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DEMOCRACY, HOMEOPATHY AND THE PLACEBO EFFECT

Posted Aug 24 2008 8:03pm
Okay, let’s get a few things straight about so called ‘alternative’ holistic medical approaches that are now being vilified because scientific trials have apparently finally shown that they are no better than placebo.



The first therapy seemingly chosen to be wiped out for the good of the public in the killing fields of apparently rational scientific evidence-based medicine is Homeopathy.



Homeopathy, because of the mystery about how it works is a natural target for those who want to destroy anything that doesn’t fit into their paradigm. Well okay not destroy, but make it unavailable on the NHS. Apparently only rational, proven, and evidence-based systems should be funded by the tax payer – like the Royal Family for example. Now don’t get me wrong – I am a royalist but I am also a medical doctor who uses homeopathy in his practice.



Personally I don’t think that democracy should only fund things that are strictly scientific. If the people want a Royal Family and Homeopathy – then that’s good enough for me. A recent survey clearly shows that huge swathes of the international public trust and want homeopathy. But in England we have senior medical figures who are intent and working hard to make sure that the public do not get what they want. They must only get what these doctors think they should get. In other words the public is too stupid or too ill-informed to choose for itself when it comes to health and doctors. Democracy or nanny state? You tell me.



Okay let’s look at the issue from the side of the sceptics.



THE SCEPTICS SAY:

1. Multiple studies of trials of homeopathy show it to be no better at helping people than placebo.



2. Although the amount of money spent by the NHS on homeopathic hospitals is small it should be removed and those wanting homeopathy should pay for it themselves – because homeopathy has not passed the test of science.



3. Abolishing homeopathy on the NHS would make a little money available for other treatments and better still we can use the Royal London Hospital for ‘real medicine’.





ANSWERING THE SCEPTICS:

1. Homeopathic doctors dispute the ‘fact’ that homeopathy has been found to be no better than placebo and interpret the analysis of studies as being positive for homeopathy.



2. The amount of money spent on homeopathy on the NHS is miniscule and offers good value for the NHS as homeopathic NHS doctors often see and help the most difficult cases including many cases that have been told that they cannot be helped by orthodox medicine.



4. Pushing homeopathy out of the homeopathic hospitals of the UK is an act of grand larceny in my opinion. These hospitals were funded and built by benefactors of homeopathy. At the advent of the NHS they were invited to become part of the NHS and did so obviously on the understanding that they would remain homeopathic hospitals.



I opine simply that if the public wants homeopathy it should have it. And there is good reason for this: It does not matter how homeopathy works only that it works. I believe that it works completely independent of the placebo effect but let me for a moment ‘assume’ the opponents of homeopathy are correct and that it only works by placebo effect.



Remember I said ‘assume’. This is not what I believe but I want to make the case that even if they think their belief system is the absolute truth, the opponents of homeopathy are doing the British public a terrible disservice.



SO THE CRITICS OF HOMEOPATHY SAY:

1. Homeopathy works no better than placebo

2. Therefore it should not be available on the NHS.



AND I ANSWER:

1. I don’t agree but let’s ‘assume’ this to be true.

2. No! no! no! this would be a terrible thing to do even if 1. is proved a million times to be true.



WHY WOULD THIS BE A TERRIBLE THING?

Because people with very hard-to-treat problems are benefiting from seeing homeopathic doctors at NHS homeopathic hospitals. It does not matter how they are being helped, whether it by homeopathic medicine, hypnosis, suggestion or love. The fact is that they are being helped and they want homeopathic medicine to be available on the NHS. That is democracy.



AND FINALLY…

The crucial point is that if homeopathy is removed from the NHS what will take it’s place to help the difficult cases who were only helped by homeopaths because of the ‘placebo effect’, self-induced healing, hypnosis, suggestion or call it what you want. The answer: Nothing. Ernst and his anti-homeopathic gang sometimes pay lip service to the ‘bedside manner’ of homeopaths and say that NHS doctor could ‘learn something’ from homeopathic doctors – and what a pity that NHS GPs don’t have time to do this. What? - no time to get patients better by talking and being kind to them? That’s a pity isn’t it?



The fact is that they will neither ‘learn’ anything from homeopaths nor ever learn any method of helping people actually get better from illnesses by just talking to them. This is because of a simple fact which is the main point of today’s blog.



I believe that homeopathy works independent of the placebo effect. However IF a doctor using homeopathy or any form of ‘alternative medicine’ accused of only working by suggestion, does not himself or herself believe that it works in its own right, then that system becomes a con and a hoax in the hands of that practitioner. And most patients can smell the insincerity of a hoax or a con – whatever the condescending (to the public who want homeopathy) and patronising academic opponents of homeopathy think. The fact is that the majority of patients sense their homeopaths to be kind people who really believe in what they are doing.



So Homeopathy should not be removed from the NHS even if it is thought only to work through the placebo effect. Those who would remove it have no plans for replacing it with anything else that will initiate self-induced healing. In striving to remove Homeopathy from the NHS it is not the British public they are thinking of protecting – it is their arrogantly held sense of knowing that only their medical paradigm is valid. The fact that eminent philosopher/doctors such as Karl Jaspers and E.K. Ledermann described quite different holistic paradigms of medical approach is of no interest to them. Lederman correctly describes their limited and limiting philosophy of medicine as one of naïve realism.



Let the people of Britain, not experts of any kind, decide what types of medical care they get. That would be democracy.
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