MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

It has been reported that Belgium has just officially recognised homeopathy. The government had given the green light already in July last year, but the Royal Decree has only now become official. This means that, from now on, Belgian doctors, dentists and midwives can only call themselves homeopaths, if they have attended recognised courses in homeopathy and are officially certified. While much of the new regulation is as yet unclear (at least to me), it seems that, in future, only doctors, dentists and midwives are allowed to practice homeopathy, according to one source.

However, the new law also seems to provide that those clinicians with a Bachelor degree in health care who have already been practicing as homeopaths can continue their activities under a temporary measure.

Moreover, the official recognition as a homeopath does not automatically imply that the services will be refunded from a health insurance.

It is said that, in general, homeopaths are happy with the new regulation; they are delighted to have been up-graded in this way and argue that the changes will result in higher quality standards: “This is a very important step and it can only be to the benefit of the patients’ safety. Patients will know whether or not they are dealing with someone who correctly applies homeopathic medicine”, Leon Schepers of the Unio Homeopathica Belgica was quoted saying.

The delight of homeopaths is in sharp contrast to the dismay of rational thinkers. The NHMRC recently assessed the effectiveness of homeopathy. The evaluation is both comprehensive and independent; it concluded that “the evidence from research in humans does not show that homeopathy is effective for treating the range of health conditions considered.” In other words, homeopathic remedies are implausible, over-priced placebos.

Granting an official status to homeopaths cannot possibly benefit patients. On the contrary, it will only render health care less effective and charlatans more assertive.

37 Responses to Homeopathy was officially recognised in Belgium

  • Do you know of this means that those who are not doctors, dentists or midwives can’t call themselves homeopaths?

    • No, the whole thing is a bit nebulous to me – I was hoping that some of our Belgian friends might tell us more.

      • The second article you linked to would seem to be saying that only medics can practise homeopathy and that would seem to imply that non-medics can’t. Also, since there are no accredited homeopathy training courses for medics, no medics will be able to either (other than the temporary measure)!

        This could be very good news for health in Belgium!

        But it’s not clear to me whether it’s the practice of homeopathy that now requires a medic or whether this is simply a protection of title. Chiropractors have been adept at inventing new names for chiropractic so they can continue to do ‘chiropractic’ without falling foul of the law by calling themselves chiropractors.

      • In fact it seems a restrictive law. As you say, doctors, dentists and midwives can practice homeopathy if they attend and pass specific universitary courses, but the Belgian Universities stated that they do not plan to offer such courses.

        Lay homeopaths can also continue their practice if they have a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and attend specific courses on homeopathy and, ahem, true medicine and pharmacology. But in this case they have to demand to their patients a diagnosis signed by a proper doctor or a signed document of consent expressely renouncing to this diagnosis.

        And, in any case, homeopathy is allowed only as a complementary treatment.

        By the way, Belgian Health Ministry has it’s own report about homeopathy (pdf). Not surprisingly, it concludes that Les traitements homéopathiques n’ayant pu démontrer de manière scientifique la moindre efficacité supérieure au placebo pour aucune indication médicale, il n’est pas recommandé de mettre leur remboursement à charge de l’assurance maladie obligatoire.

  • Is the “nonsensification” of healthcare going to become a major pandemic of the 2020th decennium?

    I hereby ask for a possibly better collective term to use for the internet-facilitated spread of nonsense, disinformation and quackery which seems to be pervading modern society at an ever increasing rate. My feeling is that the growth is exponential. I hope I am wrong and that sense and science prevails against idiocy and greed.

  • This new law is very controversial and will be contested on legal grounds by several organisations, who will appeal to the Council of the State, demanding the suspension of this law (royal decree) arguing that several legal requirements were omitted or bypassed, and this just two weeks before the general elections.
    This is not the end of the story.

  • I am in doubt, what this ‘recognition’ really stands for and if it really is for the homeopaths to rejoice.

    It does not indicate, that homeopathy is included into the health care system, otherwise the cost of homeopathic treatment would be refunded by the health insurance. Its hard to believe that the Belgian Health ministry would do so, if he thinks homeopathy an effective treatment.

    So it puts all not medically educated charlatans out of business, which is a good thing – while I have to confess not to know how big this business really was.

    On the other hand, the health ministry just blesses what cannot be avoided anyway, that is, that medics apply homeopathy when they think it a good thing to do.

    Might turn out for the homeopaths that this is a victory of the Pyrrhic-type. Especially when the required courses are not available.

