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

Yesterday, my new book arrived on my doorstep.

WHAT JOY!

Its full title is CHARLES, THE ALTERNATIVE PRINCE. AN UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY. I guess that it also clarifies its contents. In case you want to know more, here is the full list of topics:

Foreword by Nick Ross v  Charles, The Alternative Prince: An Unauthorised Biography
1. Why this Book? 1
2. Why this Author? 5
3. Words and Meanings 10
4. How Did It All Start? 13
5. Laurens van der Post 17
6. The British Medical Association 25
7. Talking Health 31
8. Osteopathy 37
9. Chiropractic 43
10. The Foundation of Integrated Health 50
11. Open Letter to The Times 56
12. The Model Hospital 62
13. Integrated Medicine 66
14. The Gerson Therapy 73
15. Herbal Medicine 77
16. The Smallwood Report 82
17. World Health Organisation 90
18. Traditional Chinese Medicine 96
19. The ‘GetWellUK’ Study 100
20. Bravewell 106
21. Duchy Originals Detox Tincture 110
22. Charles’ Letters to Health Politicians 115
23. The College of Medicine and Integrated Health 120
24. The Enemy of Enlightenment 126
25. Harmony 132
26. Antibiotic Overuse 142
27. Ayurvedic Medicine 147
28. Social Prescribing 154
29. Homeopathy 160
30. Final Thoughts 169
Glossary 180
End Notes 187
Index 202

In case you want to know more, here is chapter 1 of my book:

Over the past two decades, I have supported efforts to focus healthcare on the particular needs of the individual patient, employing the best and most appropriate forms of treatment from both orthodox and complementary medicine in a more integrated way.[1]

The Prince of Wales 1997

This is a charmingly British understatement, indeed! Charles has been the most persistent champion of alternative medicine in the UK and perhaps even in the world. Since the early 1980s, he has done everything in his power

  • to boost the image of alternative medicine,
  • to improve the status of alternative practitioners,
  • to make alternative therapies more available to the general public,
  • to lobby that it should be paid for by the National Health Service (NHS),
  • to ensure the press reported favourably about the subject,
  • to influence politicians to provide more support for alternative medicine.

He has fought for these aims on a personal, emotional, political, and societal level. He has used his time, his intuition, his influence, and occasionally his money to achieve his goals. In 2010, he even wrote a book, ‘Harmony’, in which he explains his ideas in some detail[2] (discussed in chapter 25, arguably the central chapter of this biography). Charles has thus become the undisputed champion of the realm of alternative medicine. For that he is admired by alternative practitioners across the globe.

Yet, his relentless efforts are not appreciated by everyone (another British understatement!). There are those who view his interventions as counter-productive distractions from the important and never-ending task to improve modern healthcare. There are those who warn that integrating treatments of dubious validity into our medical routine will render healthcare less efficient. There are those who claim that the Prince’s preoccupation with matters that he is not qualified to fully comprehend is a disservice to public health. And there are those who insist that the role of the heir to the throne does not include interfering with health politics.

  • So, are Charles’ ideas new and exciting?
  • Or are they obsolete and irrational?
  • Has Charles become the saviour of UK healthcare?
  • Or has he hindered progress?
  • Is he a role model for medical innovators?
  • Or the laughing stock of the experts?
  • Is he a successful reformer of healthcare?
  • Or are his concepts doomed to failure?

Charles appears to evade critical questions of this nature. Relying on his intuition, he unwaveringly pursues and promotes his personal beliefs, regardless of the evidence (Box 1). He believes strongly in his mission and is, as most observers agree, full of good intentions. If he even notices any criticism, it is merely to reaffirm his resolve and redouble his efforts. He is reported to work tirelessly, and one could easily get the impression that he is obsessed with his idea of integrating alternative medicine into conventional healthcare.

I have observed Charles’ efforts around alternative medicine for the last 30 years. Occasionally, I was involved in some of them. For 19 years, I have headed the world’s most productive team of researchers in alternative medicine. This background puts me in a unique position to write this account of Charles’ ‘love affair’ with alternative medicine. It is not just a simple outline of Charles’ views and actions but also a critical analysis of the evidence that does or does not support them. In writing it, I pursue several aims:

    1. I want to summarise this part of medical history, as it amounts to an important contribution to the recent development of alternative medicine in the UK and beyond.
    2. I hope to explain how Charles and other enthusiasts of alternative medicine think, what motivates them and what logic they follow.
    3. I will contrast Charles’ beliefs with the published evidence as it pertains to each of the alternative modalities (treatments and diagnostic methods) he supports.
    4. I want to stimulate my readers’ ability to think critically about health in general and alternative medicine in particular.

My book will thus provide an opportunity to weigh the arguments for and against alternative medicine. In that way, it might even provide Charles with a substitute for a discussion about his thoughts on alternative medicine which, during almost half a century, he so studiously managed to avoid.

