MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

This sad story was reported across the world. It is tragic and, at the same time, it makes me VERY angry. A women lost her life after giving birth due to the incompetence of her midwife. On this website, we learn the following gruesome details:

Many question the culpability of Australian midwife Gaye Demanuele in the wake of the investigations into the death of Caroline Lovell during her home birth in 2012. And while Demanuele played a major role in Lovell’s passing, a closer look may show the real culprit: homeopathy. In January 2012, Demanuele, an outspoken home birth advocate, served as senior midwife in Lovell’s home birth. After giving birth, Lovell experienced severe blood loss and begged to call an ambulance. According to the investigating coroner, Demanuele refused several times, never checking her patient’s blood pressure or effectively monitoring her blood loss. Demanuele instead tried a homeopathic “remedy” to relieve Lovell’s anxiety. Only after Lovell fainted in a pool of her own blood and went into cardiac arrest was she taken to a hospital, where she died 12 hours later…

We know that many midwifes are besotted with alternative medicine. Their love-affair with quackery had to lead to serious harm sooner or later. This story is thus tragic and awful – but it is not surprising.

What makes me angry, is the complete lack of critical comment from homeopaths and their professional organisations. Where are the homeopaths who state clearly and categorically that the use of homeopathic remedies in the situation described above (and indeed in midwifery generally) is not based on sound evidence? In fact, it is criminal charlatanry!

Homeopaths are usually not lost for words.

Where is the homeopathic organisation stating that a bleeding patient does not need homeopathy?

How should we interpret this deafening silence?

Does it mean that those homeopaths who quietly tolerate charlatanry are themselves charlatans?

If so, would this not be 100% of them?

45 Responses to Homeopathy cost another life … and homeopaths remain once again silent

  • Sadly, midwifery is infested with woo. Midwives are all about “natural” and routinely promote homeopathy, chiropractic and other bullshit. Not all of them, of course, but a substantial minority. I think it’s the whole earth mother tihng.

  • Was homeopathy the cause of this tragedy? From the article it appears that the midwife was infested with wrong headed ideas about conventional medicine leading to her appalling decisions. She misdiagnosed the extreme anxiety of a woman approaching death, when she failed to call for help it sealed this poor woman’s fate. Her belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy seems to be a symptom of her lack of critical thinking rather than a cause.

    • yes, it doesn’t seem to be an actual failure of homeopathy (nothing less could be expected, of course) as the mindset which includes this nonsense in its therapeutic (!) armoury.

    • As you say, it is a marker for the absence of adequate critical thinking and training.

    • I can’t help it, but when someone tells me they are a committed believer in any ‘alternative therapy’.I label them
      Ad not too bright or at least as ignorant about science or unable to distinguish fact from fiction. In this case, the midwife had de-registered herself yet continued to practice. That should have disqualified her from going anywhere near expectant mothers.

      • I also denigrate them for stupidity but that is lazy thought and speech. Professor Ernst has described how intelligent people can succumb to charlatanry.
        http://edzardernst.com/2016/03/the-making-of-a-homeopath/

        If we can fully understand this process we might be able to prevent new acolytes to the dark side and even convert some to less dangerous occupations.

        However, to a subset, their delusion is a religion, every bit as ingrained as Catholicism is in the Pope. For them, there is little hope.

  • Many if not all most midwives are nurses. There is a resentment among some in that profession that only doctors are allowed to practice medicine while many of the ordered procedures are actually carried out by nurses. Midwifery and alt med empower nurses to be able to actually practice medicine without a medical degree. It is common for people to overestimate their abilities while delivering the forms of medical care without the background knowledge. As a dentist, I could teach many how to extract teeth but without a background in anatomy, physiology and pathways of infection a higher rate of complications is inevitable. Making it legal does not make it safe, but once politics is involved, reality takes a back seat.

    • “Many if not all most midwives are nurses. ”

      For info: this depends on the country. In France at least, midwifery is an entirely separate profession, with nurses not being allowed to practise as midwives and of course vice versa.

      Not defending it, just pointing out this does exist.

