Homeopathy - alive and unwell in New Zealand

Homeopathy – alive and unwell in New Zealand

Hi, I'm freethinker, I'm from Auckland, and I'm a skeptic. I'm not going to use this post to introduce myself any more than this as I hope to get to know most of the members through the forum.

This post is going to be used as a response to the following article published on scoop.co.nz. I use the term article here very loosely as this is actually a press release from the NZ Council of Homeopaths.

To start with I had no idea there even was a council of homeopaths, it brings forth an image of wizened elders in great hooded robes sitting around a crystal ball! But before I get into too much slanderous commentary I might describe briefly what the council actually does.

Their mission statement states that;

  • "The Council aims to promote homeopathy as 'everybody's choice' through education, professionalism and accessibility, and strives to develop and maintain high standards for the practice of homeopathy in New Zealand."

It is the term ‘everybody's choice’ that probably most rankles me as it attempts to place this ridiculous pseudoscience on a par with actual medicine and purports that the patient should be able to choose between two equally effective therapies. Homoeopathy has absolutely no scientific basis, no proof of effectiveness, and no place in 21st century medical care!

So what exactly is homoeopathy, and how is it supposed to work?

The basis of homoeopathic treatment is that "like cures like". This is based on the fact that the original founder, German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, found that a herb which induced malarial like symptoms in healthy people could cure patients suffering from malaria when diluted to undetectable levels.

This is another quote directly from the New Zealand homoeopathic website;

  • “Homeopathy is not herbalism or naturopathy. While we do use many of the same natural substances homeopathic medicines are uniquely different from naturopathic products because of the way they are made.”

Right so homoeopathic remedies work because of the way they are made!
All homoeopathic remedies are based on serial dilutions of a particular ingredient, that ingredient become so dilute that none of the original compound remains in the treatment.

Again a quote from the same Web site;

  • “How is the strength of Homeopathic medicines shown?
    Homoeopathic medicines are ultra dilute using a method of dilution called potentization. This involves a dilution process and a succussion process (i.e. vigorous shaking).

    To make a 'C' potency the dilution ratio is 1: 99 (i.e. 1 drop of substance to 99 drops of water/alcohol). Between each dilution step the medicine is succussed e.g. 30C means the dilution step followed by succussion is done 30 times.

    If a medicine is a '1M' potency, the dilution/succussion step has been completed 1000 times.

    The 'X' or 'D' potency is made with a ratio of 1:9 (1 drop of substance and 99 drops of water/alcohol).

    The 'LM' or 'Q' potency is diluted by the ratio of 1: 50,000 (i.e. 1 drop of substance to 50,000 drops of water/alcohol).

    You can see from this homeopathic medicines are extremely dilute. Converse to conventional medicine, the more dilute the medicine the greater the potency or strength (because it has been succussed more times).”

The fact that homoeopaths can claim to treat any illness with pure water is itself blatantly ridiculous, yet they go even further in this latest article by claiming that they can cure you of the 'swine flu' H1N1 virus!

Spreading these kind of unsubstantiated lies and claims should in my opinion be illegal. I expected more from what I considered to be one of New Zealand's best news sources, and I only hope that they will lift their standards in the future.

I thought I would finish off by posting a link to an extremely funny video about homeopathy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

This is my first post, so please be kind in the comments, I will try to go into more depth on the stupidity behind homeopathy in future posts, but wanted to get in a quick response while the scoop article was still fresh.

I will hopefully be able to decode my thoughts in a more readable manner at some point in the future as well. When I wite about something that makes me angry I tend to rant and rave rather than talk coherently, again my apologies.
--- Ignorance can be cured, stupidity is forever.---

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Scoop is useful sometimes,

Scoop is useful sometimes, but they will put up every and any press release that come their way so you have to read critically. I wonder if the council of homeopaths could be done for making those claims, the same as those homeopaths earlier in the year who were convicted of selling bird flu, herpes and other cures or if the weasel words like 'treating' and 'managing symptoms' are enough to get them off the hook. The flu is the least of their claims, I've met people duped into using useless homeopathic 'vaccinations' for meningococcal disease. Many people simply don't understand that what homeopathy really is - that there is no active substance and no plausible way it could work and they've just shelled out $15 or more on water and think it's more like herbal medicine.

Any legal types?

Do we have anyone actively in the skeptical community that is also a lawyer?

It would be interesting to see how this sort of thing would hold up when run past the Commerce Commission.

Not a lawyer, but I've taken

Not a lawyer, but I've taken one of the medi-scams to the Advertising Standards Authority in the past - they were claiming they could adjust your DNA and cure Asthma without even touching you. Managed to get some changes made in their claims at least, but unfortunately you don't get to see their responses until after your complaint has a hearing so there doesn't seem to be a right of response to any further claims made by the defendants when they make their decision (and there was extreme bull in their response!). I would say though, because this is a "press release" it's hard to tell if it would hold up as false advertising - you'd have to contact them and ask. http://www.asa.co.nz/ is their site.

The Fair Trading Act and other associated legislation that the commerce commission cover when you purchase a good or service and prevent misleading and deceptive conduct and unfair trading practices. In this situation, you haven't purchased anything and nor does the society itself sell anything so this could be difficult as well. In addition I find that the Ministry of Health is hardly critical of homeopathy for flu, this pdf has some rather startling statements about magic water drops along the lines of "Mild but reversible side effects (such as headache or skin rash) can occur when taking homoeopathic oscillococcinum."...or maybe they didn't have the flu at all or were experiencing the nocebo effect. http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/indexmh/integrativecare-therapies-ho1 That always makes it harder.

Wee edit: The WHO at least has come out and said outright homeopathy for serious illnesses like AIDS and Malaria is wrong, but again if you read this article they manage to squeeze in a mention that it's helpful for the flu (last couple of paragraphs) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8211925.stm

NZQA

I'm pleased to see that the NZQA has progressed a little. The "Unit Standards" are expiring.

I was stunned to find these in there in the first place. I've not had the time to follow up and find out exactly why they were removed either. If I find the time to do that I'll post about it. If anyone else has the time to follow up on that feel free to do so.

Great start to the debate...

Congratulations freethinker for opening the discussion.

Just a couple of things - I think Scoop pretty much put up any press release they get. I'm not sure how much, if any, editorial control they have over these things. For example, I think Auckland Skeptics in the Pub could put out a press release and Scoop would put it on the site.

Wait - that gives me an awesome idea...

Secondly, you're absolutely right to highlight the pseudoscience of homeopathy. It really is one of the worst examples of illogical thinking.

The interesting thing to me was the press release included information about the 1918 Flu outbreak which homeopathy supposedly 'cured'. There's some more information at Science-based Medicine.

I do think some New Zealand skeptical organisation - whether it's NZ Skeptics, or a Skeptics in the Pub group, should be tackling the dangerous falsehoods in these kinds of releases...

It is important if you feel unwell with fever, chills, aches and pains with tiredness to seek advice and treatment. Homeopathy is one therapy that is beneficial in such cases, managing the acute stage and shortening the length and severity of the flu.

...comes dangerously close to saying 'don't go to a doctor, go to a homeopath' to me, and that is downright dangerous.

Cheers
Mike

Not a bad first post :)

I finally found the time to read the article on Scoop referenced here.

This really does read more like a press release than a seriously researched article. Hopefully this is the case and we're not looking at one of the better local news sources gaining a reputation like that of the HuffPo.

I've posted this to ScoopIt with the heading Scoop:Tackling Flus With WooWoo. If people could vote it up that would be cool.