MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Homeopathy has always enjoyed a special status in Germany, its country of origin. Germans use homeopathy more often than the citizens of most other countries, they spend more money on it, and they even have elevated it to some kind of medical speciality. In 2003, the German medical profession re-considered the requirements for carrying the title of ‘Doctor of Homeopathy’. It was decided that only physicians who already were specialists in one medical field were allowed to be certified with this title after a post-graduate education and training programme of 6 months, or 100 hours of case studies under supervision plus 160 hours of course work. Many German physicians seem to find this rigorously regulated programme attractive, opted for it, and earn good money with it; the number of ‘doctors of homeopathy’ has risen from 2212 to 6712 between 1993 and 2009.

Personally, I find much of this surprising, even laughable, and have repeatedly stated that even the most rigorously regulated education in nonsense can only result in nonsense. 

Luckily, I am not alone. A multidisciplinary group of experts (Muensteraner Kreis) has just filed an official application with the current 121st General Assembly of the German medical profession to completely abolish the title ‘Doctor of Homeopathy’. Our application itself is a lengthy document outlining in some detail the nature of our arguments. Here, I will merely translate its conclusion:

Even though present in science-business, homeopathy is not scientifically founded. Its basis – potentisation and the simile principle – contradicts scientific facts; homeopathy therefore must be categorised as esoteric. The international scientific community does not interpret the clinical studies of homeopathy as a sufficient proof for its efficacy. Giving an esoteric approach to medicine the veneer of credibility by officially establishing the title ‘Doctor of Homeopathy’ contradicts the physicians’ claim of a scientifically-based medicine and weakens the status of the science-based medicine through blurring the boundaries between science and belief. Problems within science-based medicine must be solved internally and cannot be unburdened onto an unscientific approach to medicine. We consider the abolishment of the ‘Doctor of Homeopathy’ to be urgently indicated.

END OF MY TRANSLATION

I think it would be more than a little over-optimistic to assume that the Assembly will swiftly adopt our suggestion. Perhaps this is also not the intention of our application. In Germany (I learnt my homeopathy in this country), homeopathy is still very much protected by powerful lobby groups and financial interests, as well as loaded with heavy emotional baggage. Yet I do hope that our application will start a discussion which, eventually, will bring a rational resolution to the embarrassing anachronism of the ‘Doctor of Homeopathy’ (Arzt fuer Homoeopathie).

The German medical profession might even have the opportunity to be internationally at the forefront of reason and progress.

22 Responses to The German title of ‘Doctor of Homeopathy’ should be obsolete (because even the most rigorously regulated education in nonsense can only result in nonsense)

  • Or perhaps the title could be recast as ‘Doctor of Quackery’?

    ‘Arzt fuer Farce’ in German?
    Or would ‘fartz’ be better?

    (I do know that German for the English word ‘farce’, is ‘farce’.)

  • A Doctor of Medicine (MD) prescribes accordingly. If a homeopathic prescription may be helpful (no other recommended treatment is available or indicated), then a German Doctor of Medicine (with or without Homeopathy as a specialism) may do so.

    Objections, Dr Rawlins?

    • I have no objections to what German doctors get up to as long as they demonstrate intellectual integrity and professional probity.

      We all know that a homeopathic preparation (water or alcohol dripped onto sugar pills) has no effect whatsoever on anything except the profit margins of the companies who make and sell them and the those who charge for ‘prescribing’ them.

      Ergo, , there is never any ethical indication for any practitioner (regular or camist) to ever prescribe any ‘remedy’.

      And no doctor should do so, unless they let the patient in on the trick and obtain fully informed consent: “I will prescribe a pill which has no effect whatsoever, but the very prescription and subsequent ritual of ingestion may induce placebo responses which might be pleasurable for you”.

