Homeopathy kills a child

Homeopathy is water.

Homeopaths will tell you otherwise. They will tell you that water “memory,” which, the way they describe it is some mystical property whereby it “remembers” the remedy with which it’s been in contact, even though the substance (whatever it was) has been diluted far beyond the point where there’s likely to be even one molecule of it left. Not only that, but they will, in all seriousness, tell you that dilution is not enough. They will insist that, at each serial dilution, the remedy must be vigorously shaken (or, as they call it, “succussed”) in order to imbue it with its potency. Finally, they will tell you, without any evidence, that “like cures like,” that giving a highly dilute, serially successed remedy made from the same substance that causes symptoms like the ones being treated will cure those symptoms. In other words, homeopathy is nothing more than sympathetic magic suitable for use by Doctor Strange.

Homeopathy is water.

Homeopathy is also utterly pseudoscientific. It posits the existence of a “memory” of water that no science has detected beyond infinitesimal fragments of a second so brief that there is no plausible physical mechanism by which such “memory” could survive long enough to do anything. In fact, there is no way for such “memory” to survive the transit across the GI tract, much less interact with cell surface receptors or cellular proteins to produce a pharmacological effect. Indeed, the concepts behind homeopathy conflict with so many well-established theories of science that, for homeopathy to be correct, much of what we know about physics, chemistry, and biology would have to be overthrown.

Homeopathy is water, and, when substituted for real medicine, it can kill:

THE parents of a nine-month-old girl who died from septicemia were responsible for their baby’s death because they shunned conventional medical treatment for her eczema in favour of homeopathic remedies, a court heard yesterday.

A homeopath, Thomas Sam, 42, and his wife, Manju Sam, 36, are standing trial in the NSW Supreme Court charged with manslaughter by gross criminal negligence after they allegedly resisted the advice of nurses and a doctor to send her to a skin specialist.

Instead Gloria Thomas, who was born in perfect health in July 2001, allegedly died with malnutrition and eczema so severe that her skin broke every time her parents removed her clothes and nappy.

I must say, I’m surprised. No, I’m not surprised that relying on magic water for treatment, rather than science-based medical treatment can result in a death that could have been prevented. Rather, I’m surprised that the homeopath is actually being prosecuted. I’m surprised, but pleasantly so. True, likely the only reason it’s happening is because the homeopath happened to be the girl’s father, allowing for a child neglect charge. Even so, quacks like Sam should pay a penalty when their quackery results in death or severe injury. They rarely do, which makes this story unusual not for dire consequences of these parents relying on water rather than medicine but rather for the fact that the homeopath is being prosecuted for continuing to sell his quackery, even after the child deteriorated.

And the child’s deterioration was horrific. Gloria suffered more than any child should ever have to suffer:

“The Crown case is that from this point on, for the next five months of her life until her death … Gloria’s eczema played a devastating role in her overall health and it is asserted by the Crown that both her parents knew this and discussed it with each other,” Mr Tedeschi said.

“Over time the eczema caused her skin to become thinner and weaker and the constant breaking of the skin allowed infections to enter her body.”

The end result? Horrors:

Gloria spent a lot of the last five months of her life crying, irritable, scratching and the only thing that gave her solace was to suck on her mother’s breast,” Mr Tedeschi said.

“Towards the end she was sleeping an inordinate amount of time, her body desperately trying to overcome these infections.”

Thomas Sam’s sister allegedly “pleaded” with him to send Gloria to a conventional medical practitioner. He allegedly replied: “I’m not able to do that.”

Like most users of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), the Thomases were well educated professionals. Like all too many believers, instead of seeking conventional medical care as their daughter’s health deteriorated, they went to other woo-meisters, other homeopaths, other “natural” medical practitioners. Moreover, the did from time to time seek out the care of a conventional medical practitioner and follow his advice. Each time they did this, Gloria improved. Then they would go right back to the woo. It’s an odd pattern, actually. They would only consider conventional medicine after it was clear to all but the most deluded homeopath that the magic water wasn’t working. They’d use it until the child got somewhat better, and then they’d go straight back to the magic water.

I have a tendency to view homeopathy as being much like a religion. It has its own belief system that was not determined empirically through science but rather was handed down to its followers by a prophet (namely the originator of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann) and a belief system that its adherents rigidly cling to against all science and reason. It matters not one whit to them that homeopathy is magic. It matters not one whit to them that the larger and more rigorous the clinical trial, the less of an “effect” can be attributed to homeopathy, to the point where the largest and best trials, including meta-analyses, show no effect for homeopathy beyond that of a placebo. Like adherents to a religion, also, they circle the wagons when their religion is attacked. Like the adherents of some religions, the most devoted homeopathy adherents are willing to sacrifice their children on the altar of their magical beliefs.

Which is exactly what the Sams did.

Comments

  1. #1 Julian
    December 23, 2010

    @Chris,

    There is no proof. There might be some days.
    But I am not waiting around for proof to be here.
    I believe in science, but that doesn’t mean that I think science has all the answers, that would be a fundamentalist’s position.
    What I think makes my point of view not valid to you is that it is purely empirical.
    I recognize that, and I am not pretending otherwise.
    I know most people want demonstrable evidence, and I respect that.
    My point of view is solely based on my experience and that is no proof and I know that.
    But I have that experience and you don’t, and probably never will since you would probably refuse a treatment that were not proven by science.
    All you and I can agree on is that there is no proof.
    For you it is a reason to not use homeopathy, for me the experience takes precedent over the lack of scientific proof.

  2. #2 Chris
    December 23, 2010

    Experience is the best teacher, but for the fool it is the only teacher.

