Head To Head

Should doctors recommend homeopathy?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3735 (Published 14 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3735

Is it safe ?

I am grateful to Alan Henness for his response to the points that I raised with regard to the safety of homeopathy. His response either fails to address my points, or goes off at a tangent, which serves no purpose except to raise further confusion.

I explained that non medical homeopaths pay insurance premiums which are a very small fraction of what conventional doctors and medical homeopaths pay to their insurers or defence organisations.

Henness replies “ Whilst insurance premiums might seem like an attractive proxy, it should not replace or override sound scientific evidence.”
Where is the “ sound scientific evidence “ which Henness believes to be more reliable than specialist insurers’ risk assessments, in discussing the safety of homeopathic practice ?
Nota Bene, this discussion is about safety, the specific issue raised by Henness.
The main specialist insurer of homeopaths in the UK has been in business for decades.
It is a successful commercial concern, charging low premiums.

Regarding the number of identifiable cases of definite homeopathic harm, Henness refers us to the ‘Whats the Harm’ website.
This website is a sad jumble of stories of deaths and misfortune, associated with all manner of therapies and of none, going back more than a century.
It is possible that a junior reporter for a red top, mass circulation newspaper might glance at it for ideas, when putting together a human interest story. If Henness, who expects homeopaths to present exemplary evidence, preferably as RCTs, believes that the ‘Whats the Harm‘ website is an authoritative source, then serious questions arise, about the conclusions he draws from such ‘evidence’.

Henness reveals his lack of clinical awareness when he enquires “.. it’s the balance of benefit against harm that is important: why should homeopathy be any different ? “
Homeopathy is no different.
If one is seeing a traumatised asylum seeker on many psychotropics, a youngster with behaviour disorder on Ritalin and an SSRI, or a chronic eczema sufferer dependent on topical streoids, a homeopath will choose a suitable remedy that may help a little or a lot. The patient may then, after discussion with the prescriber, reduce the conventional medications, to his or her benefit, and the taxpayers’. The risk of side effects from long term conventional medications is reduced. Homeopaths are very aware of the risk/ benefit conundrum, when we are involved in a person’s care, and we aim to improve that balance if we can.

Henness is “Director of the Nightingale Collaboration which challenges misleading healthcare claims.” His regular comments on homeopathy are models of politeness, in contrast to those of some senior medical and academic colleagues. His contributions are nevertheless repetitions of poorly informed, often misleading, and negative comment, on homeopathic practice.
This is not what one would expect from someone who “ ..challenges misleading healthcare claims.”
Unless there is a second agenda.

For the sake of the many people who might be deprived of effective homeopathic treatment, if Henness’s statements go unremarked, I ask for the indulgence of readers, when challenging his assertions at such length.

Thank you.

Competing interests: 80% conventional medicine, 20% homeopathy unpaid

02 August 2015
Noel Thomas
retd GP/locum
Bron-y-Garn, Maesteg, Wales CF34 9AL