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Homeopaths Without Borders practice exploitation not humanitarianism

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5448

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Re: Homeopaths Without Borders practice exploitation not humanitarianism

Elisabeth von Wedel's response is a reasonably standard example of the standard homeopathist view.

Ironically, Ms. von Wedel asserts that " homeopathy is clinically effective, cost-effective and safe as proved by the study of Bornhöft and Matthiessen" - David Shaw, author of the commentary to which she is replying, published a rather damning analysis of this paper, characterising it, justly, as a "case study in research misconduct" ( - the only error I can see in this is that Shaw mistakenly characterised it as a Swiss HTA report, a forgivable error since it has been extensively promoted as such by homeopathists. Dr. Gurtner of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health set the record straight on this (, and pointed out that the overall conclusion of the Swiss review process was that there is no credible evidence that homeopathy is effective - hardly possible if Bornhöft et. al. had "proved" homeopathy to be effective.

It is this constant re-use of refuted claims that leads people to the conclusion that homeopaths are not only unable to provide good evidence, but fail, at a very fundamental level, even to understand the process of scientific analysis and debate.

Ms. von Wedel states "We are fully aware of the fact that further research has to be done in order to understand the efficacy of homeopathy"

This is, I am happy to say, false. No more research is needed. Science offers an explanation for all the observed effects, which is not only complete but is also consistent with other science. Placebo effects, expectation effects, natural course of disease, regression towards the mean, cognitive errors.

In short, the null hypothesis.

In the absence of any observation that refutes the null hypothesis, or that anything else should be expected, further investigation is not only unnecessary but unjustifiable (

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 October 2013
Guy Chapman
Reading, UK