  3. #3 Julian
    December 23, 2010

    Ok, well if we have come to insults, it is better to stop this discussion. I am in great health and a happy camper. Goodbye.

  4. #4 Gray Falcon
    December 23, 2010

    You keep saying you have no proof, and then expect us to take you seriously anyway. To most of us, that is foolishness.

  5. #5 Chris
    December 23, 2010

    Actually, it was more of an observation via Benjamin Franklin. You came to a very old blog posting about the very tragic and preventable death of a baby girl protesting that homeopathy worked and medicine only existed to make money. You admitted you had no evidence to support the working of homeopathy except your experience, claiming it helped ailments which you never described.

    The physics and chemistry in reality do not support homeopathy, yet you choose to ignore that because your “experience.” Well, is this planet flat and does the sun actually go around it? Because that is what our experience tells us, though most of us prefer the science of the reality based world. The evidence for that was realized several thousands of years ago. The silliness of homeopathy was realized over a hundred years ago, and yet you still cling to the fantasy that was made up by a German doctor from whole cloth two hundred years ago.

  6. #6 Pareidolius
    December 23, 2010

    How do you tell a bad homeopath from a good one? I ask this as a former magical-thinker/CAM delusionalist. I thought the “good” practitioners were the ones that told me what I wanted to hear.

  7. #7 Julian
    December 23, 2010

    Ok, fine I’m a fool. When i was going to Johns Hopkins paying thousands for a treatment that didn’t work I was being really smart.
    But now that I am paying hundreds for a treatment that’s working I am being a fool.
    Well, I’d rather be a fool and healthy!!

  8. #8 Chemmomo
    December 23, 2010

    Julian, in your own words (my emphasis):

    I had more dealings with bad homeopaths than with good ones.

    There is no proof. There might be some days.

    Even for you, most of the time, it didn’t work.

    Yet you cling to it with incredible faith.

  9. #9 Chemmomo
    December 23, 2010

    A couple more questions Julian:

    now that I am paying hundreds for a treatment that’s working

    How do you know it’s the treatment that’s working? A moment ago, you said (I paraphrase) there might be proof some days.

    And if homeopathy is curing you (you did claim Homeopathy can actually cure conditions and not just treat them) why are you still paying hundreds for treatment?

  10. #10 Julian
    December 23, 2010

    Even for you, most of the time, it didn’t work.
    Yet you cling to it with incredible faith.
    Posted by: Chemmomo | December 23, 2010 11:10 PM

    Well, that could mean only two things:

    1-I am incredibly stupid.

    2-I have found something that works.

  11. #11 Julian
    December 23, 2010

    @Chemmomo:

    1-Treatment is not over
    2-most of the symptoms are gone in one condition and completely gone in the other.

    How do I know it’s the homeopathy and not placebo?
    I don’t. I know I will be ridiculed again for saying that but if there’s just one person reading that can step out of their mob thinking, that’ll do it for me.

  12. #12 novalox
    December 23, 2010

    @21

    Of course you will be ridiculed, because you haven’t offered any proof!!!

    And stop with the “woe is me” crap, it doesn’t make your position any more tenable.

  13. #13 Julian
    December 23, 2010

    Don’t need to be tenable, I’m healthy.

  14. #14 Chris
    December 23, 2010

    Jake:

    Don’t need to be tenable, I’m healthy.

    More Jake:

    1-Treatment is not over

    2-most of the symptoms are gone in one condition and completely gone in the other.

    Make up your mind, please. If you were healthy you would not need more treatment.

  15. #15 Chemmomo
    December 23, 2010

    Julian,
    fine. I’ll give you this: you believe it’s working, and you do allow that most of us need more evidence that something really does work before we’ll try it than you do. I’m not sure how that leads to “mob thinking.”

    Let me ask you this instead: you have dealt with more bad homeopaths than good ones. Why? Why are the “Good ones are VERY rare”?

    Why is it acceptable for a profession to be riddled with bad practioners?

    Please don’t bother rehashing the mistakes of scientific medicine already we’ve already discussed upthread. There are medical boards who deal with bad doctors. Where’s the organization dealing with the bad homeopaths?

  16. #16 Chemmomo
    December 23, 2010

    Ooops. Skip the first “already” in my previous post.

  17. #17 darwinsdog
    December 24, 2010

    Homeopathy kills a child

    Damn! I never realized homeopathy was so potent.

  18. #18 Julian
    December 24, 2010

    Chris, I should have said healthier.

    Chemmomo,

    The incompetent homeopaths I dealt with were MDs with additional homeopathic training.
    The homeopath I am dealing with now would be the first to recognize there is very little good homeopathy out there. This is for a simple reason, homeopathy is being used in the same way conventional medicine is: one remedy for one symptom.
    Used that way, homeopathy is utterly innefective.
    The other homeopathic tradition consists in finding a specific remedy for a specific patient. Therefore two patients with the same symptom would be given different remedies and two patients with different symptoms could be given the same one.
    Because of that, studies showing homeopathy’s effectiveness are impossible.
    The only thing you could show is a practitioner’s effectiveness.
    And because there just can’t be a study on every practitioner the only thing you have is word of mouth.
    Thing only goes to show that the models are simply incompatible.
    But there are many things that are incompatible with each other.
    I asked above if one could prove that Beethoven is better than Saint-Saens.
    Let’s ask if Mozart is better than Andrew Lloyd Webber, any scientific study could easily prove that Webber is better.

  19. #19 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Julian, you are asking us to pass a subjective opinion on homeopathy versus real medicine (Mozart versus Webber), which is incredibly idiotic. What is needed is an objective opinion on science versus the the fantasy world of homeopathy. This is apples versus oranges.

