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Why that parliamentary report was disingenuous

I have gone on record as saying two things about the Science and Technology Committee’s report on Homeopathy:

  1. It is one of the least impressive documents to emerge from the House of Commons for some time.
  2. It is in at least one part deeply disingenuous.

Yes, treat yes I know you want evidence. Well my first comment is subjective so no need for evidence there; it’s just my opinion. However the fact that very few of the participating MPs actually signed the report, cialis no PCT managers who commission homeopathy were asked to testify, that some of those testifying were less than qualified to do so, at least one of the MPs has connections to Sense about Science an organisation very hostile to homeopathy and that the Health Minister’s words to the committee were selectively quoted to imply the opposite of his true feelings towards homeopathy (that it would be ‘illiberal’ to withdraw NHS funding for homeopathy) came into the formation of that opinion.

My second comment needs justification:

Looking at Paragraphs 94 and 95

Integrity of the doctor-patient relationship

94. In order to maximise the impact of a placebo treatment, the doctor must deceive the patient, telling the patient that he or she is receiving a real treatment. The temptation to do so may be strong, as Dr Goldacre told us:

[C]ircumstances might occur in which it could arguably be desirable to have the

option of prescribing a placebo. There are often situations where an individual may

want treatment, for example, but where medicine has little to offer—lots of back

pain, stress at work, medically unexplained fatigue, and most common colds, to give just a few examples. Going through a ‘theatre’ of medical treatment, and trying every medication in the book, will only risk side-effects. A harmless sugar pill in these circumstances may seem to be the sensible option.117

95. It was the Minster who most succinctly voiced our concerns about such a practice:

I would not be happy to be misled and I suspect most patients would not. However,

that was not the question you asked me. What you were asking me […] was whether

it would be unethical for a doctor ever to prescribe a placebo. […] I thought about it

and I took the view that there might be circumstances, but would you generally do it? Of course you would not.

Now the doctor-patient relationship is a subject that interests me a great deal; I’ve written a book on it called The Homeopathic Conversation which has been valued by many doctors who are not homeopaths, but I’ll digress no more.

I consider paragraphs 94 and 95 to be disingenuous because they imply (in the context of this report) that homeopathic doctors are deliberately misleading or deceiving patients. This is blatantly and absurdly untrue. What is worse is that the committee knows this to be untrue and still has the shameless audacity to publish misleading rubbish like this.

IF the homeopathic community had accepted that all homeopathic doctors are purveyors of placebos, then such a paragraph could be justified. But nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Homeopaths think their medicines work over and above placebo; that’s why they spend thousands of hours studying these medicines.
  • Of the many hundreds of homeopaths I’ve met, I’ve not met one that was knowingly deceiving or misleading his patients.
  • The debate about the interpretation of meta-analyses and what the evidence really says is still very much alive and homeopaths think the evidence so far is in favour of homeopathy being active over and above placebo. They certainly do NOT accept that it has been conclusively proven that homeopathy is placebo.

Perhaps I should not be so hard on the Science and Technology Committee. This is only their second report; they are still a freshman in the House and should be given time to get their act together.

PS: I’ve posted a vodcast “Homeopathy Defended” on this blog. It’s unedited because I consider edited vodcasts to be slightly less than authentic.

By | 2010-03-06T21:41:08+00:00 March 6th, 2010|Current Affairs, Homeopathy|19 Comments

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  1. Dr. Kaplan March 10, 2010 at 11:24 am

    No disagreement here?

    Must be a case of Qui tacet consenti’re vide’tur

    Good! 🙂

  2. Dr. Kaplan March 16, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Dr Ramanand,
    Thank you for these references.
    Very useful.
    Dr Kaplan

  3. Sastry.M March 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Dr.Brian Kaplan-I have read your Article “The Battle of British Homeopathy”in the March issue of Homeopathic Heritage vol-35.I wish to submit that I am an Electronics Engineer with application to Radio Communications as profession and appreciation to Homeopathic Philosophy and Therapeutics as creative hobby. I beg to be excused if I may appear provocative by saying that I fully sympathize with your anguish as a Healing Art Professional dedicated to cure sick humanity ‘gently and permanently’ and yet losing the battle against human suffering slowly by depreciation on the very Grounds of British soil where the Battle was won in the Air against the same nationals of the Great Homeopathic Master! Since you have expressed the belief that Homeopathy has gained ground on Indian soil with appreciation and popularity as the world’s largest democratic nation I venture to express my own views in short articles as inspired within the abridged domain of my intellect as an engineer seeking freedom of approval from you into a field in which you have dedicated yourself to serve humanity in general.

