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

Let’s be clear: pseudoscience kills. And they are being employed with total impunity thanks to European laws that protect them.

They kill thousands of people, with names and family. People such as Francesco Bonifaz, a 7-year-old boy whose doctor prescribed homeopathy instead of antibiotics. He died in Italy [1]. People like Mario Rodríguez, who was 21 years old and was told to use vitamins to treat his cancer. He died in Spain [2]. People like Jacqueline Alderslade, a 55-year-old woman whose homeopath told her to stop taking her asthma medication. She died in Ireland [3]. People like Cameron Ayres, a 6-month-old baby, whose parents did not want to give their child “scientific medicine” [4]. He died in England. People like Victoria Waymouth, a 57-year-old woman who was prescribed a homeopathic medication to treat her heart problem. She died in France [5]. People like Sofia Balyaykina, a 25-year-old woman, who had a cancer that was curable with chemotherapy but was recommended an “alternative treatment”, a mosquito bite treatment.  She died in Russia [6]. People like Erling Møllehave, a 71-year-old man whose acupuncturist pierced and damaged his lung with a needle. He died in Denmark [7]. People like Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert, a 40-year-old-woman whose therapist recommended the German New Medicine to treat her breast cancer. She died in Germany [8]. People like Sylvia Millecam, a 45-year-old woman whose New Age healer promised to cure her cancer. She died in Netherlands [9].

European directive 2001/83/CE has made –and still makes— possible the daily deceiving of thousands of hundreds of European citizens [10]. Influential lobbies have been given the opportunity to redefine what a medicine is, and now they are selling sugar to sick people and making them believe it can cure them or improve their health. This has caused deaths and will continue to do so until Europe admits an undeniable truth: scientific knowledge cannot yield under economic interests, especially when it means deceiving patients and violating their rights.

Europe is facing very serious problems regarding public health. Over-medicalization, multiresistant bacteria or the financial issues of the public systems are already grave enough, and there is no need to add to that gurus, fake doctors or even qualified doctors who claim they can cure any disease by manipulating chakras, making people eat sugar or employing “quantic frequencies”. Europe must not only stop the promotion of homeopathy but also actively fight to eradicate public health scams, which implicate more than 150 pseudo-therapies in our territory. Thousands of citizens lives depend on that. In fact, according to recent research, 25.9 % of Europeans have used pseudo-therapies last year. In other words, 192 million patients have been deceived [11].

Some believe there is a conflict between freedom of choice for a treatment and the removal of pseudo-therapies, but this is not true. According to article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person has a right to medical care. Lying to patients in order to sell them useless products that could kill them breaks the right to true information about their health. This way, even if a citizen has a right to refuse medical treatment when properly informed, it is also true that nobody has the right to lie to obtain profit at the expense of someone else’s life. Only in a world in which lying to a sick person would be considered ethical, could we allow homeopathy—or any other pseudo-therapy—to continue to be sold to citizens.

Effective treatments being replaced by false ones is not the only danger of pseudo-therapies. Obvious delays in therapeutic care occur when a person gets false products instead of medication at the early stages of a disease. Many times, it is already too late by the time they get treated with proper medicine. Moreover, several of these practices have serious effects on their own and may cause damage or even death because of their side effects.

Many pseudo-therapists argue that “the other medicine” comes with side effects as well, which is true indeed. However, the difference resides in that pseudo-therapies cannot cure a disease or improve your health, and because of that patients assume risks in exchange of promises that are a scam, according to the full weight of the scientific evidence available. Lying to a sick person is not another type of medicine, it is simply lying to a sick person.

Every country has to face the issue with pseudo-therapies in its own ways. Yet it is not acceptable that European laws protect the distortion of scientific facts so that thousands of citizens can be deceived or even lead to their deaths.

We, the signatories of this manifest, therefore declare that:

  1. Scientific knowledge is incompatible with what pseudo-therapies postulate, as in the case of homeopathy.
  2. European laws that protect homeopathy are not admissible in a scientific and technological society that respects the right of the patients not to be deceived.
  3. Homeopathy is the most known pseudo-therapy, but it is not the only one nor the most dangerous one. Others, such as acupuncture, reiki, German New Medicine, iridology, biomagnetism, orthomolecular therapy and many more, are gaining ground and causing victims.
  4. Measures must be taken to stop pseudo-therapies, since they are not harmless and result in thousands of people affected.
  5. Europe needs to work towards creating legislation that will help stop this problem.

Europe being concerned about the misinformation phenomena but at the same time protecting one the most dangerous types of it, health misinformation, is just not coherent. This is why the people signing this manifesto urge the governments of European countries to end a problem in which the name of science is being used falsely and has already costed the life of too many.