    A small child died a horrible painful death, and yet you persist in thinking is was a matter of opinion, or a model of reality. Wow, you are a heartless soul. You don’t care about anyone but yourself. To you young Gloria Sam was nothing. You don’t care that her parents neglected her medical needs (while the mother sought conventional medication for herself), which caused her body to suck all of the energy required to fight the ensuing infection that she lost any function to live.

    Well, good for you. You have not given any evidence that homeopathy works, but you have given us a glimpse of the mind of its followers. Totally self-centered without a clue on how reality works.

  20. #20 Chemmomo
    December 24, 2010

    Julian,

    The only thing you could show is a practitioner’s effectiveness.

    Again, where’s the organization (i.e., analogous to state medical boards) which provides this information?

    But, wait, you say:

    Because of that, studies showing homeopathy’s effectiveness are impossible.

    And

    And because there just can’t be a study on every practitioner the only thing you have is word of mouth.
    Thing only goes to show that the models are simply incompatible.

    No, what it shows is this system of homeopathy is fatally flawed.

    If the only thing you’ve got is “word of mouth,” you have nothing.
    Why should everyone—no, why should anyone—have to go through a hit-or-miss process like you did, relying on “word of mouth,” in order to find a treatment that works?

    How can you possibly justify this?
    How is this providing effective treatment?

  21. #21 Chemmomo
    December 24, 2010

    Oh, and to save you the trouble of complaining that I didn’t address your musical question – I just don’t see how my opinion (or anyone else’s) about music is relevant to a discussion about effective medical treatment.

  22. #22 Julian
    December 24, 2010

    If the only thing you’ve got is “word of mouth,” you have nothing.
    Why should everyone—no, why should anyone—have to go through a hit-or-miss process like you did, relying on “word of mouth,” in order to find a treatment that works?
    How can you possibly justify this?
    How is this providing effective treatment?
    Posted by: Chemmomo | December 24, 2010 1:42 AM

    I would say in order to find you have to search.
    I don’t see another way.
    Yes, I did go through a hit or miss process but that also included plenty of other treatments besides homeopathy. I started with my GP, went to the hospital specialist. That hospital department is rated number one in the country. They are certainly the best but they couldn’t help and even told me so.
    They recommended I try some acupuncture that did help a bit.
    Then I heard of this homeopath through a friend and I’m a lit better
    So you see I did go through the most official channel possible, the number one rated department in the country.
    Did you read homeopathic books such as Hahnemann’s?
    That could give you a clearer idea of the theoretical foundations of homeopathy.
    I am not going to complain that you didn’t answer my question, but I will make the point clearer:
    There are domains in which a scientific study would produce subjective results.

  23. #23 adelady
    December 24, 2010

    Back to the topic of Orac’s OP. A report from Australia about children killed or injured by their parents’ folly and ignorance about treatment.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12060507 I simply cannot believe these people.

  24. #24 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Julian, we know all about Hahnemann’s “theories.” They are not real scientific theories but just wild guesses based on him being allergic to quinine. There is no “Law of Similars”, nor is there a “Law of Infinitesimals.” There are no miasms nor any humors. Scientific medicine has marched on in the last two centuries, while homeopathy is stuck on its wishful fairy tale thinking.

    There are domains in which a scientific study would produce subjective results.

    The university you graduated from should revoke your diploma. You have no understanding of anything that we have told you, absolutely no understanding of what constitutes scientific proof, and definitely no concept of Avogadro’s Number.

    May I ask why you chose to attempt to endarken us on a page about the very tragic and preventable death of a little girl? Did your good homeopath tell you that you would feel better by spitting on the grave of a baby who was killed with homeopathy? Because your continued harping on this page about this nonsense is really in very poor taste, and the antidote I will need to take is hugging my daughter (who also had a milder form of eczema as a baby, but fortunately is an alive teenager because we took her to a real doctor).

  25. #25 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Julian, read about the Age of Endarkenment.

  26. #26 Julian
    December 24, 2010

    Tell me Chris, have mainstream docs never killed anyone?
    Are there not lawyers all over the world making millions from malpractice lawsuits?
    All I am getting now is insult after insult. You are free to assume that I don’t understand what you are telling me. You are free to assume that I am a heartless idiot that doesn’t care about the death of a little girl. That suits your need.
    Anyone believing homeopathy is effective has to be out of the middle ages for you.
    Have you considered the fact that maybe there’s a remote possibility that we’re not fools?
    Have you considered the possibility that science although always improving may also have limits and that yesterday’s laws are now obsolete and today’s laws will be so tomorrow?
    Are all the people believing in homeopathy just plain brainwashed jerks trying to bring the world back to the middle ages?
    Maybe there are things you are not grasping, or is that scientifically impossible?

  27. #27 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Excuse me? Have you not seen the thread on Gonzalez’ failed cancer treatment? Or the recent tragedy of a woman who died too soon from breast cancer because she believed a guy with a mail order diploma? Have you not seen the several blog posts here on flaky pharma company activities like getting ghost writers to get articles in journals? Or the Or the doctor who tried to get nurses fired because they reported his incompetence? The counterproductive treatment of those with Morgellens, chronic Lyme disease, etc. All of these misdeeds I learned about from this blog. Do you think I forgive them?

    Wait, is this the only article you have read on this blog?

    Have you considered the fact that maybe there’s a remote possibility that we’re not fools?

    Only if you give me some real proof. You can start using some more standard formatting. You can also do it by going to a more appropriate and recent thread on the “science of homeopathy.” Perhaps you can start by telling why Avogadro’s Number has relevance?