  • The midwife was properly regulated by the Australian authorities to conduct midwifery professionally and as such is responsible for her own actions. Perhaps she still is.
    Nevertheless, she has clearly been exposed to camistry (as I term the practice of CAM) and her thinking has ‘gone awry’. I quote a British judge speaking of a mother who insisted on camistry for her son contrary to the wishes of the father.

    If a doctor treated haemorrage in this cavalier manner I would expect numerous comments from critical colleagues.
    Has anyone of repute asked the representatives of homeopathy (Faculty of Homeopathy, Peter Fisher, Society of Homeopaths) to comment?

    Give them a time limit to do so and declare,
    “If I have not heard what comment you may have on this case by…I will take it that you support the homeopath’s actions and have no remorse about your own association with a treatment modality which can so mislead its practitioners.”

    Could Ernst ask on behalf of all of us?
    Thank you.

    • YOU DO IT…THEY DON’T SPEAK TO ME ANYMORE, I’M AFRAID.

      • Who can blame them? To suggest that homeopathy killed this poor woman is like saying conventional medicine killed Frances Cappuccini.

        • Well, I suppose it *might* be equivalent to the Cappuccini case, if it weren’t for the obvious fact that there is an official judicial finding of fact that Dr. Cornish did not actually do anything wrong; in any surgical procedure there is always a risk of serious or even fatal complications, fortunately these are extremely rare.

          In the case of Ms. Lovell, the facts appear strikingly different. The midwife appears to have had delusions of adequacy, and failed to call an ambulance when the patient requested transfer to hospital, failed to monitor blood pressure despite severe haemorrhage, and in sundry other ways fell far short of the standards one is entitled to expect from a medical professional. And then to use a quack remedy in the hope of undoing the damage? That’s the last straw.

        • This poor woman was killed by willful ignorance and blind arrogance. For homeopathy to survive, it must cultivate and reinforce precisely this mindset within its practitioners, as impenetrable, immutable defense against any challenge or consideration that they could ever be wrong.

          So yes, homeopathy absolutely has blood on its hands here, because it creates, empowers, and protects these dangerous quacks. Frances Cappuccini died because of medical incompetence. Caroline Lovell died because homeopathy was working exactly as designed. And shame on you for insinuating otherwise.

          • (Correction: I should say ‘possible’ or ‘alleged incompetence’, as the judge determined there was little or no evidence on which to proceed, and cleared the trust and doctor on trial. So your comparison sucks even worse.)

          • I find your language here rather intriguing. You say homeopathy ‘creates, empowers and protects…dangerous quacks’. How do you imagine ‘it’ does this? When you go on to say ‘homeopathy was working exactly as designed’, are you suggesting that homeopathy was designed, i.e. deliberately conceived, with this purpose in mind? If so, who or what is the malign force you imagine to be at work here?

  • The trouble is -Is it possible to train somebody in ‘critical thinking’, any more than to train people to be footballers or artists or singers, if the basic aptitude isn’t there? There are, as we know, several doctors, vets and even pharmacists etc who believe in homeopathy. Surely many of these were taught to think critically?I have a friend who’s convinced that anybody can learn to sing, including him, even though as far as I’m concerned he can’t carry a note in a bucket. I’ve tried to teach people to paint-I’m a bad teacher, admittedly- and it’s generally been as hopeless as it was trying to teach me Chemistry. Is the ability to think critically something that should be more strongly required for admission to Medical courses? I once-years ago-had a vague fantasy about studying Architecture, but whereas the visual/ historical aspects would have been manageable, my hopelessness in the area of Physics, Structural Engineering and similar would have made me a non-starter. Surely a critical understanding of why homeopathy doesn’t work in Medicine is as vital as the understanding of why blancmange is not considered entirely suitable as a building material.

  • In the UK the National Childcare Trust presents unnecessary medical intervention as the main danger to mother and child. As this case demonstrates, the main danger is the absence of timely intervention. NCT also shockingly pushes homeopathy as an alternative to medication that actually does something. When I attended their classes I felt I was getting good information, but in retrospect I think it was overwhelmingly a propaganda exercise for “natural childbirth”, as if mothers have a choice whether the birth will proceed without complications.

