must surely be a joke!

    It declares that milk is a good source of calcium and later that a healthy diet makes for good health.

    But the no-salt salt sugar pills didn’t seem to work for eczema, so thank goodness for wolf’s milk. But how on earth do they obtain it? And DOLPHIN’S milk?

    However they are getting pretty twitchy which is a start.

  • 3 Lindy // Dec 4, 2007 at 19:20

    I have just had a look at the wondrous ‘MYMOP’ questionnaire which is, I suppose, for homeopaths to use in consultations. MYMOP stands for ‘Measure yourself medical outcome profile’. There is advice to guide people with their answers, implying that the therapists (or whatever they call themselves) are trying to get the answers that they themselves want. But now I am confused. This seems to contradict one of the most frequent and pious claims made by homeopaths. Are they not always banging on about ‘person-centred medicine’ and the ‘holistic’ approach that they, above all others, use? A standardised questionnaire is hardly personal. If my GP were to produce something like that I would walk out. This is not only quackery and sugar pills, but very confused and contradictory thinking amongst the mumbo jumbo.

  • 4 lecanardnoir // Dec 5, 2007 at 01:01

    ‘swounds! The Society of Homeopaths don’t know when to stop digging. They are now using nuclear tipped shovels and digging holes the size of France.

    There is only one word for this: duplicitous, conniving, Janus-faced prevaricators. OK – more than one word, but heck.

    All this to avoid telling their delusional fantasists fee paying members not to kill people.

    Personally, I am quite pleased now that when people search for ‘Society of Homeopaths’ on goolge, always in the top ten is this page:

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/10/society-of-homeopaths-truth-matters.html

  • 5 gimpyblog // Dec 5, 2007 at 09:45

    Words like ‘cure’ and ‘treat’ are not allowed says Moroney. If true then it means that every single RSHom website I have looked at and most of the SoH website breaches this.
    The SoH website even has a section.

    What can homeopathy treat?

    Homeopathy is used to treat everything from acute fevers, sore throats and toothache, to chronic illnesses such as arthritis, eczema, asthma, anxiety and insomnia.

  • 6 Slartibartfast // Dec 5, 2007 at 12:18

    Lindy – I must leap to the defence of MYMOP. It’s a well validated quality of life instrument, used in a wide range of disease areas, and has no particular connection with alt med. Indeed I managed one of the validation studies about 10 years ago. But of course it’s totally pointless to use a validated instrument in a badly designed study.

  • 7 Claire // Dec 5, 2007 at 13:12

    Regarding the eczema article you linked to, I’m wondering when exactly Alice’s became ‘…expert in balancing her lifestyle in terms of diet, moisturising regime etc during the difficult times” (Dr Geraghty, p. 16). If after the administration of the lac lupinum, this raises the question of which intervention is having the impact on the eczema, a disease which can flare intermittently due to a variety of triggers and then subside.

    Another slight worry: the anaphylactoid reaction to tuna is explained in terms of toxicity rather than allergy but I wonder if the allergy side of things has ever been clinically investigated using validated tests. Some dermatologists will recommend such investigations, but not all. I am aware, unfortunately, of a couple of cases of young people succumbing to fatal anaphylaxis, both with a previous, long-term history of skin rashes etc but no allergy diagnosis. This kind of event is of course not frequent, but possible.

  • 8 Lindy // Dec 5, 2007 at 17:45

    Thanks Slartibartfast, that is helpful to know, and if they are using properly validated questionnaires that is potentially a positive move. However, it doesn’t alter my contention that their claims to use a person-centred approach to everything do not fit comfortably with standardised questions. If they use the questionnaire for a study, I don’t see how it can relate to their ‘normal’ practice. I feel they are trying to make it all look ‘sciencey’ (to coin Ben Goldacre’s term) and serious. There seems to be very little attempt (or ability perhaps) to work through anything logically and methodically.

  • 9 Slartibartfast // Dec 5, 2007 at 21:39

    Lindy – I could not agree more. Actually I think that using recognised tools (or misusing them) is a smokescreen, but not a very effective one, if the thing you are testing doesn’t exist.

  • 10 Surprise! Homeopathy can’t cure AIDS, TB, or malaria. « Why Evolution Is True // Aug 22, 2009 at 22:45

    […] itself is the goal. But the quacks homeopaths must have their say, and so they counter: However Paula Ross, chief executive of the Society of Homeopaths, said it was right to raise concerns about promotion […]

  • 11 The Frugal Dietitian » Blog Archive » Homeopathy and Malaria // Jul 26, 2010 at 11:39

    […] ethics. They issued misleading press releases about their attempts to investigate complaints. They told their own members to not make claims in public that they would make to customers in […]

  • 12 isobelmat // Jul 27, 2010 at 23:50

    http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/about/knowledge.jsp

  • 13 David Colquhoun // Jul 28, 2010 at 23:46

    @isobelmat
    Your reference is to the study that suggested that 46% of treatments that are in use now are ineffective.

    What you failed to notice is that this figure is so high partly because it includes a lot of CAM treatments that are mostly ineffective.

    Perhaps you should have known about this because it was all explained by John Garrow in the BMJ in 2007 [read it] (see also the Healthwatch newsletter (page 6).

    I any case, it is not really relevant. It seems to me a good idea to remove NHS funding from treatments that are ineffective regardless of whether they are alternative or conventional.

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