    Are all the people believing in homeopathy just plain brainwashed jerks trying to bring the world back to the middle ages?

    Yes. Comment with link to article on the Age of Endarkenment is in moderation.

    Maybe there are things you are not grasping, or is that scientifically impossible?

    Like why you are still choosing to spit on the grave a baby. Or why you think that something works when there is no physical reason, just psychological reasons (placebo effect). Or why you keep telling about your illness, but never tell us what it is.

    And why, oh why are you trying to drag us back into the era of miasms, humors and magical thinking? The same magical thinking that made a relative leave the treatment that was working (real meds, and psychiatric talk therapy with regular exercise) and go to a homeopath… which failed (then to other alternative practitioners, massive supplements, counterproductive therapies like making her write down every little bitty pain… and finally suicide).

    So, really, dude… explain yourself.

  28. #28 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Quoting myself:

    Or the doctor who tried to get nurses fired because they reported his incompetence?

    Julian, you really should read more of this blog. Guess what was just posted today?

    By the way, is there some kind of official department that regulates homeopaths? Something that would discipline one that would talk someone out of taking real medications like insulin, eczema treatments, blood pressure medication, antidepressants, antibiotics, etc?

  29. #29 youngskeptic
    December 24, 2010

    “By the way, is there some kind of official department that regulates homeopaths? ”

    One would imagine such a requirement would meet little opposition. Afterall, informed consent doesn’t work if the drugs being taken aren’t being tested, examined and monitored. But, for whatever reason, homeopaths and the ‘woo’ crowd won’t even agree to that 9 out of 10 times.

    —Different Julian

  30. #30 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 24, 2010

    Are there not lawyers all over the world making millions from malpractice lawsuits?

    Only in the USA, thanks to a perverse system of tort law.

    All I am getting now is insult after insult. You are free to assume that I don’t understand what you are telling me.

    Oh, boo hoo. We’re not assuming you don’t understand, we have concluded it from what you have written.

    Anyone believing homeopathy is effective has to be out of the middle ages for you.

    No, not the Middle Ages. Homeopathy was invented in the late 18th Century. So, out of the 1790’s, I guess.

    Have you considered the fact that maybe there’s a remote possibility that we’re not fools?

    Yes there is a remote possibility. Light-years remote, I’d say.

    Have you considered the possibility that science although always improving may also have limits and that yesterday’s laws are now obsolete and today’s laws will be so tomorrow?

    Homeopathy consistently fails any sort of objective evaluation of its efficacy.
    The principles of homeopathy violate basic physics and chemistry.
    Homeopathy has been investigated for over 200 years, with no remotely plausible explanation of how it’s supposed to work.
    If homeopathy was the real deal, scientific research might not yet explain it completely, but new knowledge would tend to confirm it as time went on – like new discoveries in genetics and molecular biology have consistently supported and built on the theory of evolution. This has not happened with homeopathy – in fact, new discoveries have increasingly falsified it.

    Are all the people believing in homeopathy just plain brainwashed jerks trying to bring the world back to the middle ages?

    It’s very hard not to think so.

    Maybe there are things you are not grasping, or is that scientifically impossible?

    There are a whole lot of people smarter and better educated than I am who share my opinion of homeopathy. If there’s something I’m not grasping, I’m in good company.

  31. #31 Chemmomo
    December 24, 2010

    Julian, in your first post (184) on this thread, you claimed (my emphasis)

    Homeopathy can actually cure conditions and not just treat them.

    .
    Now you are claiming that because

    There are domains in which a scientific study would produce subjective results

    therefore it’s OK that

    studies showing homeopathy’s effectiveness are impossible

    .

    Here’s the problem: cures are not subjective.

    If homeopathy really can cure anything, that can be studied. You don’t get to have it both ways.

    Funny that you say

    Have you considered the possibility that science although always improving may also have limits and that yesterday’s laws are now obsolete and today’s laws will be so tomorrow?

    when it’s science that has improved, while homeopathy is still essentially the same as it was when Hahnemann invented it. I’ll take the Laws of Thermodynamics and the Law of Mass Action over the “Law of Infinitissimals,” thank you very much.

    And you still haven’t explained why is it’s acceptable for a profession to be riddled with bad practioners, forcing people into “in order to find you have to search.” This is the 21st century for crying out loud! We can—and should—do better than that! Then again, you appear to be stuck back in the 18th century.

    And now Happy Holidays to all—I have to get ready for Santa’s arrival (a belief I can support, at least for little children).

  32. #32 Julian
    December 24, 2010

    Ok, it seems we are having a disagreement.
    But I hope we can agree that stating one’s opinion is still acceptable in our day and age.
    I do not see why having an opinion is equal to spitting on a baby’s grave; she was the victim of neglect by crazy parents who didn’t give her antibiotics when she needed them.
    That is tragic, but not all homeopaths are crazy any more than all doctors are Mengele.
    Doctors make huge mistakes as well, should we ban mainstream medicine?

  33. #33 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Doctors make huge mistakes as well, should we ban mainstream medicine?

    That is why it is regulated. How is homeopathy regulated?

  34. #34 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Also, I see you are using a false dichotomy:

    Real medicine has been proven to be effective for what it is used for. That is why syphilis is treated with antibiotics and not homeopathy. This is why the average age of mortality is now almost 80 years old and not 45 as it was a century ago.

    Homeopathy has not been shown to cause any physical effect other than placebo.

  35. #35 youngskeptic
    December 24, 2010

    “But I hope we can agree that stating one’s opinion is still acceptable in our day and age.”