    • Dr. Kaplan March 19, 2010 at 4:25 am

      Dear Sastry.M
      Thank you for your note. You are most welcome to quote me wherever you wish.

  4. Sastry.M March 20, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Sir–I feel greatly encouraged and honored by your kind approval.Taking advantage as an outsider of my profession as an engineer and hence unbiased by professional jealousies I take liberty to express my views as an Indian (Oriental) support of a battle raging in European(Western) theater.
    The appeal and acceptance of Homeopathy in India,in my opinion, is due to the profound consonance of Philosophies expressed by the consecutive letters alphabetically.The purpose of this joke is to give a serious consideration to the very basic complementing difference of Oriental and western outlooks of human life in general. The Indian Philosophy is based on an integrated approach to conceive consciously the Unity in all Diversity of manifold Creation while the Western Philosophy is based on analyzing the phenomenal diversity individually to seek Unity in a conceivable manner. If we try to explain the difference we see that in the former Consciousness is the basis while in the latter Concept takes ground. Now if we go through Dr. Hahnemann’s work in the West we find his meticulous observations and analyses of all elements relating to the faculties of medical profession verified practically many times over before rationally expressing on paper to the outside world.Genius relates to intellect and wisdom to expression and an unbiased study of his works free from prejudices and jealousies would confirm this as did Dr.Constantine Hering in recorded history.
    To explain the Indian liking of Homeopathic philosophy we go back to the basic difference between consciousness and concept. Consciousness relates to sentience while Concept to the Mind. If we try to differentiate between the two we find that consciousness is more fundamental than concept because the former permeates Being while the latter is beheld by Mind. Similar to a machine created synthetically by human beings embedding artificial intelligence, the flow of human consciousness enabling choice of selected operations requires switching on of the machine with electrical energizing power which is also secondarily generated and monitored by human beings.Such analogies formally conceived by mind conceptually culminate in various forms of synthetic creation also lead to the primary Creation of Nature as emanating from an all encompassing Creator.Hence endowed with faculties embedded by the Primary Creator we human beings seek to know the Causative Source through differentiation of cause-effect relations in a continued process of relativistic existence. Since Hahnemann has based his philosophy recognizing the law of Similars and developed a system of Medicare based upon susceptibilities of human existence to the subtle aspects of cause effect relationships this integrated approach has found consonance to Indian consciousness and stood its ground of application in service of human masses.

    • Dr. Kaplan March 21, 2010 at 4:02 am

      Thanks again for your contribution. I have studied Vedanta albeit as an absolute amateur and understand what you are getting at here. I have also been influenced by the discourses of J. Krishnamurti whom I know was treated successfully with homeopathy. The problem is that homeopathy’s critics have no interest whatsoever in discussing philosophy or even philosophy of science as far as I can see. Their actions and words thus express a ‘philosophy’ of what my teacher, E.K.Ledermann, called Naive Realism. But they do not see it that way of course. They see their view as reasonable, rational and evidence-based and any other way of seeing the world as incredibly stupid. I cannot hope to convince them of anything. My only hope is to offer an alternative way of seeing things to those who have not yet made up their minds.

  5. Sastry.M March 21, 2010 at 7:30 am

    I can understand the difficulties you are facing in seeking ways to open the minute apertures of closed up minds and bring them at least to a reasonable compliance in avoiding harm caused by their active and ignorant opposition to the comprehensive new medicare system of Homeopathy.The broadness of your mental perspective augmented by knowledge of Vedantic philosophy is a great asset to the concepts and practice of your medical profession not easily accessible to the ignorant laity.Indeed the historic introduction of the Homeopathic system was commensurate with the Zeitgeist inspiring all pioneering scientific workers of the 18’th & 19’th centuries such as Volta,Ampere,Oersted,Ohm,Gauss,Faraday etc.to name a few as well as a host of others in various disciplines. By the same reckoning the enlightenment of human mind has also progressed in the fields of logic and reasoning by the works of many mathematicians and the very humanities of existence inspiring human minds in general by the works of great novelists,poets,painters and musicians etc. Among them we find Dr.Samuel Hahnemann whose “chill penury” did not repress his noble rage in his fight against the monstrosities of Orthodox Medical Systems as did the lure of Excalibur’s Diamond handle to Sir Bedevere the Adjutant to King Arthur. The essence of Vedantic philosophy is to inculcate humility of perspective outlook and in application of human conduct. Thus we come to the understanding that any conviction places a restriction to itself and a wide perspective horizon gets narrowed in discernment because of the blanket of ego every human mind drapes in ignorance and any fight to convince only thickens its texture. Instead only ‘Satyagraha’ as propounded by Mahatma Ganhi insisting always on Truth coupled with a dogged persistence of positive effort can raise the awareness of laity to appreciate the efforts and shed their mantles of ignorance.
    In thankful expectation of your response, Your’s truly-Sastry.M
    P.S. I beg to be excused for usurping the space with my long winding rhetorics in a Blog which you have purposefully created for fruitful discussions on contemporary topics.I would be grateful if you can direct me to an area where I can give vent to my ideas unimpeded and submitting to the medium with a simple click-ms.

