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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Can homeopathy be deadly?

1st November 2007

What are the consequences of giving homeopathic medicine an important place alongside conventional medicine, asks Nick Cohen in the Guardian.


At the beginning of December, a meeting will be held at a south London charity in order to talk about using homeopathic remedies to treat AIDS. The homeopaths will represent themselves and their work seriously, and not call themselves "faith healers" or "shamans".

The homeopath Hilary Fairclough is due to speak about the good results she has achieved in her Botswana clinic. Harry van der Zee, co-founder of the Amma Resonance Healing Foundation, will talk about African AIDS patients he treated who became quickly "symptom-free and able to return to their jobs and schools or to look after their children again".

This kind of talk, and indeed homeopathy itself, is "spurious". Homeopathy was thought up by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century. Its premise is that the "smaller the dose of a mineral or herb the more potent it is". In fact, you would benefit to a similar extent from drinking some water than by taking a homeopathic remedy.

Six million people in the UK use alternative medicine. GPs direct hypochondriac patients to homeopaths and the government funds five homeopathic "hospitals". These are a waste of money and the NHS should use the funds in conventional medicine which can demonstrate real results.

Ministers face "strong opposition" if they argue against homeopathic medicine - about 100 MPs put their names to a Commons motion which asserted that these alternative hospitals were "valuable national assets" which could treat many different conditions. This is "state deception" on a grand scale.

A Newsnight investigation revealed that 10 homeopaths endangered patients' lives by giving them pills containing tiny amounts of garlic and citronella oil rather than anti-malarial tablets.

In South Africa the president consults a biologist who says that preventing AIDS is as simple as having a healthy diet and not taking recreational drugs. A respected AIDS adviser has called this "murder".

People are not speaking out enough about this issue because these dangerous ideas are being spread by "funny little alternative institutes we too casually dismiss as quaint".


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