MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I am not a regular reader of the ‘HALTERNER ZEITUNG’, I have to admit; but this article from the paper came to me because of my interest in homeopathy. It tells a tragic story of a German women who paid dearly for consulting a homeopath.

Here is an excerpt – as it is in German, I will sum up the essence of the story below in English.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

…Die traurige Geschichte beginnt im Jahr 2012. Die später verstorbene Frau aus Haltern lässt sich von ihrer Ärztin wegen Heiserkeit behandeln und bekommt homöopathische Mittel. Rund zehn Monate später wechselt die Seniorin den Arzt und muss umgehend ins Krankenhaus: Luftröhrenschnitt, Kehlkopf-Entfernung, Krebs. Die Frau verstirbt nach vierjähriger Leidenszeit.

Für Schwester und Tochter war das nicht nur ein Schock, sie machen der Ärztin nun auch schwere Vorwürfe. Aus ihrer Sicht hätte praktisch sofort eine Überweisung zu einem HNO-Arzt und damit eine schulmedizinische Behandlung erfolgen müssen.

Genau das habe die Patientin aber nicht gewollt, sagte die Ärztin. „Sie hat sich immer dagegen gewehrt.“ Angeblich soll das auch dokumentiert sein. Doch auch das ist umstritten. Die Hinterbliebenen werfen der Ärztin nämlich vor, die Unterlagen gefälscht zu haben.

150.000 Euro haben sie als Schmerzensgeld eingeklagt. Dafür sah die Medizinkammer zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt jedoch keine Grundlage. „Die Haftung ist vollkommen offen“, sagte Richter Norbert Schalla.

Man wolle die Leiden der Frau zwar nicht in Abrede stellen. Die Frage sei jedoch, inwieweit die Behandlung eines krankheitsbedingten Leidens tatsächlich verzögert worden sei. „Wir müssten erstens eine Pflichtverletzung und zweitens die Kausalität feststellen“, so Schalla. Beides sei aber außerordentlich schwierig, weil es außer der Ärztin keine Zeugen gebe.

Trotzdem hatten die Richter am Essener Landgericht am Ende eine „Goodwill-Zahlung“ vorgeschlagen, um einen möglicherweise jahrelangen Rechtsstreit zu verhindern. „Manchmal ist es besser, zu einem Abschluss zu kommen, damit man seinen inneren Frieden wiederfinden kann.“

Genau so hat es die Ärztin am Ende wohl auch gesehen. Ob die 10.000 Euro aber wirklich gezahlt werden, hängt allerdings noch von ihrer Haftpflicht-Versicherung ab. Die kann in den nächsten zwei Wochen noch ihr Veto einlegen.

Auch die Hinterbliebenen können die Einigung noch immer widerrufen. Sie müssen von dem Geld nämlich 94 Prozent der Prozesskosten tragen.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Here is my summary:

  • An elderly woman with a sore throat consults her doctor who happens to be a homeopath.
  • The doctor prescribes homeopathic remedies.
  • The homeopathic treatment continues for months, evidently without success.
  • 10 months later, the patient changes her doctor, and her new physician sends her straight away into hospital.
  • There she is diagnosed with throat cancer.
  • After 4 years of suffering, the woman dies.
  • The patients relatives sue the homeopath for the relatively modest sum of 150 000 Euros.
  • The homeopath claims that the old woman had refused to be referred to a specialist and that the case notes provide proof for that claim.
  • The relatives suspect that the case notes have been altered retrospectively.
  • The judge suggest a ‘good will’ payment of 10 000 Euro.
  • The homeopath accepts, but it remains unclear whether the insurance agrees to pay this sum.
  • The relatives have to pay 94% of the costs for the court proceedings.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Anyone who claims that homeopathy is harmless should remember this story. Similar (but hopefully less dramatic) things happen almost every time a homeopath treats a patient, we argue in our book. The practice of homeopathy is by and large medical neglect. Because homeopathy is employed mostly for minor, self-limiting conditions, the neglect usually remains invisible. However, as soon as homeopath venture to treat serious diseases, the neglect (the deliberate treatment of a disease with an ineffective therapy) becomes obvious.