  6. Dr.Ramaanand March 25, 2010 at 7:26 am

    You mentioned in your article in the Homeopathic Heritage that ‘people were popping Homoeopathic pills to show that there’s no effect’. If healthy people really want to see an effect from ‘Homoeopathic pills’, they should take a couple of doses of Nux Vomica 30 – I guarantee they will have loose motion or bad constipation.

  7. Dr.Amit Habbu April 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Dr.Kaplan,

    I have been going through some of the posts on the website and i find them very interesting, or at least most of them. I think the biggest problem for homeopathy in Britain is the NHS mentality. Why can’t those wanting to take homeopathic treatment just do so from private practitioners without bothering about whether its available on the NHS or not. If its a question of cost, then it needs to be addressed by the homeopaths who could charge much less and see many more patients to even things out. As we discussed when we were in England, homeopathy is thriving in india because practitioners are able to see hundreds of patients in a day and keep treatment costs extremely affordable. Sure, for a practitioner who sees 100 patients a day it may be difficult to get the same outcome results as somebody who sees just 10. However its better to have say 60 out of a 100 patients happy with treatment than 8 out of 10.

    • Dr. Kaplan April 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      A very good question, Dr Amit Habbu,

      You ask: Why can’t those wanting to take homeopathic treatment just do so from private practitioners without bothering about whether its available on the NHS or not?

      The answer is in history: All the homeopathic hospitals in the UK were paid for and set up by benefactors of homeopathy, Dr Quin building the RLHH for example. Then over 100 years later the NHS was formed and these hospitals were INVITED (sic) to be part of the new universal health service in the UK.
      Now the proposal is that the NHS cuts funding for homeopathy at these hospitals (despite it being proved to be cost-effective and patients happy with it) and that would mean that these hospitals would be totally lost to homeopathic doctors and patients wanting homeopathy. This would be grand larceny in my opinion and it is these hospitals that we are fighting for.

    • Dr. Kaplan April 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      Dr Amit Habbu asks an interesting question: “Why can’t those wanting to take homeopathic treatment just do so from private practitioners without bothering about whether its available on the NHS or not?”

      Think about the history of homeopathy in the UK. Dr Quin and benefactors of homeopathy build the first homeopathic hospital in the early 19th century. Benefactors build several others in Glasgow, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Liverpool etc. In 1948 the NHS is formed and the new system of universal healthcare provision INVITES (sic) the homeopathic hospitals to be part of it.

      Then 60 years later a campaign begins to remove NHS funding for homeopathic treatment at these hospitals now owned by the NHS. If this happens these hospitals will be lost forever to homeopathy and and the British public. This is why we have to fight for them and I’m doing whatever I can to stop this happening.

  8. Sastry.M April 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

    The NHS was formed in the spirit of human welfare inviting the Homeopathic System as an alternative mode of therapy in support of public health.Given the dedicated nature of homeopathic physicians a larger organization of hospitals supported by both benefactors as well govt.can be of great service to common public.It is conspicuous to note that those who oppose govt.funding the homeo system appear to be more concerned with pharmaceutical business promotion rather than the spirit of application.Among the various accusations leveled against homeopathy as reported in the Independent include ‘trickery by tictures’,’wasting of NHS public funds’,’endorsing placebos’,branding homeopathy as ‘junk science’ and hence refrain from teaching homeopathic philosophy to avoid ‘duping of medical students’ at universities.etc.All this tirade will become obviously untenable if readers open up their minds in a spirit of reason and receptivity to the Homeo system unprejudiced by outside pressures. Compared to the ‘business’ of huge allopathic pharmaceutical companies selling branded quality products to individuals under authorized prescriptions as well as large hospitals under recommendations by govt.authorities not to speak of the ‘internal business’ among companies themselves trying to gobble up each other in a tempo of the same spirit the aid or recognition given to homeopathy is a pittance and yet the spirit of its medical service is persistent over the many decades since its introduction and consistent to the irrevocable laws of Creation and the multi facetted nature of human economy.

    • Dr. Kaplan April 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      Strong words from Dr Sastry. And hard to refute too.

