MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The ‘Homeopathy Action Trust’ (HAT) is a charity that claims to encourage and support public understanding of homeopathy. They believe that homeopathy is invaluable to many people and plays an important role in maintaining their health and wellbeing. The HAT advocates that patients have a right to choose homeopathic treatments and access to it on the NHS or privately. Many of HAT’s projects are about promoting to use of homeopathy in Africa, for instance, where they advocate homeopathy as a treatment for all sorts of serious diseases.

Recently HAT embarked on another project: a campaign against the current Wiki-page on homeopathy which HAT believes to be biased against homeopathy. Thus they issued a ‘position statement’ on their website. Here is a short paragraph from that statement which I find worthy of a comment (the numbers were inserted by me and refer to my comments below; otherwise the text in bold is by HAT):

We acknowledge that the scientific evidence in support of Homeopathy remains inconclusive (1), but it is by no means definitively negative (2) and there is in fact an active and growing field of research worldwide (3). We acknowledge that the mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies is unknown (4) – as it is for some conventional medicines – but this does not preclude their usage in clinical situations (5). We welcome honest and open-minded debate (6) about Homeopathy and fully support the call for high quality (7), appropriately designed research studies (8) into the effectiveness of homeopathy as it is practised by both medical and professional homeopaths (9).

  1. The evidence is not ‘inconclusive’ but the most reliable evidence fails to convincingly show efficacy (see here, for instance).
  2. In healthcare, we do not focus on the question whether the evidence for anything is ‘definitely negative’, but we base our decisions on the question whether or not the evidence is positive. In other words, we use those treatments that are backed up with positive evidence and not those where this is in serious doubt.
  3. The research activity in homeopathy has been in decline for some time; this can easily be verified by searching Medline.
  4. No, we know that there cannot be a mechanism of action that is in line with the laws of nature.
  5. If such therapies are used in conventional healthcare, it is because they are (contrary to homeopathy) supported by sufficiently strong clinical evidence.
  6. So far, this ‘position statement’ is neither honest nor open-minded, in my view.
  7. More research seems unnecessary, perhaps even unethical, and most research in this area is not of high quality.
  8. ‘Appropriately designed’ sounds frightfully suspicious to me, because homeopaths tend to see any trial that fails to confirm their bizarre notions as ‘not appropriately designed’.
  9. ‘Professional homeopath’ is a term designed to mislead the public; lay homeopaths would be more to the point, I think.

5 Responses to Homeopathy: a position statement by the ‘Homeopathy Action Trust’

  • The Homeopathy Action Trust is a charity that exists to protect the commercial interests of its founders and directors, against the relentless onslaught of science.

    Some might think this is not an appropriate charitable purpose.

    Still, it might be enlightening to discover what, exactly, they would consider conclusive. It’s very easy for any skeptic or scientist to identify what would change their mind, but I have yet to have a credible answer from a homeopathist.

  • medical and professional homeopaths

    I wonder how long someone sat at their keyboard before committing to that awkward formulation. If you pause to think about what it literally means then your brain quickly begins to itch.

    So medical homeopaths are not professional?
    No professional homeopaths are medics?

    Help, I’ve broken my Venn diagram.

  • Well, I would add a little to argument #5. It is a question of the extent of the ignorance. For any remedy we know for sure that it does contain some sort of agens, that this enters the body of the patient and that it is conveyed to the place where it performs its task. For homeopathy all of this is unclear.

    It is just like ordering from a menu in the netherlands: You are at a loss if you just do not know what ‘boerenkool’ might be just the same as if you cannot make head or tail of the whole language. But I guess, in the first case it is much easier to close the gap.

    boerenkool: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale

  • I agree with Guy Chapman. The promotion of homeopathy is not an appropriate subject for a charity. This charity has been in existence for some years and has an average annual income of over £100,000. However, the Charity Commissioners are unlikely to do anything about it unless they receive a formal complaint. They are mainly concerned about whether trustees are doing something obviously fraudulent.

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