    Of course. But when you put forward an opinion you can’t expect it not to be challenged. Especially when that ‘opinion’ relates to something very important to soceity.

  36. #36 Chris
    December 24, 2010

    Or in other words: You are welcome to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.

    Julian, you claimed on your first post that “Homeopathy can actually cure conditions and not just treat them.” That does not sound like an opinion, but a statement of fact. You have failed to prove that assertion.

  37. #37 Julian
    December 24, 2010

    Chris,

    That is true. I have failed to substantiate my claim.
    As being neither a specialist nor a fanatic, I don’t really want to prove my point.
    It is at this point only an opinion. If I find statistics to back it up, I’ll bring them here.
    In the meantime, happy holidays!

  38. #38 julian
    December 24, 2010

    http://www.homeopathy.org/research/editorials/Rutten.pdf

    I know you still won’t like it, but maybe you can read it.

  39. #39 youngskeptic
    December 24, 2010

    “I know you still won’t like it, but maybe you can read it.”

    The opening paragraph does not bode well for the evidence you’ve brought back. Analogies are meant to create easy to understand parallels with someone’s thinking or reasoning. They don’t work when you try to substitute your own rationalization of how someone came to a certain conclusion. Right off the bat this sounds an awful lot like an attempt to paint the Lancet with the writer’s own concoction of diluted paints and dyes rather then represent the Lancet itself. But as it’s an editorial…

  40. #41 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    December 25, 2010

    “I do not consider homeopathy moaggy moaggy stuff. I think modern science just hasn’t figured out the science behind homeopathy yet. I do not agree with those who think of homeopathy in spiritual terms. Deep in my gut, I believe there is a science behind it. We just need to figure out what it is.”

    Isabeau… are you taking the piss here?

    The ‘science’ behind homeopathy is not science! Water has no capacity to ‘remember’ things. You can believe what you like ‘deep in your gut’, but ‘gut belief’ is exactly what science isn’t.

    What is so hard about that point that you can’t understand this?

  41. #42 Chris
    December 26, 2010

    David, Isabeau made that comment almost a year and half ago, May of 2009. Do you really think she is checking back?

  42. #43 Chris
    December 26, 2010

    I have recently been reminded of this series on homeopathy. It would be nice if Julian would read it before coming back.

  43. #44 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    December 26, 2010

    hmm… good point Chris…

    nonetheless… it stands as instructional for anyone who ‘goes with their gut’ rather than something more objective.

  44. #45 Julian
    December 30, 2010

    Chris, I don’t deny that homeopathy is not proven. I use it because it works for me. Do you feel that homeopathy goes directly against science the way creationism does?

  45. #46 Calli Arcale
    December 30, 2010

    Julian — I can’t speak for Chris, but I can speak for myself. I would agree that homeopathy goes directly against science in a similar manner to creationism. Creationism is different in that the proponents are in it mainly to justify their faith in God and religious practices, whereas homeopaths are motivated towards dogma in order to justify their method of treating disease. So, the motives are different. It’s a matter of opinion which (if any) is more noble, of course.

    One can believe whatever one wishes. However, homeopathy contradicts chemistry in much the same way that creationism contradicts evolutionary biology — insofar as it responds to it at all, it handwaves it away in favor of circular logic. “I believe homeopathy is what cured my ailment; therefore homeopathy cures ailments like mine. Nothing else is important.” If that’s enough for you, that’s fine. It’s not enough for me.

  46. #47 Julian
    December 30, 2010

    you guys will like this well done anti-homeopathic movie (i really mean well done)

    Calli,
    In theory I am incomplete agreement with you. But my experience has been so different. Evidence based medecine failed me and homeopathy cured me. My dentist said: “I am very much of a skeptic, but both times I tried homeopathy it worked very well”.
    So, yes I very much believe in science and evidence (and certainly not in creationism) but my trust in homeopathy does not come from dogma; just from experience.

  47. #48 MartinM
    December 30, 2010

    …my trust in homeopathy does not come from dogma; just from experience.

    ‘Dogma’ seems like a reasonable description of the all-too-common belief that one’s personal experience is a reliable guide to reality, to the extent that one rejects clear scientific evidence to the contrary.

  48. #49 julian
    December 31, 2010
  49. #50 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    That page is just more silly hand waving. Earlier you asked:

    Do you feel that homeopathy goes directly against science the way creationism does?

    The way they are similar is because believers cling to their beliefs like it is a religion. You have offered no evidence and just keep going on that it works for your un-named ailments. So for you it works, but how do we know that going to a psychiatric outpatient clinic would not work just as well?

    As I have said countless times, to prove homeopathy works… you need to do two things:

    1) Show that two homeopathic remedies can be identified without their labels, or can be distinguished from their solvents. For instance take a Boiron bottles of Belladonna and Nux Vomica, remove the labels and then figure out which is which. Or distinguish them from little cake decorating sprinkles. Oh, there is a big prize available to anyone who can do that.

    2) Andre Saine claims that homeopathy works better for rabies than conventional therapies (he made this claim in a discussion on homeopathy in Connecticut, which is outlined in Steven Novella’s blog, NeuroLogica… I am at my two link limit, but you can find it by searching with “andre saine homeopathy rabies novella neurologica” as search terms). That is a testable claim. Just take a bunch of mice and infect them all with rabies. Treat one third conventionally (vaccinate them!), one third with homeopathy and do nothing with the remaining third. See what happens.