  • There is more on the situation in the section on Belgium in the Cambrella – Work Package 2 Report Part I. Although this is now a few years out of date (and I’ve not found it to be entirely accurate or unbiased elsewhere), it says (pages 64 and 65):

    Professional exercise of a non-conventional practice by a non-doctor is a punishable offence. In real life, however, many non-doctors practise one or another non-conventional treatment.

    Since the Colla law is not fully in effect, the practice of a CAM by a non-doctor is still illegal.

    In Article 9 of the Colla act of 1999, CAM practitioners who are not also conventional physicians must obtain a recent physician’s diagnosis from their patient prior to commencing treatment (44). If patients choose not to consult a physician before seeing CAM, they must put their wishes in writing. Registered CAM practitioners must take precautions to ensure that patients are not deprived of conventional treatment. As a result, CAM practitioners who are not also physicians must keep physicians informed of the health of their patients.

    In conclusion, when the Colla law is fully executed, Belgium will still restrict the practice of medicine to doctors, with the exception of certain treatments such as those provided by the four mentioned non-conventional medicines [acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy and osteopathy].

    I assume this latest law is this ‘Colla law’, named after a Minister. I think this helps understand the history, but it’s still not entirely clear to me.

    However, the homeopaths and their supporters have been all over this, proclaiming it as some huge victory for their quackery. It does look like they are premature.

    One funny aside: on a blog post Homeopathy and the threat of endarkenment by Jerome Burne, homeopath John Benneth stated:

    Monday in Belgium homeopathy received legal recognition after members of Parliament read Jerome Burne’s Body of Evidence blog on the subject and saw how flimsy accusations against the practice by the sock puppets of self appointed “sceptics” can be.

    In Belgium the practice of homeopathy will now be limited to trained professionals . . accredited GPs, dentists and midwives, who unlike Edzard Ernst and James Randi can only call themselves homeopaths if they have formal training in it.

    I leave it to you to decide whether Burne’s blog was instrumental in the Belgium decision…

  • There are consequences to this that homeopaths might not be so jubilant about: Forced closure of our homeopathic practice because of the new legislation in Belgium:

    On the 12th of May the new Belgian legislation for Homeopathy was published. From the 22th on homeopathy will only be allowed for medical doctors, midwifes and dentist s. Practitioners who possess at this moment a paramedical diploma fall within the transitory regulations but no one is allowed to start such a training now in order to continue his/her homeopathic practice. All other homeopaths have to close our practice.
    In my case it meant after 25 years devoted to homeopathy the closure of my group practice. Doctors, midwifes, nurses I’ve trained in homeopathy are allowed to continue. For the ‘safety of the patient’ and to guarantee the quality’ I am forbidden to practice and risk a fine of 40.000 euro when I do.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjTxecxVTYg

  • Well the ECCH for sure isn’t happy about it.

    It is ECCH’s view that this unjust execution of the Colla Law must be fought and overturned. To do this we are supporting the call of our Belgian colleagues for financial support to build a legal fighting fund.

    • I think the new Belgian law is a great move that helps protect the public from quackery and unproven and disproven treatments. Why would anyone be against requiring homeopaths to have a good medical training?

  • Good point, but many of the professional homeopaths have that already?

    Are you now saying it is ok to practise homeopathy as long as he/she has good medical training as well?

    Or are you saying it should only be allowed to treat the public with treatments from the 11% group? (The BMJ pie chart).

    • you are mistaken about the what you call the “11% group” – the chart you refer to contains all sorts of alternative medicine as well.

    • L.H. Olavius said:

      Good point, but many of the professional homeopaths have that already?

      Not in Belgium.

      Are you now saying it is ok to practise homeopathy as long as he/she has good medical training as well?

      That at least might protect the unsuspecting public from the worst excesses of homeopathic thinking, but it still does not alter the fact that homeopathy is pseudo scientific bogus nonsense.

      Or are you saying it should only be allowed to treat the public with treatments from the 11% group? (The BMJ pie chart).

      You really, really do need to go away are read that page properly and understand what it does – and doesn’t – say.

  • I am aware of that, it lists ALL treatments (including homeopathy) – conventional as well.

    Perhaps you are now going to tell me that conventional doctors only use treatments from the 11% group, but I have never seen this statement documented anywhere.

    So you are prepared to ditch ALL alternative treatments because of lack of evidence, but not at the same time prepared to ditch conventional treatments for the same reason – isn’t that double standard?

