I was recently struck by an odd blog post “If you love homeopathy – don’t vote Liberal Democrat!”
This is a post which berates Dr. Evan Harris MP for all manner of misdemeanours, not least his strong and vocal position against homeopathy. The blogger (one Sue Young) goes so far as to quote two articles from the GMC code that she feels Dr. Harris is contravening through his activities [update 14th Feb 2010 - apparently the blog post was based on a letter written by Lionel Milgrom, see Gimpy's blog for details]. I wrote a comment relating to the fact that the overriding focus of the GMC guidelines is care to patients and it seems that Dr. Harris is fulfilling his duty to the GMC by attempting to “protect and promote the health of patients and the public” by illuminating the lack of evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy. It appears (unsurprisingly) that my comment did not make it through the comment review process, so I have posted it (and my follow-up) below.
It is not the berating of Dr. Harris that struck me as odd, nor the call to boycott the Liberal Democrats – it is the use of the term “if you love homeopathy”. This is a bit incongruous. I can understand someone loving what they do; after all I love my job, but I wouldn’t think to rely on my (admittedly irrational) fondness for dead animals as a way of motivating people to see things from my perspective. Moreover, “love” has some important connotations – not least unconditional acceptance or bias. It is here that we begin to see where the problem with homeopathy really lies.
I have said before (a couple of times) that homeopaths are believers in a 200 year old doctrine – which is why homeopathy has not changed appreciably in those two centuries. It is the inability to see past their love for their discipline that has meant that it has not been allowed to adapt and evolve. As a result homeopaths keep practicing their art with complete faith in its efficacy, despite the fact that evidence has repeatedly shown that homeopathy does not work appreciably beyond placebo (unless the studies assessing it are of low quality). Even where studies conclude that homeopathy is not effective, there are examples of homeopaths cherry-picking statements and citing them as support.
Rather like a parent is biased towards their child because of their love, homeopaths are biased towards their discipline. Evidence against the efficacy of homeopathy merely makes homeopaths feel more defensive. Logical refutation of the principles of homeopathy leads homeopaths to doubt well established facts about physics and biology rather than change their assumptions about homeopathy. It’s like a parent being confronted with video footage of their child shoplifting and responding by saying “but my child would never do that – you must be mistaken”. This is not how science works. This is certainly not how medicine should work.
Until homeopaths can put aside their love of homeopathy they simply cannot be trusted to work with the best interests of their patients in mind. Ignoring or twisting evidence to make it fit what is already believed is not beneficial. If homeopathy is ever going to be more than a dogmatic anachronism it needs to start accepting criticism and more to the point it needs to start recognising the inherent bias introduced by those that love homeopathy.
It should be pointed out here that article 46 and 47 is not intended to defend the actions of colleagues who do not fulfil the duties of a doctor registered with the General Medical Council:
“Patients must be able to trust doctors with their lives and health. To justify that trust you must show respect for human life and you must:
- Make the care of your patient your first concern
- Protect and promote the health of patients and the public
- Provide a good standard of practice and care
- Keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date
- Recognise and work within the limits of your competence
- Work with colleagues in the ways that best serve patients’ interests“
It seems that Dr. Harris is fulfilling his duty to the GMC by attempting to “protect and promote the health of patients and the public” by illuminating the lack of evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy.
My follow up comment:
I see that you only publish comments that support your opinion. How wonderfully hypocritical in a blog about bias, but I suppose it’s only to be expected that a homeopath will cherry-pick what they want to hear.