21 Responses to This is what happens, if you treat cancer with homeopathy

  • I think this is poor medical skills rather than a problem with homeopathy per se. I’ve seen a couple of similar cases where patients have seem their GP with lumps or symptoms which the GP has tried to treat for some time with antibiotics, steroids, etc before eventually referring the patient on many months later when a diagnosis of malignancy is made. In one case, successful legal action was taken subsequently in which I was superficially involved. I am also reminded of Caron Keating who consulted her homeopath regarding a breast lump. He sent her to her GP immediately. There are certain signs and symptoms of which all properly-trained practitioners should be aware.

  • And I think the relatives made a bad deal with the civil case. The court apparently had no inclination to deal with the medical / scientific backgrounds (it was the regional court of my hometown…). The relatives were apparently advised to accept a payment of 10,000 euros – as a voluntary payment by the doctor, without a verdict, without an admission of guilt! Having claimed 150,000 euros, they must now pay the court costs and their lawyer’s fees in proportion to what they have received. There shouldn’t be a dime left.

    And the reputation of homeopathy has remained undiscussed and untouched in the court case and the reporting on this case will not change anything.

    In Germany, it is of the utmost urgency to take away the role of homeopathy anchored in health care legislation. The German Information Network Homoeopathy (INH) is particularly committed to this (I take the liberty of advertising this).

  • „Die Haftung ist vollkommen offen“

    Not being much of a German speaker, I looked the phrase up on teh web.

    All of two (2) results. That’s strange.

    I think it means that there is no legal justification to allocate blame to any of those involved.

    It is always sad when treatment fails. In this case, two treatments failed.

  • What regulation of doctors is there in Germany? This was a negligent doctor who was also a homeopath.

  • I agree with Lenny who wrote that the case you cited is “not a problem with homeopathy per se.” He then blames “poor medical skills”. I take issue with that assessment.

    While employed at a university cancer treatment center in the Southwestern United States years ago, it was often mandatory that I attend weekly “Tumor Board” conferences where oncologists of every speciality presented their cancer cases to their colleagues for peer review and collaborative suggestions regarding treatment planning. Despite having at their disposal the most sophisticated diagnostic tools, the funding for both established and experimental treatment modalities, their patients still suffered, still died.

    Sadly, cancer patients not only suffer and die from the disease, their grieving family members may be responsible for a portion of their loved one’s massive medical bills. Cancer is a formidable foe, leaving depleted savings, lost homes, bankrupt families. Cancer treatment is still “experimental”, even in the best of circumstances.

    • As you say this was years ago. No doubt many cancer patients suffer from the disease and the treatment, and some will die. I don’t think all cancer treatment is experimental – some skin lesions are dealt with perfectly well with surgery. And whilst some cancer treatments are imperfect, they have an imperfect chance of working whereas homeopathy has a perfect chance of not working. Along with coffee enemas, alkali diets and topical application of black salve.

  • It is a problem of the deep anchoring of homeopathy in the German health system.

    Homeopathics are officially medicinal products according to the Medicines Act, but are exempt from proof of efficacy by special regulations. A “commission”, consisting only of homeopaths and alternative practitioners, officially decides on registrations and approvals within the statutory health system. Last year, for example, this led to the court in a legal dispute – knowing exactly that the remedy in question was ineffective – to decide judging on the basis of the legal situation that there was “a legislative extension of the concept of pharmaceutical efficacy to homeopathics”. What a silly thing.

    This is flanked with regard to the medical profession by the fact that the German Medical Association allows the acquisition of an “additional medical designation homeopathy”. The “Münster Memorandum on Homeopathy” of a group of committed scientists, lawyers and authors, also mentioned in this blog, had appealed to the last German “Ärztetag”, the main conference of German doctors in May, to make an end with this. Despite major debates in advance, the conference was completely “speechless” in this case and did not touch the “additional designation homeopathy”.