      In the UK, any person may prescribe anything that is not on a pharmaceutical schedule, to anyone who consults them. Aspirin, Red Bull, homeopathic remedies…

      And anyone can style themselves ‘Dr’, as long as they do not claim to be a registered medical practitioner; to possess a degree they do not (such as MD); or intend to obtain financial advantage by fraud. Some dentists style themselves as ‘Dr’ (quite why they do not use ‘Dn’ for ‘Dentist’ is beyond me). Some chiropodists like to get on the bandwagon. Some practitioners of Punch and Judy style themselves as ‘Professor’. It’s called ‘marketing’.

  • If a homeopathic prescription may be helpful

    In what way can inert sugar pills or shaken water/alcohol in small quantities be helpful? Please substantiate with credible evidence.

  • German politics seems to be quite backward when it comes to CAM, especially homeopathy. As one example, Barbara Steffens (an active homeopathy believer, even supporting teaching of CAM at Universities) was the minister for health (!) in the federal state NRW for many years (until the election last year, she now still is a member of the state parliament).
    Although I very much appreciate activities from groups like the Muensteraner Kreis, GWUP (I just applied for a membership), and others, I fail to see much success in terms of real policy changes as a result of recommendations from rational people/scientist. As a member of the Muensteraner Kreis, Prof. Ernst, may I ask you how you judge the impact of this new official application? Is it reasonable to assume that this application has any success in light of the influential CAM lobby in Germany?

    • If I may offer my two pennies:

      It would be foolish, as Prof. detailed in his article, to expect immediate success. But even the longest trip starts with the first step, which might seem to bring only very limited progress, but is essential nevertheless.

      Compare to the attitude towards smoking: When I was in my studies (a very long time ago, now that I think of it) an intellectual had to smoke to be considered as such. The black ones from France. In each and every pub there were dense clouds of smoke. You had smoking compartments on trains, you had smoking seats in airplanes. I do not know when the compaign against smoking started, softly at first, but in the end it had its effect: Today smoking is considered to be a bad habit, not a sign of some superior status or capacity. There seems to be no pub or restaurant around, that tolerates smoking within, in railway stations even on open air platforms smoking is banned.

      I am positive: even if the assembly will not follow our request, the discussion about homeopathy will be enhanced.

    • Sorry but that’s not true.
      Why?

      The German Government is very progressive when it comes to CAM. If you compare its reaction on the pressure of the osteopathic lobbyism with the reactions of the Swiss or UK governments it’s fantastic.

      The German Government withstands all of the huge pressure of this social alternative movement called “OSTEOPATHY” that’s gorgeous and they will not agree to install a so called “osteopath” into the German health system.

  • Acknowledging the placebo effect should not be a validation of any treatment modality.

    CG DVM

  • the response of the German homeopaths could not be more pathetic (https://www.homoeopathie-online.info/zusatzbezeichnung-homoeopathie-fuer-aerzte-ein-garant-fuer-patientensicherheit/):

    Die Nachfrage nach ärztlicher Homöopathie ist in den letzten 20 Jahren enorm gestiegen. Mit Blick auf die Qualitätssicherung und die Patientensicherheit ist die Zusatzbezeichnung Homöopathie ein Garant für eine gute und sichere Versorgung der Patienten. Darüber hinaus ist die Homöopathie im Fünften Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB V) rechtlich verankert. Die mit der Bundesärztekammer eng abgestimmten Lehrinhalte gewährleisten eine kompetente Behandlung der Patienten.
    Homöopathische Ärzte bekennen sich zur Wissenschaftlichkeit. Die moderne Evidenzbasierte Medizin (EbM) stützt sich per Definition auf drei Säulen: auf die klinische Erfahrung der Ärzte, die Werte und Wünsche des Patienten und den aktuellen Stand der klinischen Forschung. Die ärztliche Homöopathie wird von Tausenden Ärzten seit über 200 Jahren erfolgreich angewendet – soweit die klinische Erfahrung, sie wird von Patienten gefordert, was sämtliche sozialwissenschaftliche Befragungen zeigen. Und eine zusammenfassende Betrachtung klinischer Forschungsdaten belegt hinreichend einen therapeutischen Nutzen der homöopathischen Behandlung[1].
    Die ärztliche Homöopathie ist wirksam und evidenzbasiert. Das ist durch zahlreiche Studien belegt. In ärztlicher Hand ist sie ein wichtiger Bestandteil einer Integrativen Medizin, die das Beste aus der konventionellen Medizin und der ärztlichen Homöopathie zum Wohle des Patienten verbindet.“
    Der DZVhÄ ist der Berufsverband der homöopathischen Ärzteschaft und der älteste Ärzteverband in Deutschland, gegründet 1829 in Köthen/Anhalt. Seit Jahrzehnten trägt der DZVhÄ zu einer von den Ärztekammern anerkannten, fundierten und praxisorientierten Aus- und Weiterbildung im Bereich Homöopathie bei – der Zusatzbezeichnung Homöopathie.

