Posts Tagged BMA

Ernst Praises Hahnemann?

Resident MSS Doctor and Skeptics in the Pub goer Selva shares his views on Edzard Ernst and Samuel Hahnemann…

In a recent Pulse magazine article professor of complementary medicine Edzard Ernst praised the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann.

“In my view, Samuel Hahnemann, the German doctor who invented homeopathy about 200 years ago, is a man who should be celebrated.”

Can this be true? Surely one of the most respected proponents of evidence based medicine cannot be advocating homeopathy as a treatment.

In his article he cites the hammering homeopathy has received over the last year including the House of Commons select committee’s damning report, the BMA describing homeopathy as “witchcraft”, and my particular favourite – comedians taking the “homeopathic mickey” (sadly 10.23’s not insignificant role doesn’t get a mention).

Fortunately normal service resumes further in the article – to quote Prof Ernst:

“His primary achievement is not to have developed homeopathy. His true achievement is that, in the course of doing this, he has shown us how important non-specific effects – often also called the ‘art’ of medicine – are in terms of getting patients better. To put it bluntly, Hahnemann has taught us that patients can improve even when we give them nothing but placebos.”

This somewhat conciliatory line is admirable, but I think also provides the crack which has allowed homeopathy to be practiced for so many years as an NHS treatment. Most doctors either haven’t been aware of the implausibility of homeopathy, or have been happy for other practitioners to provide placebos to patients, in the knowledge that there is some perceived benefit. Homeopathy is often given for intractable problems, where EBM doesn’t always provide sufficient benefit. As Prof Ernst says, the act of being empathic and providing sufficient time is often enough to make the patient feel better. Read the rest of this entry »

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