    And against this background, a regional court is now to decide whether and to what extent a doctor who is a holder of the “additional title homeopathy” is guilty of liability. As I already wrote above in one of the first comments, the court – knowing the complicated situation – has made every effort not to have to give a verdict. It has obviously urged the survivors to accept the doctor’s “voluntary payment without acknowledgment of liability or debt”.
    This case shows, beyond the regrettable individual fate, the bizarre and unsustainable actual and legal situation in certain homeopaths in Germany.

    Like Prof. Ernst, I am a member of the German Homeopathy Information Network (INH). The basic concern of INH is education – we do this every day. The core concern is to work towards a change in the legal situation on homeopathy in Germany. This is hard bread. But we won’t stop.

  • @Sandra
    Please do not insult medicine and honest, hard working health care personnel by pretending to be qualified to discuss cancer or other health care issues.
    Your shallow contributions to this blog (and your remarkably ignorant promotional crusade for homeopathy on Twitter as @BrownBagPantry, if I am not mistaken as to you being the same), clearly demonstrate that you are not medically qualified in any remote sense.
    Having in your younger days worked as a medical clerk does not make you a medical expert, it does not give you any right to pretend to know anything at all about modern health care or how to use the fancy words you learned back then.

    • Bjorn Leifsson – says Sandra please do not insult medicine……..What is insulting – because you make the assumption she is not qualified to relate her experience?It is her experience, obviously, and therefore valid. Because something happened years ago does not invalidate it. I don’t know Sandra, but do know she is a great supporter of homeopathy and has frequently been on the receiving end of sceptics’ insults on various social media sites.

      I don’t think Sandra is pretending anything. On the other hand this blog is rife with posters who pretend to know everything there is to know about complementary therapies. I am astonished at the misinformation and inaccuracies I read here. Unfortunately, it is my guilty pleasure to check in to this blog: I gave up posting a long while ago due to abusive remarks, but here I am drawn in, but hopefully a one off (in case you are lining up to engage in vitriolic exchange)

      There are many erroneous statements made about all things complementary: I have used homeopathy for 50 years, and the following is just a taster of the misinformation read here (it is almost as if the continual mantra of repeating it, makes either people believe it or make it true):

      Homeoopathy only works because of a kind and listening ear. My first heomoathic experience was with a GP Homeopath who had no warmth, very little time but the remedy worked – immediately he administered it. I had no preconceptions as knew nothing about homeopathy but as a last resort, I thought what is there to lose. This experience platformed all these years of use. I have to tell you in that time, I have encountered homeopaths who have been like counsellors and the remedies didn’t work. I have had and my children have had the the briefest appointments – no long listening sessions, and they have been spot on. Homeopathic prescribing is complex requiring skilled homeopaths. I have even had a homeopath say to me I am not successful here, change your homeopath, (In it for the rewards, I don’t think so.)

      I have seen many ‘camists’ as you like to call them. Accupuncturists, Chiropractors, etc and not one has discussed the perils of vaccinations and they do, when necessary refer to GP/medical professionals. One local doctor refers patients with back problems to a chiropractor, stating they know more than I do! And a local osteopath detected something sinister in a patient, sending her back to the hospital immediately, when her previous consultation missed a serious issue, therefore prolonging her life with conventional medical treatment. A GP offered a patient acupuncture on her knee thereby saving an operation as her pain ceased.

      Yes, healthcare is a mixed bag. People’s experiences are valid and that is becoming more apparent : doctors are now listening to their patients’ experiences with drugs, and changing them. Medical professionals are using the media to get the message across regarding the effects and misuse of drugs, Antibiiotic overuse has created a crisis for those in hospital.

      I may not be a medical professional but my knowledge is as good as my research, experience and discernment, I know that the NHS is outstanding, notwithstanding the financial pressure. And I also know, very careful teamwork goes into each patient’s protocol. ( so Sandra’s account happens here is the NHS) But of course you know that.