    [1] Forschungsreader der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für Homöopathie (WissHom, 2016): „Der aktuelle Stand der Forschung zur Homöopathie“, einsehbar unter: https://www.homoeopathie-online.info/category/wisshom/

    • Google translates that as:

      The demand for medical homeopathy has increased enormously in the last 20 years. With regard to quality assurance and patient safety, the additional term homeopathy is a guarantor for a good and safe patient care. In addition, homeopathy is legally anchored in the Fifth Social Code (SGB V). The curriculum closely coordinated with the German Medical Association ensures competent treatment of patients.

      Homeopathic doctors profess to be scientific. Modern evidence-based medicine (EBM) is by definition based on three pillars: the clinical experience of physicians, the values ​​and desires of the patient and the current state of clinical research. Medical homeopathy has been successfully used by thousands of doctors for over 200 years – as far as the clinical experience, it is required by patients, as shown by all social science surveys. And a comprehensive review of clinical research data sufficiently substantiates a therapeutic benefit of homeopathic treatment [1].

      Medical homeopathy is effective and evidence-based. This is proven by numerous studies. Physically, it is an integral part of integrative medicine that combines the best of conventional medicine and medical homeopathy for the benefit of the patient. ”

      The DZVhÄ is the professional association of the homeopathic medical profession and the oldest medical association in Germany, founded in 1829 in Köthen / Anhalt. For decades, the DZVhÄ contributes to a well-founded and practice-oriented education and training in the field of homeopathy recognized by the medical associations – the additional designation homeopathy.

      [1] Research reader of the Scientific Society for Homeopathy (WissHom, 2016): “The current state of research on homeopathy”, available at: https://www.homoeopathie-online.info/category/wisshom/

  • I like to observe just what’s going on…

    A ‘Doctor’ can be achieved in any field following the new regulations of the Bologna process.. it gave the institutions the opportunity to make more money in all fields of a society doesn’t matter what it might be.

    As you can see here in the field of homeopathy one might achieve an university title in any religious or pseudoscientific field that’s relevant for public marketing nowadays.

    Here you can see that selling such titles like Dr. of homeopathy is a very fast growing business and being a professor for such a subject becomes an inherent part of the game in post modern times.

    The attribute ‘scientifically’ is no longer of any relevance in post-modern times. So you can achieve a Master of disaster as well why not a doctor of homeopathy or in rice cooking?

    On the other hand some former leftwing propagandists are using ‘evidence’ and ‘science’ for their propaganda like a hermetic replacement for religion and ‘evidence’ becomes their new prayer never ever having done a scientific study by their own. it’s just about to be on the right side of the track.

    If you look onto the different associations and new “Stiftungen” wiping the flags of ‘.. movement for science’ it looks like the new marketplace to recrute the lonely and homeless with ideas to forbid and bann something or someone as ‘non-scientific’.

    I think that some people might be vulnetable for to follow such ideas to forbid or bann something or someone if they have sufferedä from all kinds of authoritarian education… they have a tendency to clarify the territory or the hirarchy for any reason …

    It gives people being educated such ways and who are gathering in such groups the feeling suddenly to have an unknown power by provoking the ‘adjusted people’ by the so called ‘non- adjusted’ whatever this might be. We are here … you are there…

    But scientific research is a very hard work everyday in small and even smaller steps often boring and thid has nothing to do with a placative atheistic or pseudo-humanistic propaganda and with the endless game now going on for decades in trying to forbid something or someone

    … to me that all looks like a helpless attempt to find a new identity by still recapitulating the learned educational authoritarian reflexes.