  50. #51 julian
    December 31, 2010

    Doesn’t feel like hand waving to me. It sounds very reasonable if you have been a homeopathic patient.
    And I think it gives a good explanation of the difficulties in setting up controlled studies for homeopathy.
    Sorry,but I will not name my ailments, this is private; just know that one was considered chronic by the best hospital department in the US and I am happy to let you know it is GONE. The other one was gone two weeks after I started homeopathic treatment.
    I understand your point of view, but put yourself in my shoes for a minute, say you’ve been dealing for years with a medical issue that conventional medicine is just not helping. Then a friend tells you about homeopathy and you try it and a few months later your problems are gone. Wouldn’t that make you at least doubt?

    I don’t see how it would be possible to distinguish remedies without the label, since there’s nothing in them but sugar and water.

  51. #52 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    Now you are doing the hand waving.

  52. #53 julian
    December 31, 2010

    Ok, you know I am not a homeopath, I have no financial interest in the matter. I live in Baltimore, so I have the best hospital in the world right here and I have an excellent homeopath. I have no personal interest in convincing you of anything.

    I am sincerely asking you: would you not doubt if you had gone through the experience I described?

  53. #54 Todd W.
    December 31, 2010

    @julian

    I can’t speak for Chris, but if I experienced what you did, knowing what I know about homeopathy, I would figure that the recovery was likely due to spontaneous remission or the natural course of the disease. Granted, I wouldn’t even try homeopathy to begin with, but if I did, that’s the conclusion I would probably draw. That the remission happened to occur after the homeopathy is coincidence.

  54. #55 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    I am sincerely asking you: would you not doubt if you had gone through the experience I described?

    You have not given any details, so we have no idea what your experience was therefore I can still doubt it. You are just using special pleading.

    If you want to prove homeopathy works, you have to use more than one obscure anecdote and actually shows that it works (as I outlined above). So prove homeopathy works with real data, no more special pleading.

  55. #56 julian
    December 31, 2010

    Sorry, Chris, that’s all I have. You know as well as I do that controlled studies have failed.
    Also, you know as well as I do that if you took a microscope and looked into a homeopathic pill, all you’d see is water and sugar. No particles of the remedy in there.
    I agree with you that scientifically there is no way homeopathy works.
    So, I have nothing but anecdotal evidence, and it may be placebo, but I am cured. So if it’s placebo, fine with me as long as I’m not sick.

  56. #57 Todd W.
    December 31, 2010

    @julian

    Would you recommend homeopathy to friends, if they are suffering from a chronic illness?

    The danger in homeopathy is not from the products themselves, but from eschewing other treatment in favor of homeopathy (see the case of the child in Orac’s post above). Then, there’s also the monetary cost…money for nothing.

  57. #58 julian
    December 31, 2010

    I would recommend trying only if the conventional medicine fails. I think I said a couple of times that it is what I did. Even the docs at the the hospital were telling me they didn’t have a cure and I should try some acupuncture. I don’t want to tell what my condition was, but it was not life threatening.
    Obviously if I have a serious infection I am going to take antibiotics. Obviously the parents of that girl with an infection should have given her antibiotics, it is criminal on their part not to have done so.
    But again, if conventional medicine fails at a non life threatening condition, then why not try acupuncture, homeopathy or herbal medicine?
    In any case I think conventional medicine is the best for emergencies such as infection.
    It is quite obvious that with some of the diseases that homeopathy was used for in the past such as malaria or other infectious diseases it would make no sense using homeopathy now that we have modern antibiotics, with which you have a much greater chance of survival.
    But again, if scientifically proven medicine cannot cure your chronic condition, why not try some not proven method? It may not be proven but if there is a chance you could be cured? Why not try?

  58. #59 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    False hope is worse than no hope. Even for terminal cancer there are palliative care options, which would be a better use of limited funds than something that cannot physically work, period.

  59. #60 Julian
    December 31, 2010

    Chris, let’s just talk about a non life threatening condition here, let’s say you had lost your hearing and the only people that say they could cure it would be homeopaths, would you really not give it a shot? The only thing you’d have to lose is a few hundred dollars (or euros or pounds…)
    If someone told you they got their hearing back from homeopathic treatment, would you not try it?

  60. #61 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    When has a homeopath ever cured hearing?

  61. #62 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    By the way, as a child I did lose my hearing due to continued infections. It was cleared up when my tonsils were removed and the inflammation in the Eustachian tubes cleared. Been there, done that.

    My children have also attended the local elementary school that at that time had the district’s deaf and hard of hearing program. Those kids did quite well with a variety of things like hearing aids, sign language and cochlear implants. The friends my kids made, including one that my daughter still communicates with even after she has moved away is doing quite well. So your example is very silly.

  62. #63 Julian
    December 31, 2010

    I know of a case but you wouldn’t believe it anyway; so let’s just consider the question hypothetical.
    In the case that you knew of at least one case of successful treatment by non proven therapy, and science based medicine couldnt cure it, would you give it a shot?

  63. #64 Julian
    December 31, 2010

    Ok, I am talking about a case in which no other treatment was available.

  64. #65 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    Don’t be ridiculous. You are grasping at straws. Homeopathy is not a treatment, it is a placebo. It cannot cure anything, and just gives false hope to the gullible.

  65. #66 Julian
    December 31, 2010

    Ok, but you’re still not answering my question.

  66. #67 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    I did, you just didn’t understand it. Obviously I would not spend any money for a useless placebo. I would rather spend money on palliative care, or other useful things to make life better.

    Here is the thing, if something has been proven to work medically then it is no longer considered “alternative”, but actual medicine. So stop grasping at straws.

  67. #68 Julian
    December 31, 2010

    Agreed, proven medicine is not alternative any more.
    Ok, it was good to chat with you. It looks like we’re not convince each other of anything but I appreciate your opinion. Happy new year to you!