  9. Dr Amit Habbu April 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    The point i am trying to make is that the easiest way we can counter the critics of homeopathy is by having a large support base in terms of the number of patients seeking homeopathic treatment. This we can do only if we are today able to show that we can treat successfully a large number of cases of varied pathology. I would urge the great homeopaths of this generation practising in the UK to see that they consult a large number of patients everyday and thereby create a large “fan” following like we see here in India. By the way, i would also like to know if there is any threat to homeopathy in general in the UK if it got off the NHS ?

  10. Dr Amit Habbu April 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    If we can have a larger percentage of the population clamouring for homeopathy, it will be easier to achieve what you want to — the preservation of the grand legacy of Dr Quin and those that followed him. Nothing is as impressive as results and the greater the volume, the greater the impression. To me it seems that currently its a battle between the proponents of homeopathy ( read homeopaths and a few supporters ) and the opponents ( read those of the scientism brigade, the giant pharmas etc ). I would like to see the average person on the street take a position — and he will only do so if he or his near and dear ones have been benefited by homeopathic treatment. And this is less likely to happen if we continue to see meager numbers in the clinics.
    I think we must keep in mind that despite over 200 years of homeopathy, we are nowhere close to knowing the mechanism of action of ultra high dilutions. And till such time we dont have information on this the best way to keep homeopathy afloat is to have the sheer numbers. The average person on the street should be able to say ” i know that the mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies is not known so far, however, for now, i dont really care because i have first hand experience that the remedies are extremely effective “

  11. Sastry.M April 6, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Dr.Kaplan-thanks for your appreciation of my strong words.I have been scanning the web in appreciation of opposition to Homeopathy to justify its philosophy with my views of explanation. I have found one blog “Reality is my Relgion” of Mr.Peter Harrison claiming huge win against Homeopathy in the U.K. I have tried to explain his Religion of reality in the context of Advaita Philosophy with a concluding remark that the reality of our present existence has to be substantiated as an irrefutable natural consequence of our progenitors whom we have never seen. Does this explanation defend the Placebo effect of Homeopathy? Although molecules of a medicinal subtance are not seen under the extended vision of a scientific instrument the spirit of the substance exhibiting its unique properties of primary and secondery effects on healthy human organism as recorded in a stastical aggregate of thousands of provings will be sufficient to aid the natural defences of a patient in a homeopathic manner as observed by the characteristic symptoms of a diseased person reported subjectively and verified pathologically. It is not necessary to count the number of electrons in hard magnets spinning coherently to decide the intensity of magnetic effects externally but sufficient to note the field characteristic in the application of generating electrical power for practical purposes or recuperating vital energies of patients to fight against disease and recover health practically.

    • Dr. Kaplan April 6, 2010 at 10:47 pm

      Hello Dr Habbu and Dr Sastry,
      Good points but our critics will maintain that however our medicines ‘work’, they must still be shown to work better than placebo. What they don’t say of course is that it’s not just against
      placebo that they must be shown to work but PLACEBO + HOMEOPATHIC CONSULTATION. We know this works – that is for sure. This is why I consider this horrendous campaign against homeopathy to be
      pernicious. Our critics offer no alternative to these patients who have been helped by seeing homeopathic doctors!

    • Dr. Kaplan April 6, 2010 at 10:51 pm

      Yes indeed Dr Sastry, there is a vicious materialism manifesting in the UK at the moment. Believers in anything other than the material and evidences is an object of scorn and derision. I suspect things are much
      different in India with many people cannot think like this at all, fully believing in the many non-material aspect of Vedanta philosophy. That simply is NOT the case here and we are very much poorer for it
      in my humble opinion.

  12. Dr Amit Habbu April 7, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Clinical trials to show whether homeopathic treatment fares better than placebo ( +/- homeopathic consultation ) is one aspect. I think the more important one is the mechanism of action issue. I am quite sure that homeopathic treatment will also have genuine negative trial results for various pathologies. In my experience, only those patients with functional illnesses/psycho-somatic/ pure psychological conditions would be the ones that may show improvement only with a consultation and a placebo. I may be wrong in this and am welcome to be corrected. But i dont think i have seen patients with significant pathology ever respond to the “wrong remedy” + consultation. So i say that it is largely the correct remedy that improves the patient, with a miniscule contribution of consultation at least in those cases with organ changes. Perhaps the more important contribution of a good consultation would be to keep the patient with chronic disease to continue visiting the homeopath — thereby giving him a chance to cure.

    Although it is a much more difficult proposition to do successful research in the mechanism of action of remedies than perhaps clinical trials, it is in my opinion the only research that will permanently put an end to the voices of the detractors.

    And till such time that we can do this, i am again humbly submitting that we should all try and consult more patients in a day to get homeopathy more goodwill from the community

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