    So identification with the agressor is a field of illusions but not scientific work.

    Couldn’t it be that such people are involved in meetings like Muensteraner Erklaerung? Could it be that such declarations have their origin in student’s cities like Freiburg Heidelberg and Muenster because in such cities former left wing psycho sects still have enough members to attract ‘neutral’ scientists with a kind of propaganda like ‘ … for science..’ ‘… for humanism …’ like former left wing psycho sects in the 68ties always did and still do ??

    I am doubting about many of such self-declared ‘scientists’ and real scientists should watch out were they join in …

  • Edzard

    “Personally, I find much of this surprising, even laughable, and have repeatedly stated that even the most rigorously regulated education in nonsense can only result in nonsense. ”

    I sincerely hope, you are taken seriously for a change.
    You spent 25 years as Chair of Complementary Medicine and in spite of your officially running down the same, it actually grew in stature and gained share. No one took you seriously, if the data for people using complementary medicine is used as reference. Except off course the press, that was routinely nudged in your direction. They don’t miss you?

    • Iqbal Krishna said:

      You spent 25 years as Chair of Complementary Medicine and in spite of your officially running down the same, it actually grew in stature and gained share.

      We can address your ‘running it down’ comment later, but did it really grow in stature and gain share? Please provide your evidence.

      • Alan Henness

        Edzard always shies away for responding to “running down complementary medicine”. I always believed he was paid to further its reach and capabilities, unless this was only a ruse.

        “……did it really grow in stature and gain share?”

        You really believe all population is stupid and gets taken in by paid writing?
        In the United States, approximately 38 percent of adults (about 4 in 10) and approximately 12 percent of children (about 1 in 9) are using some form of CAM, shown in figure 1.
        People of all backgrounds use CAM. However, CAM use among adults is greater among women and those with higher levels of education and higher incomes. Figure 2 shows the percentage of people using CAM by age. Figure 3 shows CAM use by race/ethnicity.
        https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm

        “Harvard researchers have found that the use of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) is skyrocketing. Investigators conducted 2,055 telephone interviews of U.S. residents, aged 18 years or older. In total, 67.6% of respondents had tried at least one CAM therapy, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, biofeedback, nutritional supplementation or other approaches. Younger individuals were more likely to use CAM, compared with older people.”
        http://icpa4kids.org/Chiropractic-Research/long-term-trends-in-the-use-of-complementary-and-alternative-medical-therapies-in-the-united-states.html

        “The present data demonstrate an increase of CAM usage from 1990 through 2006 in all countries investigated. We found geographical differences, as well as differences between the general population and medical personnel.”
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307506/

    • I understand your flamboyant hatred against actual medicine and your conflicts of intellect interest. But alternative medicine has not been gaining any ground, stature or share, where on earth did you get that idea from? Being deeply brainwashed and deluded is not so much of a rarity, but it is rather worrying to watch you demonstrate complete detachment from reality.

  • in Switzerland the make a lot of money now with new regulations about nonsense. They upgraded nonsense now to a Higher Education level and call it a European Pilot Project 🙂

    If you apply now for a certificate in nonsense during a limited time called “Übergangsbestimmung” / transitional provisions you can get the certificate of having graduated in nonsense a little cheaper. …

    http://www.oda-am.ch/de/hoehere-fachpruefung/

    http://www.oda-am.ch/de/hoehere-fachpruefung/zertifikat-oda-am/

  • Here are more NEW and interesting Swiss regulations about how to achieve a certificate about being able to practice a higher level of nonsense according to the Swiss law:

    https://www.oda-kt.ch/hoehere-fachpruefung-hfp/

    https://www.oda-kt.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/D/Grundlagen/170504_in_Kraft_gesetzte_PO_Deutsch.pdf

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