Archive for category 10:23
On a recent episode of our podcast, we talked about an email we received from a pro-homeopathy visitor to the 10:23 website. What made this email particularly noteworthy was how polite, genuine and respectful it was (a far cry from the usual email we get to 10:23).
Since the show went out, I’ve had several requests from people to publish the email and my reply. So here it is in full, save for the redaction of Emily’s full name and email address.
Project Barnum has caused a bit of a stir within the skeptical community in recent days.
Detractors claim that Project Barnum is illiberal and seeks to censor those they disagree with. Supporters say that it is about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people they can do things that they can’t.
Parallels have been drawn, by both sides, with the 10:23 Campaign. Critics of 10:23 similarly claimed the campaign was illiberal, and supporters claimed that it was about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people their pills can do things that they can’t.
Read the rest of this entry »
As I’ve covered previously, the position of homeopathy on the NHS in the Wirral region has been under review, with the Professional Executive Committee evaluating the future continuation of the 200-year-old non-science in the wake of dwindling patient interest.
Following the open meeting of March 10th to discuss proposals to cut homeopathy from the budget, the PEC collected their thoughts and formally presented them to the Wirral NHS Board. This meeting took place on the 22 March 2011, and unsurprisingly attracted the attention of the North West ‘Friends’ of Homeopathy, whose very vocal envoy John Cook persuaded the board to allow him to present his objections to their proposal. Readers of the previous blog or listeners to Skeptics with a K will know John well, and his forthright advocacy style.
Fortunately, a local councillor is a supporter and friend of the MSS, and he was able to equally persuade the board to allow an external voice of support into the meeting to counter the objections of the homeopathic lobby – which is why I found myself called upon to give a 5-minute speech in favour of disposing with the sugar pills once and for all.
The exact text of the speech is presented below, and my opportunity to present it came immediately after 5 minutes from the homeopaths, in which the main thrust of their argument was:
- The consultation process had not been as robust as one would hope (essentially attempting to get off on a technicality)
- Homeopathy does indeed work and there is science to prove it
- Homeopathy is used by 10% of the population (a somewhat spurious figure brilliantly put into context by the board, who pointed out that the 60 affected patients in the Wirral each year are in fact just 0.02% of the population)
- Those who seek to end funding for homeopathy are in fact attempting to ban it, with similar zeal to the calls to rid the world from smallpox.
I’ve no doubt that John will be able to offer a fuller clarification of these points below, and I welcome him doing so if he so wishes. Following this argument, I took to the rather official-looking table with it’s little microphone, the eyes of the board upon me, and began: Read the rest of this entry »
Having written about and campaigned against homeopathy extensively in the past, I’ve seen a number of counter-arguments and issues raised by people who either disagree with the 10:23 Campaign (primarily homeopaths, admittedly). The one which crops up most regularly and seem to have, at least on the surface, the most sway is: if homeopathy IS just a placebo, is that so bad? Placebos, after all, can be shown to have an effect, and if judicially used could form a perfectly legitimate part of mainstream healthcare.
Persuasive as this sounds, the answer is actually pretty simple – leaving aside the implications for doctor-patient trust (handing out pills known to be ineffective and claiming they’re medicine definitely doesn’t gel with the important notion of informed consent), incorporating homeopathy into proven medicine lends the modality legitimacy, which can lead to things like this (screencapped from an email):
Following the link from that alert takes you to the Homeopathy Plus website, with their advice on how to deal with the side effects of Chemotherapy – advice they believe to be equally applicable to radiation poisoning. Just to make it absolutely clear, as if I even needed to, there is a HUGE difference between the side-effects experienced after having a well-controlled, targeted and managed dose of chemotherapy to fight cancer, and being randomly exposed to an uncontrolled amount radiation following a damaged nuclear power plant. It goes without saying that this is irresponsible and dangerous advice, and by all means it should be ignored. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve had a rather interesting evening. Last week, MSS member and local councillor Darren Dodds alerted me to the fact that Wirral NHS were holding an open meeting to discuss whether to continue funding homeopathy in the region, with the recommendation being very much ‘No, we absolutely shouldn’t’. Needless to say, I agree with this recommendation, and wanted to go along to let them know that I – and by extension the hundred or more local MSS members – applaud their step in the right direction. Interested parties should read the report they came up with, it’s really pretty good. Some highlights:
The paper concludes that the lack of evidence on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic therapies means that it should not be a high priority for the PCT at this time. It is recommended that NHS Wirral does not commission homeopathictherapies.