    • can we stick to what I actually said and not to what you wished/dreamt I said?
      thanks

      • Isn’t your whole blog about lack of evidence behind alternative treatments?
        Have you written anywhere that there is problems with evidence behind conventional medicine? The BMJ chart certainly speaks for itself.

        • I happen to have researched alt med for 20 years; this is where my expertise is. I do not write about areas I do not fully understand.
          THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT ALT MED – WHY SHOULD I WRITE ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE HERE?

        • THE BLOG IS ABOUT THE EVIDENCE FOR OR AGAINST ALT MED. IF IT IS MOSTLY NEGATIVE, I CANNOT EASILY MAKE IT POSITIVE, CAN I?

          • I do wonder why L.H. Olavius seems to think he can dictate what you choose to write about?

          • it would be so much more pleasant for alt med enthusiasts to criticise BIG PHARMA. but this has been done ad nauseam [and rightly so] and, as I said, my expertise is elsewhere [not everyone has the nerve to write about stuff he does not understand!]

    • L.H. Olavius

      Please do us all a favour and read what that page actually says, not what homeopaths and others want to believe it says.

      • It says there is not sufficient evidence behind 89% of all treatments (over 3000) incl. conventional.

        Please answer the question – are you against ANY treatment – conventional or alternative outside the 11% group? Yes or no?

        • L.H. Olavius said:

          It says there is not sufficient evidence behind 89% of all treatments (over 3000) incl. conventional.

          No it doesn’t.

          This really is an unnecessary diversion from the topic here, but accuracy is important and you have to start showing a far better understanding of what that page actually says about evidence. Once you understand that, perhaps we can get back to discussing homeopathy, the lack of any good evidence for it and the situation in Belgium?

  • Just answer the question.

    • who do you think you are to insist on ‘yes or no’ questions in this way? Paxman?

    • LOL!

      First, show that you will understand the answer by demonstrating you understand your own question. Tell us what you think those figures mean. So far, you have failed to even come close.

      But of course, this still has nothing to do with the lack of any good evidence for homeopathy nor the situation in Belgium. Why do you seem so determined not to talk about them?

  • Why wont you just answer the question?
    Are you against conventional medicine that doesn’t have sufficient evidence behind it? If it is not 89% as shown in the BMJ chart what figure is it then? And from where do you have your figure.
    I think the question is relevant because if you are against alternative medicine because of insufficient evidence shouldn’t you also be against conventional medicine for the same reason.

    • ‘insufficient’ is not a yes or no thing. there are degrees of insufficiency and sufficiency. and there is biological plausibility to be taken into account. in a word: things are usually a bit more complex that you seem to think.

    • L.H. Olavius said:

      Why wont you just answer the question?

      I have already explained: you do not appear to understand your own question yet. That page does not say what you said it said. We need to sort that out first before answering any questions.

      Are you against conventional medicine that doesn’t have sufficient evidence behind it?

      I would have hoped it was obvious that any treatment that does not have good evidence to support it has to be questioned. That, of course, includes nonsense such as homeopathy.

      If it is not 89% as shown in the BMJ chart what figure is it then?

      The figure there is certainly 89% but you still seem to misunderstand what the 89% refers to – that is why I have been suggesting you re-read the page.

      And from where do you have your figure.

      See above.

      I think the question is relevant because if you are against alternative medicine because of insufficient evidence shouldn’t you also be against conventional medicine for the same reason.

      Indeed. It is the usual false dichotomy of course.

      Now, at what point can we get back to discussing homeopathy and the lack of any good evidence for it or the situation in Belgium?

  • I’m hearing that this is good news for skeptics.

    According to the European Central Council of Homeopaths:

    http://www.homeopathy-ecch.org/

    “The final conditions established to be legally allowed to practise homeopathy are:

    1. practitioners have to be qualified as a medical doctor, dentist or midwife

    Thereby instantly denying the many homeopathy practitioners in Belgium who have practised for many years and paid into the Belgian taxation system the right to their livelihood.
    2. have a degree in homeopathy from an official college or university

    Nobody in Belgium meets this second condition because homeopathy up until now was only taught in private schools, whether to practitioners or medical doctors. Moreover, the deans of the faculties of medicine have recently declared that homeopathy does not belong in a medical curriculum and refuse to allow it to be taught at their universities. This means that in the future no-one, doctors included, will be able to undertake the required education to be able to practise homeopathy as required by the Law. “

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