Sign the manifesto

References:

[1] Homeopathy boy died of encephalitis. Redazione ANSA, 2017.http://www.ansa.it/english/news/general_news/2017/05/29/homeopathy-boy-died-of-encephalitis-3_13e02493-4e62-4787-9162-12d831121ef6.html

[2] Grieving dad sues over ‘cure cancer with vitamins’ therapy, The local. Emma Anderson, 2016.

https://www.thelocal.es/20160412/grieving-father-sues-naturopath-over-son-cure-cancer-vitamins-leukaemia

[3] Asthmatic ‘told to give up drugs’. The Irish News, 2001.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/asthmatic-told-to-give-up-drugs-26063764.html

[4] Homeopaths warn of further tragèdies. BBC News, 2000.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/702699.stm

[5] Alternative cure doctor suspended. BBC News, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/6255356.stm

[6] Футболист рассказал трагичную историю жены. Она умерла от рака в 25 лет. Sport24, 2018.

https://sport24.ru/news/football/2018-08-28-futbolist-rasskazal-tragichnuyu-istoriyu-zheny-ona-umerla-ot-raka-v-25-let

[7] Mand døde efter akupunktur – enke vil nu lægge sag an mod behandleren, TV2, 2018.

http://nyheder.tv2.dk/samfund/2018-01-23-mand-doede-efter-akupunktur-enke-vil-nu-laegge-sag-an-mod-behandleren

[8] The price of refusing science-based medical and surgical therapy in breast càncer, Science Blogs, 2012. https://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/08/30/the-price-of-refusing-science-based-medical-and-surgical-therapy-in-breast-cancer

[9] Psychic ‘misled actress to hopeless cancer death’. Expatica. 2004

http://web.archive.org/web/20070208144309/http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=19&story_id=4821

[10] Directiva 2001/83/CE del parlamento europeo y del consejo:6 de noviembre de 2001

https://www.boe.es/doue/2001/311/L00067-00128.pdf

[11] Use of complementary and alternative medicine in Europe: Health-related and sociodemographic determinants. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. Laura M. Kemppainen et al. 2018.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5989251/

30 Responses to European manifesto against pseudo-therapies

  • ‘European Manifesto’ sounds like something official, emanating from the European Union.

    That is not what is is though, it is copyrighted 2019, powered by WordPress and has no list of members of organisation or address on the page.

    Looks like mickey mouse at work.

    Edzard Ernst, will you ever come to end of your histrionic wailing that few people in natural medicine fields are listening to anymore,and even your own legion of followers dropping by the wayside, and focus attention on your medicine: CONMED?

  • I strongly support fighting against pseudo-science and would be willing to give my signature for such a proposal. However, I find this online “European manifesto” dubious, to say the least, would recommend to remove this post (unless you have more information about this initiative).

    The reasons are:
    *I consider it very unprofessional to ask for personal information (professional email address, academic training, and University affiliation) without full disclosure of the originators of this questionnaire and exact specification about the intended use of the data. Without official credentials, this could be a fishing webpage.

    *The website ”pseudoscience-manifesto.apetp.com” is apparently not secure and does not provide any information about its owner (although I have to admit that I am not a computer expert).

    *Furthermore, the references cited in this “manifesto” are of very poor quality (news webpages, sports news, etc.) and the text written in rather poor quality (“(…) deceiving of thousands of hundreds of European citizens (…)”). I doubt that any legitimate group of scientist would be that sloppy.

    All these issues leads me to suspect that this page could be fraudulent.

    • I do have more information about this initiative and am sure they are not fraudulent.
      [otherwise, I would not have posted their manifesto]

      • Thank you for the clarification.
        Although I respect your words of approval, signing is out of question for me until the manifesto has substantially been updated, making it clear who is behind it and what the data will be used for.
        If the originators are legit, kudos to them for initiating this campaign (not so much for the online implementation).

    • The light has dawned on Jashak!

      • Not exactly sure what you mean, Greg.
        You see: Sceptics critically assess ALL information (including information that they per se LIKE) and form an opinion on the evidence. For scientist, critique does not dependent on the “camp that you belong to”… it is the issues that matter. In this case, I support the action but see points of critique.

        In contrast, apologist pick and choose only the information that supports their preconceived notions.
        So let this be a lesson in scepticism to you, Greg. Try it some time!

        • Jashak, why don’t you sign the manifesto then? Professor Ernst has given you his assurances.

          Don’t forget to add your d.o.b and banking details.

          • Sceptics lesson #2:
            Do not blindly follow authorities… even if they have great credentials you generally tend to agree with the person. Validate every issue separately, based on the evidence.

            I generally would trust Prof. Ernst assessment, but since he did not share the source of his information on the authors of the manifesto, I currently cannot verify his claim and therefore withhold judgement on this issue (i.e. I will not sign).
            If the authors increase the level of evidence that they are legit and that they will only use the data for appropriate purposes, I may change my opinion and sign the manifesto.