The key risk is that NHS Wirral fails to maintain its reputation as an evidence-based commissioning PCT.
Excellent stuff. Still, it seems we weren’t the only ones made aware of the open meeting – also invited were patients currently or formerly using homeopathy, and the ‘North West Friends of Homeopathy‘. This latter group are most interesting, and I’ll come back to them a little later in more detail, but first it’s worth pointing out that I appeared on local radio with a member of the group on Monday morning, in an exchange that might amuse, and will certainly give a far better impression of who John Cook is than I could ever do justice with words. UK-based readers can listen here, it starts around the 2hour 13minute mark and lasts about 10 minutes. I’ll wait.
For those not able, willing or interested in listening, what we have from John is a charming ability to hog a conversation, and the maniacal insistence that the date of the meeting was aired. Clearly, John wanted his supporters to arrive mob-handed. Fair enough, he probably feels he has a strong case. As it was, when I arrived with a couple of other MSS members there were maybe 40 or so people present, a number which I presume to be in excess of the general norm for these meetings.
John, having lobbied for inclusion, was amongst the speakers, joined by Dr. Hugh Neilsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (it’s worth pointing out that his name is actually Hugh Nielsen, and the NWFoH’s own website, while painstaking in it’s detail of Hugh’s many qualifications, mispells the name of their own president), and the panel was completed by two local GPs who were involved in making the recommendation, and who spent the evening ranging between bemused, compassionate and at times startled. Startled, not least, by the quite spectacular opening by John, the homeopath’s friend (which I imagine is rather like a Fisherman’s Friend, but lacking in clout), in which he directed a quite flattering string of insults at me directly, and at the Merseyside Skeptics Society. Read the rest of this entry »
This post was originally a guest post I wrote for The Times Eureka science blog, which can be found behind the paywall.
On Sunday, February 6th, at precisely 10:23am, I will be hoping over a thousand people around the world will have spent the last 24 hours joining me in a so-called mass “overdose”.
Don’t worry, I’m not following in the footsteps of Jim Jones, nor will there be any Kool-Aid anywhere to be seen. Instead, there will be 28 countries, 69 cities and over one 1023 consumer rights activists, each passionate about spreading genuine healthcare information. And there will be a hell of a lot of little homeopathic pills.
Let me explain. In September 2009, myself and a couple of other members of the Merseyside Skeptics Society (a non-profit, voluntary organisation set up to promote critical thinking) settled on a project to help spread genuine information about what homeopathic remedies are, and how they are produced. Opinion polls suggested members of the public thought homeopathic products were synonymous with ‘herbal’, ‘natural’ and ‘chemical-free’ – when in reality they couldn’t be further from all of those things.
Faced with this low level of public understanding, the £4million+ per year spent by the NHS on homeopathy was hard to swallow, and out of the frustration at this disconnection the 10:23 Campaign was born. The aim was simple, to raise awareness among the public that homeopathy is not a valid or useful medical alternative, due to thestupendously dilute nature of each remedy. Put simply: ‘There’s Nothing In It’.
After much careful planning, by the 30th January 2010 we’d raised such interest in the campaign that we’d gathered over 350 protestors in more than a dozen UK cities. Each supporter came armed with an off-the-shelf remedy from their local Boots pharmacy (the high street giant drawing particular ire for their admission that they sell homeopathic products not because they work, but because they sell), and a simple mandate – at the stroke of 10:23am, they were to swallow the entire contents of the homeoapthic vial. The event is pictured above (photo by Kelly Haddow).
In reality, somewhat disappointingly, this amounted to a rather meagre capfull of little sugary balls – while homeopathy is nonsense, it’s also a very expensive nonsense (gram for gram, homeopathic pills sell for twice the price of sterling silver). Still, the event must have proven to be something of a spectacle, as it garnered a quite staggering level of media attention, spreading our message that there really is nothing in homeopathic remedies. Read the rest of this entry »