Homeopathy Overdose

I’ve just learned that a Mass Homeopathy Overdose is planned for 20 January, mostly in protest of Boots continuing to sell homeopathic remedies.  There are details here. As they say on the internet, at first I lol’d.  I also had the usual thoughts about homeopathy doing no real harm, maybe even having a placebo effect — so what’s the bother?  There is a short discussion here about some of the harm. At least some philosophers are involved.  We have a long tradition of scepticism, and maybe we’re ideally suited to debunking such things.

Why bother, if the harm is mostly minimal?  Another sort of harm which almost never gets a hearing has to do with mental states and the sense in which a world with  homeopathy in it is not as good as a world without it.  I’ve had similar thoughts about CCTV, Google, fox hunting, mobile phones and the X Factor.  No doubt someone thinks these things are necessary evils, anyway just inconveniences which don’t do much harm.  But there is harm, the mental analogue of the cellular degradation associated with heavy background radiation.  These things don’t usually damage us directly — sometimes they even seem of use.  But all the while, almost imperceptibly, we all get a little more stupid as a result of having them around.

  1. Hi James

    I don’t know the figures but I don’t have any reason to disagree with you that the current level of harm from homeopathy is minimal. I’m sure cases like these are the exception rather than the rule:

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2009/09/protecting-future-baby-glorias-from.html

    In so far as that is true, it should not be banned.

    However, in so far as it carries a risk of greater harm (e.g., homeopathic remedies being used as a treatment for swine flu) then people who care about these things (e.g., most health professionals) are quite right to attack its credibility with fervour.

    Trust in conventional medical treatments is essential to effective treatment, extremely hard to achieve and therefore very important to defend.

    For all these reasons, I believe the event being planned (and others like it) are quite necessary and justified. I expect the organisers do not believe homeopathy should be banned or restricted, they just do not wish to see it being given credibility by a reputable High Street pharmacy

  2. Homepathic remedies should (like cigarettes) come with a health warning as to the consequences of their misuse. But then, so should palimstry, astrology, seances, etc.
    I am not (contrary to what you might think), anti complementary medicine. I personally practice meditation and some other Buddhist practices. But these are not described as some alternative, such as homeopathy. I have – to swing ever so slightly the other way – misgivings about the total medicalisation of mental health issues, having worked in this area for several years and seen the misuse of medication.
    The line between well being and a medical condition might be a blurred one but to simpler ignore the differences so one can call oneself a “practicioner”, is surely wrong. Thats morally wrong, and not simply a mistake. Ignorance cannot be a defense of anyone who lays claim to have an alternative medical etiology, when it is at best, complementary. Until that is, I hear the cry at the scene of an accident- “Step aside Im a homeopath”.

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