          • it is up to the authors to share this on their site; and I am told they are working on it.

    • The section about the organizers is now available here.

      http://pseudoscience-manifesto.apetp.com/about/

      Sorry for the inconvenience caused, but we are very few organizing the manifesto, and coordinate the interests and nuances of more than thirty associations of the skeptical field with whom we have tried to coordinate, is very complicated.

      The data collected will only be used to contact the signatories.

      I am Fernando Cervera, member of the Board of Directors of one of the skeptical associations involved in the manifesto. If you have any doubt or question, I am at your disposal.

      • thanks – most helpful

      • Dear Fernando Cervera,
        thank you for the clarification and offering more transparent information regarding the project.
        Taking on such a task is indeed applaudable, I hope that you are successful in reaching the goals of the manifesto.

        • Jashak, have your changed your *skeptical mind* about what you wrote regarding the Manifesto:
          ‘*Furthermore, the references cited in this “manifesto” are of very poor quality (news webpages, sports news, etc.) and the text written in rather poor quality (“(…) deceiving of thousands of hundreds of European citizens (…)”). I doubt that any legitimate group of scientist would be that sloppy.’

          I expect so considering your grovelling letter to Fernando

          • Greg,
            Thanks for asking.
            I indeed have changed my mind in some respect. My main concern was that the website could be fraudulent. Due to the clarification of Fernando Cervera, I was now able to obtain more concrete information about the people and organizations behind the manifesto and in the light of the added disclosure, I think that this seems very unlikely.
            Regarding text and references: In this respect, I have not changed my mind too much and certainly would have chosen different references. But I understand that a manifesto is not a scientific document (which is my main field of expertise), and having contributed NOTHING to this text myself, I find it difficult to criticize Fernando Cervera and colleagues to harshly for their voluntary efforts.

            It seems very difficult for you, as an apologists (maybe troll?!) to understand that scepticism means forming an opinion in accordance with the available information/evidence, not sticking to the preconceived notion, no matter what. Again: you should try this some time!

  • Jashak, your reply reads as an excellent example of an Ernst lackey changing their tune without the evidence…

    • Greg:
      I have shortened your reply by omitting some of the insults.
      I have also banned you from this blog.
      you are nothing but a troll who never contributes anything constructive.
      I have given you several warnings.
      for a while, we all were amused by your various delusions.
      now we have giggled enough.

      • And not a moment too soon.

        Bye bye, Greg. Mind the door doesn’t hit you on the arse on your way out.

        • I do apologise for allowing Greg for so long to troll us.
          But I honestly thought he was hilarious in his stupidity and delusions – a prime example of a homeopath without any insight or self-criticism or intellect.
          very sorry, if he did annoy anyone, but he never annoyed me; he just made me laugh out loud.

          • So sad that another tireless voice of reason is gone from this blog.
            For me, the exchanges with Greg felt more frustrating than annoying.
            If his insults were directed towards me, there was no need to omit them, since I honestly don´t care… as long as his words have no rationally justified basis.

          • yes, I agree Greg is irrational to the point of delusion.
            my decision to ban him was based on the fact that he had a habit of insulting anyone who disagreed with him and that his stupidity had ceased to be as hilarious as it once had been.

  • Holy sh*t! I am completely Underwhelmed by all this anecdotal evidence. I guess its not only homeopaths that use a paucity of anecdotal evidence to buttress flimsy arguments. I hope you will be attending the Joint American Homeopathy Conference in Baltimore this year. You could give a talk about how dangerous homeopathy is. We would all like to hear it. And you can hear Kim Elia’s cured case of a man hospitalized with severe paranoid schizophrenia. You can tell us where he went wrong and how its about to kill him.

  • I could write up a similar list about orthodox medicine killing various people and chronic misdiagnosis too. While I am skeptical about some alternative therapies, others do have scientific support. It’s a very swooping statement that is being made here and can’t possibly be valid. A good scientist has to have a broad, exploratory mind, not a narrow one.

    • yes, you might be able to write something. but would you get any signatures?
      and tell us: which alternative therapies precisely have scientific support?

    • Most people who turn to alternative therapies do it as an alternative to failed CONventional MEdiciNe (CONMEN) therapies; therapies that are documented as failures and kill people by many orders of magnitude more than alternative therapies. I guess we need the nanny state to tell us that is not an option. You have to die like a “man” (or woman). Its legion in the alternative health field: “My doctors told me there was nothing they could do.” Tough luck! After bankrupting yourself on CONMEN therapy its not an option to spend $10 on some homeopathic remedies. The CONMEN need that last few dollars. And we wouldnt want people to take responsibiilty for their own health care. Doctors are gods and the gods must be obeyed.

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