A challenge to the Society of Homeopaths
Vaccination is much in the news at the moment, given that low vaccination rates a few years ago have now led to a serious measles outbreak in south Wales. This is serious. About 60 children have so far been hospitalised, and if the outbreak continues, then it is quite possible that someone will die.
It would therefore be particularly evil if, in the current context, alternative medicine practitioners were advising people not to be vaccinated.
A recent story in the Guardian quotes the main bodies responsible for homeopathy in the UK: the Society of Homeopaths, the British Homeopathic Association, and the Faculty of Homeopathy as saying that they would never dream of doing such a thing, and their advice is firmly that homeopathy cannot protect against infectious diseases and that people should therefore follow their GPs' advice and seek conventional vaccination.
This is, quite frankly, dishonest.
A spokesman is quoted in the article as saying "I don't know where the parents in Totnes are getting their information from – it certainly is not us". Well, I don't think their spokesman was looking very hard. The societies themselves may not be giving out advice to avoid vaccinations and use homeopathy instead (though the Society of Homeopaths does make the thoroughly implausible claim on their website that homeopathy can prevent at least one infectious disease), but their members certainly are.
Let's take a look at some homeopaths practising in or near Totnes and see what they say about vaccinations, shall we?
This one says of vaccination:
"Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it is not always 100% effective. It is also not as long lasting as natural immunity."
and then goes on to say:
"There isn't enough space on this page to go into the arguments for and against vaccinations! But there is now documented evidence that homeopathic prophylaxis may be as effective as the conventional kind."
The Totnes Clinic of Homeopathy is not quite as explicit as that, but does claim that homeopathy can be used to treat "childhood contagious illnesses".
Or how about Exmouth Homeopathy, which claims:
"Homeopathy is the perfect medicine for children, working with their bodies innate ability to heal itself, promoting and maintaining a strong and healthy immune system."
Sounds awfully like promoting homeopathy as an alternative to vaccination to me.
It's hard to see how this page could be considered anything other than promoting alternatives to vaccination, given that its title is "VACCINATION: There is an alternative".
And this page is devoted to lengthy claims about how homeopathy is supposed to maintain a health immune system, and tells us:
"This new research supports what holistic practitioners have been saying for a long time; that repeated challenges to the body - whether in the form of inappropriate foods, drugs, vaccines, shocks, or other stresses can eventually cause some kind of disorder to develop."
I'd say that's promoting homeopathy as an alternative to vaccination: wouldn't you?
And finally, while the antivaccine rhetoric is mild on the website of this homeopath (she's explicitly against flu vaccination, but to be fair, that's not really in the same league as measles vaccination), I can't help pointing out her website anyway, as she appears to be promoting homeopathy as a treatment for cancer. That is not only mind-bogglingly irresponsible, but may also be illegal under the 1939 Cancer Act.
Every single one of the homeopaths whose websites are linked to above is (or claims to be) a registered member of the Society of Homeopaths.
So, I have a challenge to the Society of Homeopaths. I would like them to comment publicly on the claims on those websites. I would like them to explain whether, in contradiction to what they told the Guardian, they support those claims, or whether they stand by the comments made in the Guardian and condemn those homeopaths claiming that homeopathy can be used as an alternative to vaccination. And if they condemn those claims, then I would like to know what they are going to do about it.
The Society of Homeopaths claim that their registered members are bound to a "strict code of ethics and practice". This is their chance to show whether they mean it.