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History Contains Evidence of Bias against Homeopathy

Saturday, October 02, 2010 by: Dana Ullman, MPH
Tags: homeopathy, history, health news

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(NewsTarget) My previous blog gave a modern-day description of one of the many ways that "medical fundamentalists" or "denialists" work hard to provide misinformation about homeopathy. Such behaviors did not arise out of nowhere as there has been a long history of such partisan misuse of science and journalism.

In 1854, Sir Benjamin Hall, a member of England`s Parliament, administered the government`s General Board of Health, and his first act set up a General Medical Council of clinicians to conduct an epidemiological survey of the cholera epidemic, a serious public health problem in that year. The Council`s report showed that 51.9 percent of patients treated for cholera as in-patients or out-patients in London hospitals had died and all types of treatment were deemed useless.

The London Homeopathic Hospital had just established a charitable foundation in 1849. During the 1854 cholera epidemic, the thirty-bed hospital was devoted to the treatment of the indigent poor of the area. The homeopathic hospital, like all other hospitals in London, submitted its records to the Council for its report on cholera treatment, but the homeopathic mortality statistics were not listed in the report. The homeopathic hospital experienced a mortality rate of only 16.4 percent of patients.

When Sir Benjamin Hall asked the Council to explain this omission, the reply was:
"That by introducing the returns of homeopathic practitioners, they would not only compromise the value and utility of their averages of cure, as deduced from the operation of known remedies, but they would give an unjustifiable sanction to an empirical practice alike opposed to the maintenance of truth and to the progress of science." (Nichols, 1988, 145-146)

In other words, the statistics from the homeopathic hospital weren't listed because their inclusion would suggest that homeopathic medicines provide a superior treatment for cholera. Skeptics may wonder how valid the homeopathic hospital's statistics were. It's therefore important to note that the inspector appointed refused to visit the homeopathic hospital, so another inspector reluctantly agreed to do so. He wrote to the Homeopathic Hospital:

"You are aware that I went to your hospital prepossessed against the homeopathic system; that you had in me, in your camp, an enemy rather than a friend, and that I must therefore have seen some cogent reason there, the first day I went, to come away so favourably disposed as to advise a friend to send a subscription to your charitable fund. (Dean, 2004, 127)

In 1858, the conventional physicians sought to have homeopathic practice outlawed. Despite some vitriolic lobbying, this law wasn't passed because of the evidence of homeopathy`s successes in treating the recent cholera epidemic. Still, the British Medical Association passed internal rules that forbade their members from practicing homeopathy or even consulting with a homeopath in the care of any patient. The British doctors even required medical students to sign a pledge that they would never become a homeopath, and they actually failed any student who refused to sign this pledge (Baumann, 1857).

Further, the conventional physicians also sought manslaughter charges against homeopaths if any homeopathic patients died. All doctors have some patients who pass away, but the conventional physicians sought to make practicing homeopathy difficult or impossible. Despite the much more frequent deaths under the care of conventional physicians, there was no similar pattern of manslaughter charges against them by homeopaths.

Appropriately, the British government decided to ignore the advice from the report on homeopathy issued by the Science and Technology Committee. Likewise, the evolution of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital to become the Royal London Hospital for Integrative Medicine is not an obituary but a "birth announcement."


Baumann, J. The Old and New Therapy with/of Medicine According to the Writings of Others and According to Personal Experience for the Thinking Public. Remmingen: Oscar Belsenfelder. 1857.

Dean, M. E., The Trials of Homeopathy. Essen, Germany: KVC, 2004. (This book is a truly excellent book on the history of scientific studies testing homeopathic medicines. Readers will be impressed to learn that some of the earliest double-blind and placebo-controlled trials were in the testing of homeopathic medicines.)

Nichols, P. A. Homoeopathy and the Medical Profession. London: Croom Helm, 1988.

About the author

DANA ULLMAN, MPH, is one of America's leading advocates for homeopathy. He has authored 10 books, including The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy (foreword written by Dr. Peter Fisher, Physician to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), Homeopathy A-Z, Homeopathic Medicines for Children and Infants, and (the best-selling) Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines (with Stephen Cummings, MD). He is the founder of Homeopathic Educational Services (http://www.homeopathic.com), America's leading resource center for homeopathic books, tapes, medicines, medicine kits, software, and distance learning courses. Homeopathic Educational Services has co-published over 35 books on homeopathy with North Atlantic Books (which are distributed by Random House).

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