A discussion ensues in the The Times newspaper (London) on the role of science as a means of validating homeopathy and other forms of complementary medicine...
Letters to the Editor, The Times
September 13, 2004
Homoeopathy comes under scrutiny From the Clinical Director of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital
Sir, The French Académie de Médecine's attack on homoeopathy (report and leading article, September 8) is the latest in a long series. Homoeopathy's durability and growing popularity is a “no smoke without fire” argument for it, not a scientific one. But there is substantial scientific evidence for homoeopathy.
The most comprehensive analysis of clinical research in homoeopathy to date, published in The Lancet in 1997, looked at 186 clinical trials, and concluded that its results were “not compatible with the hypothesis that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are completely due to placebo”. In recent laboratory experiments university researchers from Belfast, Louvain, Florence, Paris and Utrecht showed that homoeopathically dil uted histamine reduces allergic responses in-vitro.
You call for scientific scrutiny while denying the existence of a substantial body of such work, whose results generally do not accord with your prejudices; and you propose meeting rising demand with reduced provision. This won't get us anywhere: similar things have been said many times in the past, yet homoeopathy is more popular than ever.
Homoeopathy is difficult to comprehend in terms of current science. But I for one am glad that reality is not co-terminous with the beliefs of professors of medicine, or indeed of Times leader writers.
Yours faithfully, PETER FISHER, (Physician to the Queen), Clinical Director, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, UniversityCollegeLondon NHS Foundation Trust, Greenwell Street, W1W 5BP. September 10.
From Mr Jeremy Glyn
Sir, You say of homoeopathy: “These remedies must withstand the scrutiny of science first.” Some years ago I awaited with interest the ruling by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on “complementary” therapies. As the inaugural vice chair of the Kinesiology Federation, I had hoped to see that therapy given a credible rating.
Alas, kinesiology was grouped among the unproven therapies, with a note from a dentist on that august committee explaining that they had been obliged to reach that decision for lack of scientific evidence.
However, he added that he used it all the time in his practice, because “I know it works”.
Yours faithfully, JEREMY GLYN, Westbrook Cottage, Longparish, Andover, Hampshire SP11 6PG. [email protected] September 8.
From Mr Richard Stenning
Sir, I feel sorry for people who have to wait for science to tell them that something is real before they can believe it. They must miss out on love or affection or any emotion at all, there being no good scientific explanation of these phenomena.
The “rational” approach to homoeopathy boils down to “we can't explain it, therefore it doesn't exist”. This is similar arrogance to the “scientific” experts who stoically dismissed the value of fruit in reducing scurvy for years. Science eventually caught up and explained what everyone “knew” anyway.
Science is an invaluable tool but a severely limited one. To place scientific proof beyond the questioning of human experience is to demean the latter.
Yours faithfully, RICHARD STENNING, Calam House, Poplar Mount, Axminster, Devon EX13 5EB. [email protected] September 11.