In pursuing these aims there are also issues that I hope to avoid. From the start, I should declare an interest. Charles and I once shared a similar enthusiasm for alternative medicine. But, as new evidence emerged, I changed my mind and he did not. This led to much-publicised tensions and conflicts. Yet it would be too easy to dismiss this book as an act of vengeance. It isn’t. I have tried hard to be objective and dispassionate, setting out Charles’ claims as fairly as I can and comparing them with the most reliable evidence. As much as possible:

    1. I do not want my personal discords with Charles to get in the way of objectivity.
    2. I do not want to be unfairly dismissive of Charles and his ambitions.
    3. I do not want to be disrespectful about anyone’s deeply felt convictions.
    4. I do not aim to weaken the standing of our royal family.

My book follows Charles’ activities in roughly chronological order. Each time we encounter a new type of alternative medicine, I will try to contrast Charles’ perceptions with the scientific evidence that was available at the time. Most chapters of this book are thus divided into four parts

    1. A short introduction
    2. Charles’ views
    3. An outline of the evidence
    4. A comment about the consequences

While writing this book, one question occurred to me regularly: Why has nobody so far written a detailed history of Charles’s passion for alternative medicine? Surely, the account of Charles ‘love affair’ with alternative medicine is fascinating, diverse, revealing, and important!

I hope you agree.

BOX 1

The nature of evidence in medicine and science

  • Evidence is the body of facts, often created through experiments under controlled conditions, that lead to a given conclusion.
  • Evidence must be neutral and give equal weight to data that fail to conform to our expectations.
  • Evidence is normally used towards rejecting or supporting a hypothesis.
  • In alternative medicine, the most relevant hypotheses often relate to the efficacy of a therapy.
  • Such hypotheses are best tested with controlled clinical trials where a group of patients is divided into two subgroups and only one is given the therapy to be tested; subsequently the results of both groups are compared.
  • Experience does not amount to evidence and is a poor indicator of efficacy; it can be influenced by several phenomena, e.g. placebo effects, natural history of the condition, regression towards the mean.
  • If the results of clinical studies are contradictory, the best available evidence is usually a systematic review of the totality of rigorous trials.
  • Systematic reviews are methods to minimise random and selection biases. The most reliable systematic reviews are, according to a broad consensus, those from the Cochrane Collaboration.

[1] https://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/speech/article-hrh-prince-wales-titled-science-and-homeopathy-must-work-harmony-daily-telegraph

[2] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harmony-New-Way-Looking-World/dp/0007348037

In case you want to know even more – and I hope you do – please get yourself a copy.

51 Responses to CHARLES, THE ALTERNATIVE PRINCE

  • I fear you may have jeopardised the Knighthood…….

  • About time too!
    Best wishes.

  • Do I get a mention?!
    Can I have a copy signed by you and counter-signed by HRH PoW?

  • I’ve ordered my copy!

  • I’ve ordered my copy and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Keep up the good work please!

  • HRH (would the last one left please switch out the light?), the PoW is The Prince of Proselytisers – and that’s the problem.

    The Queen is happy for it to be known that she uses homeopathy (and, no doubt ‘real’ medicine as well!), but she says nothing on the subject. It is a private matter – except she does help the marketing of Ainsworth’s Homeopathic Pharmacy by granting them a Royal Warrant. Small beer.

    The PoP does all he can to promote SCAMS – and what is worse, to discredit those who expose the scams.
    That is to be deprecated.

    He should not be using his position of considerable influence over the gullible to enlist sychophants to his cause in the public domain.
    He refuses to engage in any meaningful debate on the issues involved in the promotion of camistry, and his behaviour is harmful to the public health – giving rise to a mindset in which all sorts of bizarre thought patterns emerge (as Australian immigration ministers should emphasise in the event he goes down under again).

    Quite how he became a FRS (and why) is beyond me.

  • “I do not aim to weaken the standing of our royal family.” Pity.

  • I am an avid consumer of this and other science blogs, books, podcasts and any other media I encounter. One of my earliest exposures was your book Trick or Treat, which I credit with greatly expanding my knowledge of a subject I had dabbled in but had begun to question. I deplore the PoW’s promotion of quackery. I am American and have no dog in the value of Royalty debate. BUT, I don’t see the need to use such a deeply unflattering (and possibly photoshopped) photo of the PoW. I do not think that such a decision is in line with your list of “nots”, and I think it hinders the impact it might otherwise have on fence-sitters. It disappoints me and while I have purchased multiple copies of many of your books to pass on to friends, family, and believers, I will pass on this one.

  • My copy arrived today! I am looking forward to reading it.

  • I am enjoying “Charles the Alternative Prince”. Such clarity. Positively pellucid.

