Friday, March 21, 2008

Belief

Counterknowledge has been writing about a homeopath working in Africa:

did the flip-flop homeopath bother to tell the Africans “treated” by her that the medicine they were being given had no scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness?

Here’s another horrific example of her supposedly ‘philanthropic’ work:

“My final case of the day is once of the many patients here that I suspect of having read the Repertory! For the past 22 years, since the age of 13, Ibou has suffered from an abscess near the anal entrance. He says it is very itchy, much worse at night and ‘feels good’ when scratched, but he tries to resist doing this as it burns violently afterwards.

“It also burns after washing, to the extent that he takes four paracetamol every evening before bed in order to get some sleep. He has to press the abscess every single day in order to obtain a little relief, and the discharge consists of pus and blood. He feels extremely hot all the time but doesn’t sweat at all, has the sensation as if (SAI) there’s a weight on his head and constant movements in his belly as though he were about to have diarrhoea.

“He also has an aching pain between the scapulae..."
Antibiotics? No, the man is given, sorry - prescribed sulphur:
“I’m tempted to give support remedies such as Gunpowder and/or Silica to cleanse the blood and liver, which is obviously an issue in view of the intrascapular pain, and is being further damaged by the daily administration of paracetamol.

“However, Sulphur is so clearly indicated that it seems a shame to steal its thunder, so he receives 12s tds. However, since I’m adamant that he should come off the paracetamol, I also give him a combination remedy of Bell. 200 and Arnica 10M, to take as needed for the pain.”
The blog author is outraged, but hasn't grappled with the central problem. Most homeopaths - effectively all, I think - believe in what they are doing. This isn't some sort of grisly conspiracy to kill Africans with quack medicine, it's a heartfelt and earnest attempt to help.

So the issue isn't whether or not homeopathy works - the evidence seems to be that it doesn't - nor is it whether or not the specific remedies seem absurd to the unconvinced. The thorny question is what we do about it. Should we prevent homeopaths going to Africa? Or should we restrict the ailments they can consider to the trivial, to prevent them from offering homeopathic cures for malaria and AIDS? Or, indeed, should we leave them alone?

3 comments:

dearieme said...

I plan to leave them alone. How about you?

Anonymous said...

It is wrong to say Homoeopathy does not work just because you dont like it. To restrict Homoeopathy just see whether your system cures those diseases first. " Physician- Cure thyself" first.

Peter Risdon said...

Yes, I think they ought to be left alone, but that's a reluctant conclusion.

I didn't say homeopathy doesn't work because I dislike it, I said this because so far as I have seen clinical trials have established that.

Conventional medicine, by contrast, is that body of treatments that trials have shown to work.