  68. #69 Julian
    January 1, 2011

    Just thought of this; do you feel the same about acupuncture?

  69. #70 Chris
    January 1, 2011

    Upper left hand corner of this page is a little box marked “search”, use it.

  70. #71 Calli Arcale
    January 1, 2011

    Julian:

    In the case that you knew of at least one case of successful treatment by non proven therapy, and science based medicine couldnt cure it, would you give it a shot?

    It would depend on the specifics, but probably I would not. After all, one case rarely is enough to demonstrate that it works — hence “non proven”, I assume. If it was sufficiently benign and low cost, I might try it, but I wouldn’t hang my hopes on it. I know someone who told me her asthma was cured by cupping. This did not inspire me to try cupping, because asthma is, by nature, a variable disease. It can go into remission for years, all on its own, so I have no reason to assume the cupping had anything to do with the remission. Cupping is costly, can be painful, and if nothing else seemed like a waste of time, so I did not try it, even when my own asthma started flaring up again a number of years ago.

    To Chris, you said “The only thing you’d have to lose is a few hundred dollars (or euros or pounds…)” but a few hundred dollars . . . well, if that’s something you can casually toss about, then you’re in a better financial situation than most of us. I’m not going to spend $200 unless I’m very certain of getting something for my money. I mean, that would pay a whole month’s worth of utilities for me. I’m comfortable enough that a $200 loss wouldn’t hurt me seriously, but I have plenty of relatives for whom that is not true — enough to know that wasting $200 is serious business for a great many people.

  71. #72 julian
    January 3, 2011

    Calli,

    For me $200 is a lot of money too. But do not have very good health coverage and the first treatment I followed at the hospital ended up costing close to three thousands after insurance. So that’s why from my perspective, if I spent a few hundreds seeing a homeopath and now my condition is gone, that’s much better than spending $3000 and still be sick.

  72. #73 Chris
    January 3, 2011

    You are repeating yourself. I cannot evaluate your experience because you have not given any details. Though I really don’t care about it until you can point to the case report when it is published in a journal and indexed on PubMed. Either get that done or stop persevering on this topic.

  73. #74 Calli Arcale
    January 3, 2011

    Julian — it’s true that $200 and your condition is gone is better than $3,000 and your condition is gone. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What if you spend $200 and it does nothing, you’re still sick, and you still end up having to spend $3,000 for an ER visit? That’s the flip side of what you describe. Difference is, there’s actually evidence to judge the medical treatments by.

    Incidentally, I don’t know anything about your condition, but most of the time, getting treatment from a clinic is a hell of a lot cheaper than an ER. ERs are *expensive*. Depending on your condition, you may be able to avoid spending so much money. Or maybe not. That’s the particular hell of our health care system in this country; it should not be a question of whether or not you’ve got a good medical plan. Everybody should have a good medical plan.

  74. #75 Julian
    January 3, 2011

    During the holidays I was visiting with my brother in law. He is a researcher in biology at Harvard. I discussed the topic of homeopathy with him. He told me that even though homeopathy is not proven, rule #1 of science is that you don’t know everything; it not being proven didn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t work. Then I asked him the same question I asked you, which was if you had some condition that conventional medicine couldn’t address, would try homeopathy. He told me he would try anything, even though he had never used homeopathy before.
    No, my case is not going to be published in pubmed; not that I know of. Sorry if I am not giving details, this is not a condition you’d give details about either.

  75. #76 Pablo
    January 3, 2011

    He told me he would try anything, even though he had never used homeopathy before.

    Does he even know what it is?

    It is true that in science, we don’t know everything. But we do know avagadro’s number. If he thinks avagadro’s number could be off by many orders of magnitude, then he is an idiot.

    Yet, that is what would be needed for homeopathy to make any sense at all.

  76. #77 Scott
    January 3, 2011

    Harvard should fire your brother-in-law, if you’ve accurately reported the conversation.

    Homeopathy is not “not proven.” It is as close to completely impossible as anything in science. Dropping a pen and having it fall up is a great deal more plausible. And we don’t even need to fall back on plausibility arguments, since we’ve actually gone ahead and wasted enough money studying homeopathy to have proven it to NOT work.

    The proposition that homeopathy does not work better than placebo is one of the most certain conclusions in all of science.

  77. #78 Julian
    January 3, 2011

    Yes, he is an idiot, that’s why he does research for Harvard. They only hire idiots. And the British royal family who uses homeopathy, they are also idiots. They would have access to the best physicians in the world, but they choose homeopathic quacks. I live in Baltimore, MD, I have access to Johns Hopkins, but I also choose an homeopathic quack; therefore I am an idiot too.
    See, we’re all idiots. Ain’t it simple.

  78. #79 Calli Arcale
    January 3, 2011

    He told me that even though homeopathy is not proven, rule #1 of science is that you don’t know everything; it not being proven didn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t work.

    Yeah, but we’re not talking about science, here. We’re talking about how willing a particular person might be to gamble $200 and their health, which depends not only on the state of the science but also on how risk-averse a person is.

    Some people don’t need much information before they can comfortably make a health care decision. I’m not one of them; I need lots of information. I also tend to favor conservative medicine — I seldom medicate during an illness, for instance. That varies from person to person, though. I know one person who travels to Mexico to buy antibiotics by the pound. Seriously. So it depends on one’s standards, one’s values, and what, exactly, is at stake. Your biologist friend may not know what homeopathy is, as Pablo pointed out. That’s not unusual — most people think it’s some kind of herbal medicine, but it’s not. Would he have a different opinion if he knew what it was? Possibly. I know people who used homeopathy right up until I explained what it was. Then they felt conned.