  • http://io9.gizmodo.com/statistics-professor-challenges-midwives-math-on-home-1531252714

    http://www.skepticalob.com/2014/01/homebirth-midwives-reveal-death-rate-450-higher-than-hospital-birth-announce-that-it-shows-homebirth-is-safe.html

    Home birth carries elevated risks for both child and mum. I have always wondered why people choose “comfy” over safe.

    It seems that the midwife was reluctant to take appropriate action and if it wasn’t homeopathy it would have been some other stall tactic.

  • Homeopathy is manifestly utter bunk but I am not sure how much blame (if any) can be put on homeopathy in this particular instance.

    The coroner’s report[1] makes reference to two potentially homeopathic preparations (‘Arnica’ and ‘a homeopathic Bach flower remedy’) being used though perhaps the Bach one technically isn’t homeopathic. It’s clear that the midwife’s odd views on hospital / medical interventions were problematic (and this is not the first death she’s been involved in) but it’s not clear that she held these views because of her homeopathy background or training, and to be honest I’ve not been able to find a great deal of evidence of that either. I’ve written up what I found on my blog here[2].

    It’s possible the newspaper journalists had access to more information than me, perhaps interviewing people etc, but if their deliberations on the role of homeopathy centre only on its mention in the coroner’s report then I think homeopathy may have been unfairly maligned.

    Since blogging about the case I’ve received a couple of tweets from someone indicating that the midwife’s ideological ideas about hospitals may have been related more to annoyance with patriarchy than adhering to naturopathy or homeopathy per se – in fact in 2013 she wrote an article on ‘why birth is a feminist issue’ that definitely heads in that direction. I don’t think either a homeopathy ideology, or homeopathy ‘treatments’ are particularly responsible for this young woman’s death though.

    Refs
    [1] Coroner’s report: http://www.coronerscourt.vic.gov.au/resources/fe2e0207-dd5a-4558-aade-07e41c368ab9/carolineemilylovell_029312.pdf
    [2] My blog post: http://brodiesnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/maternal-death-in-australia-was.html

  • Guy Ogilvy-
    Are you-to be polite- simply being wilfully obtuse here?

    • I may not be the brightest, but any obtuseness on my part is not (consciously) wilful. I honestly invite answers to my questions as posed.

      • Guy Ogilvy-
        I gain the impression from your comments that you are rather pro homeopathy. Loic would seem to suggest that were things otherwise, you should require no explanation.
        OK
        Homeopathy creates quacks because it attracts gullible, naive, often well-meaning, and sometimes downright nasty people, and teaches them a silly, unproven, anti-scientific load of nonsense.
        It empowers them because it teaches them that this stuff works, and they are trained in it, and are as competent and valid as real doctors, and even that critics have ulterior motives, often involving backhanders from ‘Big Pharma’.
        As to the way in which homeopathic bodies refuse to condemn stupidity and foolishness, one has merely to look at posts here, on the Quackometer site, and at the still-continuing efforts to ruin the career of many critics, including Andy Smith and Dr – proper Doctor – Simon Singh. And at the attempts to get Africans to stop using their AIDS medicines and instead use homeopathic Wingwang water, because ‘God’ wants them to. None of this is ever criticised by the homeopathy cult’s so – called regulatory bodies.
        Re the comment ‘Homeopathy was working exactly as designed’, then I would think the same would apply to a 2-wheeled car or a 1-winged aeroplane or a helicopter with rotors made of bananas Homeopathy works on the basis upon which it was designed, which is to say that since the basic design is idiotic, then the results of its use are not likely to show any improvement on it.
        Clear?

  • Does anyone in this list of angry judgemental people remember that the supreme court told the 2 Md’s that were running the “we hate everything but us and our thoughts website Quackbusters” ? When they were told by the Supreme Court that they were to cease and desist with their venom and vinegar. It seems your site is the next candidate for their award. It’s amazing that in the 21st century that the minions still act as though they are real. I will save all this sites posts as evidence of the illnesses that prevail on this site. Good luck on your shallow lifes

    • Opposing a practice which injures and kills people for no benefit except the pocket of the bogus doctor is shallow? One wonders what you would find deep.