      However, all I see here is the constant assumptions around complementary therapies which are untrue. Here is an example : many moons ago I was shouted down, and almost called a liar because I told of how Reiki was becoming popular amongst sugeons, nurses, doctors. Well, at this point it is more popular: more medical professionals are being trained, there are now a few paid Reiki volunteers in our hospitals and we all know of the complementary therapies centres supporting hospitals.

      It doesn’t go away because you attempt to negate it: people make their own decisions regarding healthcare, and honestly we are capable, well researched, and however much you try to pull the wool over our eyes (yes many of us do know the truth about vaccines and pharmaceuticals and legal action ) the facts are out there if you take a truthful interest in health are.

      • Personal anecdotes do not count as reliable evidence for cause and effect. It is not a matter of denying personal accounts; it is a matter of challenging the often erroneous conclusions drawn from such accounts.

        And please tell me – what is the truth about vaccines?

    • @Bjorn

      “Personal or ad hominem attacks are fallacious arguments directly directed at a named individual which serve as substitutes for that individual’s arguments. In football terminology, they play the player instead of the ball.”

      http://edzardernst.com/2012/12/ad-hominem-attacks-are-signs-of-victories-of-reason-over-unreason

      • Sandra

        You still don’t understand what an ad hom is. Watching you trying to use the concepts of logical fallacy to support your position is like watching someone trying to knock in a nail using a screwdriver.

        • I know, I know. I’ve tried to tell her and educate her before but she never seems to understand or learn from her failures.

          I bet you she cites this as an ad hom as well, thereby proving my point.

      • You promote homeopathy, and homeopathy doesn’t work. What did you expect? We don’t respect wrong opinions.

  • Dear Sandra. Thank you for responding exactly as planned, I could have written it myself. I decided not to preempt your naive indignation but to lead you on and have you call the ad hominem gambit yourself. In short, I wanted you to respond as you did.
    Whoever hides behind the “A” (above) demonstrates lucidly why ignorant prophects of fake medicine like yourself, are so damaging. Gullible people are distracted by fake advice like yours, away from reason and sensible advice towards make-believe medical pantomimes such as homeopaths.

    There is no personal animosty in my address or my attitude towards you. I do respect you as I respect and care for any other human being. I would without hesitation do my very best for you if an ambulance brought you on a stretcher to me. I would support you in need and comfort you in sorrow.
    But your person is not the issue here – your conduct is. I will without hesitation oppose, with fervour, any of your ignorant atempts at telling medical untruths. And they are many as can be seen on your Twitter account. @BrownBagPantry.
    You can block me on Twitter but you will have to bear with criticism here and elsewhere.
    Beyond your control.

    My address to you is not ´ad hominem´. It is ´ad mores´, which means ´towards conduct´ – your conduct. I am aware that you are enchanted by ideas that make you feel superior and provide you with a (false) sense of authority. That might be allright with me if you were not encroaching on a field that is very sacred to me and my professional calling, the safety and well being of those who are in need of medical care.

    I regard you as a victim, a victim of a grandiose delusion called homeopathy. Your conduct is not consistent with normal, safe and sensible social behavior.
    I do not expect my honest and sincere words to help you understand or change your views. But someone has to say the pertinent words, as the boy did in Hans Christian Andersens parable of the emperor without clothes. Just like the poor emperor, you have nothing to buid your grandeur on. A few of your fellow homeopaths chime in on your hubrid homeopathic sermons but most normal people do not see ´the clothes´ – the utility of shaken-water potions. And the little boy earnestly verbalises what everyone is thinking.

    I did expect you to call the ´ad hominem´ curse.
    I did think hard before telling you my undiluted mind here, in a forum where you are unable to block your critics. You are a public person who drives a beligerent crusade for fake medicine on Twitter and without hesitation blocks deletes and any critical voices that disturb your self-image. Therefore you have no right to be pissed at me for saying on this alt-medccritical forum that you are without credibility – you do not have any “clothes” (in the proverbial meaning of course 😉 )

    • Sandra ought to be very worried about her false sense of safety. After trying to catch up with the stuff on Twitter, I am compelled to say that this is a kind of a public safety issue.

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