It has been reported that the faculty of medicine of Lille unversity in France has suspended its degree in homeopathy for the 2018-19 academic year. The university announced its decision on Twitter, and the faculty of medicine’s dean, Didier Gosset, confirmed it to the AFP news agency: “It has to be said that we teach medicine based on proof – we insist on absolute scientific rigour – and it has to be said that homeopathy has not evolved in the same direction, that it is a doctrine that has remained on the margins of the scientific movement, that studies on homeopathy are rare, that they are not very substantial,” he explained. “Continuing to teach it would be to endorse it.”
The decision is, of course, long overdue and must be welcomed. Personally, however, I wonder why defenders of reason like Prof Gosset often employ such unclear lines of argument. Would it not be clearer to make (some of) these simple points?
- The assumptions on which homeopathy is based are obsolete and implausible.
- It is not that we do not understand homeopathy’s mode of action, but we understand that there cannot be one that does not fly in the face of science.
- The clinical evidence fails to show that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are more than placebos.
- Homeopathy can cause significant harm, e. g. through neglect.
- Homeopathy costs millions which would be much better used for evidence-based treatments.
- The practice of homeopathy hinders progress and does not provide benefit for the public.
- Teaching homeopathy at university-level is unscientific, unethical and nonsensical.
The French are among the world’s largest consumers of homeopathic remedies. The French social security system does normally reimburse homeopathic therapy. A group of doctors challenged this situation in an open letter in Le Figaro newspaper in March 2018. They called practitioners of homeopathy and other alternative medicines “charlatans”, pointing to a 2017 report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council that stressed, like a plethora of previous reports, the “absence of proof of homeopathy’s efficacy”. They challenged the French medical council to stop allowing doctors to practice homeopathy and asked the social security system to stop paying for it. Subsequently, a group of French homeopaths filed a formal complaint with the medical council against the signatories of this letter.
France’s health ministry has asked France’s National Health Authority to prepare and publish a report on whether homeopathy works and should be paid for by the public purse. It is due to be delivered in February 2019.
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