    • @ D. Cleves
      You are apparently of the not so uncommon but mistaken opinion that a court ruling must be in accordance with the truth and reality. If memory serves me right, the matter being dealt with in that case was the question of false advertising, not whether shaken water worked or not. The defendant obviously had better lawyers than the plaintiff, who managed to belittle the plaintiffs personally by pointing out they were neither experts in homeopathy nor practicing physicians. As a matter of fact, few practicing doctors have the time for chasing charlatans and denouncing lunatics so it is often the retired ones who indulge in such pastimes.
      The ruling was filled with totally irrelevant pontifications against the plaintiffs, making it clear the judge was very likely partial to homeopathy.
      If you think this single ruling gives support to the effect and utility of shaken water and sugar pills for any health problems, you are seriously out at sea.

    • When they were told by the Supreme Court that they were to cease and desist with their venom and vinegar.

      Um, no. Perhaps you could provide a citation for your specific claim, or at least indicate which Supreme Court you are babbling about? Other than Barrett v Rosenthal, a web search throws up reams of peanut gallery posts from the likes of Timmy Bolen, who is hardly an independent or honest reporter of… well, anything. If Barrett et al couldn’t clear the bar for libel when trying to sue various quacks for spreading defamatory statements (unlike the UK, the US has very strong laws protecting freedom speech, even when it’s a sack of malicious lies), I’m a little sceptical US quacks would fare much better in trying to use the law to silence Barrett & co.

      • Acleron – You know, there maybe are times when we could all desist with our vinegar. I must admit, I do put rather a lot on.

        • Guy Chapman-
          Slightly new to this, so I’d not heard of the fellow Bolen.
          He can be sure that I shall follow his works from now on. He’s a deeply fascinating chap. Can’t remember his ‘education’, can’t remember his address. Can he remember where his backside is so he can scratch it? He has been shunned even by anti-vaxxers who accuse him of ‘making up his own reality’.
          Any chance, do you think, that D Cleves, JJ Flowers, Judee Doyle and others who complain about ‘aggression, impoliteness, bad manners and sarcasm’ on this and other sites could be persuaded to investigate his Quackwatch entry, so that they may edge towards an understanding of the heat that sometimes enters this argument? I see that the ‘Truth About Cancer’ film is being re-promoted currently. A gentleman on the ‘Quackometer’ site put it forward as a – as he hoped – game clincher, but then admitted he’d not even seen it himself. The other side’s own leading lights do seem to have a rather unerring ability to dig holes and then fall right into them.

    • D Cleves
      Your use of ‘angry’ and ‘judgmental’ does rather suggest that you are one of those sensitive souls who see any criticism of their faith as ‘aggressive’ and ‘bad mannered’. No religious belief system, including homeopathy and reiki, should be allowed to feel itself to be beyond criticism. And to accuse critics-as happens often-of being bitter and twisted – it’s happened even to James Randi, for crying out loud – is just weird and silly. However, good luck with your new collecting hobby.

    • Yes, quacks often try to use the law to silence criticism. It’s almost as if they cannot make their case through the orthodox process of providing robust evidence, isn’t it?

    • D Cleves
      If we’re not to use vinegar, is a little sauce OK?

  • Interesting to look back on all this, including the references to homeopaths’ resorting to anger, abuse and even legal action when criticised or simply asked for evidence.
    In the last few days I’ve had more experience of this, having been talked down to on a site where I was called a moron, a bully, and told to educate myself, and accused of extreme anger, mostly becauuse I questioned the science behind alternative cancer nonsense there.
    One woman claimed that ‘sugar feeds cancer’, I disputed this and asked for evidence, at which point another cultist got involved and shouted- in print- ‘SUGAR FEEDS CANCER. END OF STORY’.
    As I’ve said a few times, much though I’m in favour of education, don’t see how it can ever get past the roadblock of this kind of wilful stupidity. All of which was replicated in an argument with a Trump collaborator- I do get around- who insisted that Trump never lies, but in fact was lied about by thev’leftist media'( what DID happen to Logos-Bios?).I put to him half a dozen of the most well- documented instances where he did indeed lie- terrorist attacks that never happened, massive crowds that didn’t exist, BBC bias etc- -and never heard back from him.
    How IS it possible to debate with charlatans? Is this whole blog just a case of preaching to the choir?

  • Don’t misunderstand that last question. It was asked out of despair at the hopelessness of trying to reason with people who are deeply proud of their hatred of reason.

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