    Now, I should point out that I didn’t arrive at my conservative approach purely out of a distrust of alternative medicine. If you replaced “homeopathy” with “radical new pharmaceutical undergoing clinical trial”, my answer would probably be the same, absent evidence, because I tend to be wary of all treatments until I know more about them. My maternal grandparents are of the “medical science can do no wrong” and “treat whenever possible” mindset (though, counterintuitively, they also have “do not resuscitate” orders and do not wish to end their days on respirators — even they have limits). My grandmother underwent a very ill-considered knee replacement nearly two years ago, and it went very badly. The whole thing was a mistake; she was a terrible surgical candidate to begin with, and was lucky to survive the operation. It may even be why she suffered a series of strokes the following October, which have left her permanently incapacitated. Just because someone offers you a treatment doesn’t mean you should do it, and sometimes the price can be much higher than you anticipated, and that’s true no matter what “flavor” the treatment comes in — conventional or alternative. Contrast that with my paternal grandfather, who declined treatment for what he believed to be pancreatic cancer, went into hospice, and eventually died with no drugs other than morphine and alcohol in his system. (By the last week, the only liquid he was taking besides the meager fluid in the liquid morphine was highballs and Dos Equis. Interesting guy. He’d’ve loved to get into this discussion; he was a doctor, but more than anything loved to debate respectfully with those with different opinions.)

    And hey, don’t feel at all bad about not giving details about your particular case. We have no business knowing it. Talking in generalities is perfectly fine. After all, this isn’t just about you anyway — it’s about everyone. My only point was to temper my comment about clinics usually being cheaper; I have no idea if the comment actually applies to your situation. It gets to my biggest frustration of the US health care system, though. People like yourself don’t get adequate care because health care is freakin’ expensive (moreso than it needs to be, for a variety of reasons) and it’s getting damn hard to get a decent health plan unless you’re rich. That’s a completely different problem than whether or not homeopathy works, of course, and I’ll stop myself here before I get off on a rant.

  79. #80 Scott
    January 3, 2011

    Personally I wouldn’t say “idiot.” “Grossly misinformed” would be more accurate. It’s just that in the case of a biologist, being that thoroughly misinformed also reflects incompetence. As in, a math professor thinking 1+1=3 level incompetence.

  80. #81 Todd W.
    January 3, 2011

    @Julian

    Yes, he is an idiot, that’s why he does research for Harvard. They only hire idiots.

    They also hired John Mack, noted for his work with and belief of supposed alien abductees. I’ve met a few people from Harvard and they represent a pretty good cross section of society. Some are incredibly bright, others are what I would charitably call naive. Doing research at Harvard is not a guarantee of intelligence or freedom from error.

    And the British royal family who uses homeopathy, they are also idiots.

    The British royal family also uses crystal “healing” and consults astrologers, among other quaint notions. What’s your point?

    I also am acquainted with some biologists at Harvard. They had no clue what homeopathy was until I explained it to them. Once explained, they thought it was bunk.

  81. #82 Pablo
    January 3, 2011

    I never called him an idiot. I said, and you can all read it above,

    “If he thinks avagadro’s number could be off by many orders of magnitude, then he is an idiot.”

    So the only way I called him an idiot is if he actually does think avagadro’s number is wrong by several orders of magnitude.

    Then again, I also don’t think that applies to him. He knows very well what avagadro’s number is. The problem is, as I implied in my comment, is that he doesn’t know enough about homeopathy to realize that avagadro’s number is even an issue. Which, as calli points out, is not uncommon.

    If he does actually know what homeopathy is, and still believes it could be anything but placebo, then yes, he IS an idiot, credentials be damned. More likely, I think, is that he is just unaware of what it all entails. Not uncommon, true, but given that, he doesn’t make him much of an authority, either.

    There have been some scientists who have tried to demonstrate the effectiveness of homeopathy. They all have failed, of course, and have been met with nothing but derisive laughter by the scientific community. Your BIL may be one of those scientists who thinks it could work. However, don’t be surprised if he gets met with the same response from others.

  82. #83 julian
    January 3, 2011

    Actually my BIL, unlike me, does think that homeopathy is bunk. But he would try it if everything else failed.
    I tried it because everything else failed, and that’s why I don’t think it’s bunk.
    As far as the idiot comment, my apologies to Chris if I misinterpreted your comment.

    To Calli, I feel that I have gambled a lot of money away by going to conventional medicine for my condition. I am still paying monthly installments two years later….
    I am happy I went through conventional medicine, and I would always get a diagnosis from a conventional doc if I felt something could be serious. In this case I was happy that I went there since it could rule out cancer.

  83. #84 Woman
    December 10, 2011

    An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a new study of 37 million patient records that was released today by HealthGrades, the healthcare quality company.

    I am so sorry for your loss from allopathy. but good to know that MIchael Jacksons death was
    was in the system.

  84. #85 novalox
    December 10, 2011

    @woman

    Any reason to necro a two year old thread?

  85. #86 lilady
    December 10, 2011

    @ Novalox: “Woman” is in a time warp…

    An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a new study of 37 million patient records that was released today by HealthGrades, the healthcare quality company.

    Ahem…the study “Woman” refers to “that was released today…”, was released on August 9, 2004.

    “…good to know that Michael Jackson’s death was in the system.”

    Ahem, Jackson was a drug addict who “scored” his drugs from a drug pusher, who happened to be a doctor…who went to jail for dispensing and shooting up Jackson with drugs.

    Aside from these two misstatements…”Woman” is correct.

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