TAG | Homeopathy
Tom Chivers writes in The Daily Telegraph:
The man [just] put in charge of the [UK's] health policy is on record as supporting spending public money on magic water to cure disease. Here’s the text of an Early Day Motion he signed in 2007:
That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.
And here’s the letter Mr Hunt sent to a concerned constituent who pointed out that homeopathy doesn’t work:
Dear Mr Ellis,
Thank you very much for your letter regarding EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals. I appreciate that you are disappointed that I added my name to this motion, and read your comments on this issue with interest.
I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.
I am grateful to you for taking the time to write with your concerns. I realise that my answer will be a disappointing one for you, but I hope that the letter helps to clarify my view.
Jeremy Hunt Member of Parliament South West Surrey
Hat-tip to Chris Coltrane on Twitter and the Mote Prime blog.
I probably don’t need to rehearse this, but: homeopathy does not work. Homeopathy is the treatment of disease using literally non-existent amounts of ingredients which wouldn’t cure the problem even if they were actually there. It is not to be confused with herbal medicine, which often involves real active substances (eg aspirin, which is distilled from willow-bark). If homeopathy worked, we would need to explain how this non-existent substance did what it does: but it doesn’t work, so we don’t. Homeopathic hospitals are not “valuable national assets”, they’re £7-million-a-year white elephants for middle-class hypochondriac hippies.
This is not unlike putting someone who thinks the Second World War began in 1986 in charge of the Department of Education.
Or following the advice of foes of the taxpayer like Orrin Hatch, the numbskull who wanted Christian Science prayer ‘treatments’ added to Obamacare’s bounty.
Hunt should be fired.
The Vatican is warning against “miracle-performing sensationalism” and too enthusiastic a veneration of relics:
Even the veneration of relics, [writes Wall Street Journal columnist Francis Rocca, the Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service,] mocked by the Protestant reformers and long downplayed by Catholic leaders, is becoming more popular—to the point that a Vatican theologian last year saw the need to warn against the “risk of crossing the boundary from popular devotion to superstition” and “substituting miracle-performing sensationalism for authentic faith.”
Unfortunately, Rocca does not disclose how the Vatican distinguishes “popular devotion” from “superstition” or “miracle-performing sensationalism” from “authentic faith.” This official caveat strikes me as akin to admonishing someone to stay just a little bit pregnant. Undoubtedly, the Vatican regards the Virgin Birth, Jesus walking on water, the raising of Lazarus, the Resurrection, the efficacy of saints, God’s amenability to petitionary prayer, and most other aspects of Christian lore as falling in the “authentic faith,” rather than in “miracle-performing sensationalism,” side of the ledger, though the parceling out of various miracles into one camp or the other would seem to have more to do with tradition than with any empirically-determined distinction among them. How many saints do you get to pray to a day as a prophylactic against harm before you have become superstitious?
Nevertheless, this Vatican statement illustrates the ongoing corralling of religion by a secular, naturalistic understanding of the world. That the Catholic hierarchy could be embarrassed by relic veneration, when nearly every Catholic Church in Europe proudly displays its lavish, silver and gold jewel-encrusted reliquaries allegedly housing this bit of Jesus’ femur or that bit of a saint’s bladder, shows how the religious practices that once filled out a world still untamed and unexplained by science grow ineluctably more remote. Of course, I shouldn’t overstate the extent to which humanity is embracing an empirical posture towards reality. I overhear too many conversations in the ladies locker room of my gym promoting this or that homeopathic remedy on the ground that the taker’s cold got better after she ingested the alleged cure to truly suppose that everyone waits for strong evidence before believing whatever claim is presented to him. And of course, Rocca’s column itself testifies to (and celebrates) a resurgence in relic worship:
Many Catholics, especially among the educated in wealthy countries, regard such practices as embarrassing vestiges of medieval piety, distractions from a more sophisticated spirituality. Yet a scene this month in St. Peter’s Square, broadcast on television around the world, sent another message. The sight of a nun displaying a silver reliquary with the blood of the newly beatified Pope John Paul II, to applause from a crowd of 1.5 million devotees, suggests that demand remains strong for a brand of faith that celebrates its difference.
(Amusingly, Rocca’s “yet” in the above passage purports to be signaling a contradiction, as if the sheer numbers of relic worshippers refutes the fact that such veneration is a “vestige of medieval piety.”)
Still, the march of thought at least in the West circumscribes the once totalizing impulses of religion and puts its once mandatory rituals and its explanations for reality into a box marked “religion—handle with care.” Promoters of a more flamboyantly supernatural form of Christianity like Rocca and David Bentley Hart purport to be undaunted by the fact that such charismatic forms are flourishing most in the least educated places on earth, such as Africa and the Caribbean. Do we really want to emulate the belief systems of Africans? Rocca also applauds some Bishops’ call for a return to meatless Fridays. I will know that religious Americans in particular are ready to walk the walk and not just talk the talk of religious obedience when Christian leaders start calling for shopping malls to shut down on Sundays in observance of the Fourth Commandment. Until then, it looks to me that the needs of modern consumer capitalism take precedence over God’s sacred commandment.
Hundreds of members of the BMA [The British equivalent of the AMA] have passed a motion denouncing the use of [homeopathy], saying taxpayers should not foot the bill for remedies with no scientific basis to support them. The BMA has previously expressed scepticism about homoeopathy, arguing that the rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should examine the evidence base and make a definitive ruling about the use of the remedies in the NHS.
Now, the annual conference of junior doctors has gone further, with a vote overwhelmingly supporting a blanket ban, and an end to all placements for trainee doctors which teach them homeopathic principles. Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee in England told the conference: “Homeopathy is witchcraft. It is a disgrace that nestling between the National Hospital for Neurology and Great Ormond Street [in London] there is a National Hospital for Homeopathy which is paid for by the NHS”.
The alternative medicine, devised in the 18th century by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, is based on a theory that substances which cause symptoms in a healthy person can, when vastly diluted, cure the same problems in a sick person. Proponents say the resulting remedy retains a “memory” of the original ingredient – a concept dismissed by scientists. [The] [l]atest figures show 54,000 patients are treated each year at four NHS homeopathic hospitals in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Liverpool, at an estimated cost of £4 million.
The junior doctors are, of course, correct.
Of course, there’s absolutely no danger that anyone would ever consider making the taxpayer shell out for mumbo jumbo medicine over here. None at all.
November 03, 2009|Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger
WASHINGTON — Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.
The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.