    Tragically, I believe there may be a typo at the bottom of Page 52: The last paragraph begins “His” and I think it should be “This”……

  • I’ve finished reading this excellent book. I think it is a model of clear and concise explanataion, and I cannot imagine any point being more devastatingly made than that in the last two paragraphs on Page 88.

    • nice praise indeed!
      thank you

      • I’ve posted a short review on Amazon, which should appear in a day or two:

        “This is a revelatory critique of where vague well-intentioned but ill-informed health ideas promoted by a powerful person do or don’t get us.

        Professor Ernst’s explanations are admirably clear – and no-one is more qualified than he to write on this topic. It’s difficult to imagine a more devastating comment on the bad conseqeunces of ill-informed ideas and actions, than that found in the last two paragraphs on Page 88.

        There is a great deal of valuable information here on ‘alternative medicine’ approaches, in addition to the explanations of HRH Prince Charles’ involvement with them. A most worthwhile book for anyone wanting to find out more about alternative/complementary treatment modalities.

        • thanks again

        • DavidB- Charles – influential ;probably yes. Powerful- no.

          • I disagree.
            He has few official powers but unofficially he can pull many strings.

          • Leonard Sugarman, are you in the UK? If not, I think it is probably difficult to appreciate the reach and influence of “the establishment”. It is subtle, and probably rather hidden, but powerful indeed.

          • DavidB & Edzard- power lies with lawmakers (Parliament) , autocrats, dictators. Behind the scenes influence is not power. Of course most everyone has some sort of power over another. Has King Charles the power to ban your excellent, very critical book, about his wayward thinking and pontificating about CAM and other esoteric matters? I am sure he would enjoy seeing it disappear from the public conscience. I am also sure you will continue disagreement with my usage of the terms so we can agree to differ.

          • I am sure he enjoyed closing my department, the only one critically looking at SCAM.

          • Edzard- I am sure you are ( partly) right. He must have celebrated the back of you and your department. He no doubt influenced those with the power to shut you down. He did not have that power to do so.

          • We are bandying subtle semantical sophistry!

          • Edzard- no sophistry, although there is subtlety and bandying about how we use words and what they mean. Dictionaries, books of grammar and usage are full of this stuff. I know you will agree that language is important.

          • It was I, not Professor Ernst, who wrote about bandying subtle semantical sophistry. And I think you just did more of it…..
            Certainly as a teacher of language, I agree that it is important, and I have some of the books of the kind you refer to.

    • for those who cannot afford to buy the book (it is really not expensive), here are the 2 paragraphs David is referring to:

      In the end, the Smallwood report was politely acknowledged by the politicians for whom it had been written. Whether they realised how flawed it was is unknown. What is however evident is that it remained without any noticeable influence on the use of alternative medicine in the NHS.
      Nonetheless, one consequence of the Smallwood report is undeniable: an official complaint by Charles’ first private secretary to my Vice-chancellor, Prof Steve Smith, alleging that I had violated the rules of confidentiality led to the closure of my research unit. Instead of supporting research into alternative medicine, as he so often claimed, Charles had managed to close the leading research centre in alternative medicine that had published well over 1000 papers (many of them not confirming Charles’ beliefs) in the peer-reviewed medical literature.

  • the BMJ invited me to write an essay about my new book
    https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o310

  • here is another review of my new book:
    a brand-new review:
    https://skepticalinquirer.org/exclusive/royally-misinformed/

    • DavidB- I answered but it got lost in the post! My apologies for mistaking the origin of your comment. There is no sophistry on display. I gave contextual reasons re. Edzard and Charles : his book, his dismissal from Uni. post and closing of department to differentiate those influencing c.f those holding the reigns of power. Of course it may often not be possible to differentiate but in Charle’s case his limited power is mostly well defined and I concede his influence may be extensive. He will not decide or instruct if homeopathy is to be introduced in my local hospital.

      • “There is no sophistry on display.”

        Yes, there is. Perhaps sophistry is so ingrained into your modus operandi that you no longer notice it. Regardless, others are not blind to it — especially those who’ve read many of the semantic filibusters deployed by camists and their acolytes.

        Pedlars of woo rely heavily on semantic filibustering, category errors, and other forms of misdirection including the usage of dictionary definitions of words instead of the internationally-agreed definitions of terminology.
        — Pete Attkins

        • Thank you Pete. I was not minded to make any further response regarding definitions of “power” and “influence”. A waste of time!

          I like your quotation very much.

        • Pete Attkins- I am relying not only on common usage of the words influence as described in any dictionary. I have used a few examples of patently clear evidence that King Charles with regard to Edzard has influenced others within his previous University to get him and his department shut down. That is not sophistry. Charles power lies within his Institution of Royalty where he can hire and fire his employees and probably more with which I have little interest. I think it is you who are being too clever by half. I do realise that there are myriad types of influence and various categories of power on many different levels.. It is just the Charles-Edzard connection with which I originally commented.

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