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Homeopathy under attack - Bioethics expert argues for closure of homeopathic hospital

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by: M.Thornley
Tags: homeopathy, bioethics, health news

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(NewsTarget) Dr. Kevin Smith, a bioethics expert at the University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland, in the Journal of Bioethics, argued that homeopathy is a waste of valuable resources. In addition, government funding of Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital puts patients at risk by lending credibility to homeopathic treatment.

Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, also known as the Centre for Integrated Care, is the only homeopathic hospital in Scotland. It opened in 1914.

Due to budget cuts, the hospital is experiencing increasing pressure. The National Health Service of Scotland, which previously provided funding, has not confirmed future funding for the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, and it has announced that it will not commission further services there. The hospital, which offers a 15 bed inpatient facility, has an average of 10,000 consults per year.

In 2004, the hospital was threatened with closure but a petition signed by 22,000 people averted this action. However, British Medical Association members urged the NHS to stop funding hospitals like the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, citing the lack of evidence of effectiveness of homeopathic remedies.

Dr. Smith criticized the funding of homeopathic treatment as a waste of valuable resources and an ethically reprehensible behavior: on the basis that it leads patients to damage their health under the impression that, since the NHS funds the homeopathic treatment, it is better and has a scientific basis. Dr. Smith notes that those teaching courses in homeopathy were also guilty of a lapse in ethical judgment.

Homeopathic philosophy is based on the law of similars. Ancient healers such as Paracelsus believed that the same substance that produced symptoms in a healthy person could be used to treat the same symptoms in a sick one. Modern homeopathy was begun in the 18th century by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.
A homeopathic remedy is tailored to the individual and his or her specific symptoms. A homeopathic practitioner may advise lifestyle and dietary changes.

Homeopathic medicines are derived from plants, animals and minerals prepared under strict guidelines recorded in international pharmacopoeias and are considered safe. These may be in the form of a liquid, granules, powder or tablets. Homeopathic remedies are repeatedly diluted and shaken. The original chemical substance may no longer be discernable but the mixture is believed to retain the quality of the original substance.

Like many scientists, Dr. Smith questions how a highly diluted preparation could have a biological effect. Some proponents argue that the placebo effect justifies the use of homeopathy. Dr. Smith rejects this argument, insisting this approach is unethical because a core principle of medical ethics is informed consent.

A top alternative health expert, Dr. Jan De Vries, said that closing the hospital would reduce freedom of choice for patients.

People who use the hospital claim its homeopathic procedures work. Matt McLaughlin, a Glasgow health organizer, says, "When I speak to people who benefit from the hospital, they tell me it works. For me, that`s the no-brainer."


About the author

M. Thornley enjoys walking, writing and pursuing a raw vegan diet and lifestyle.

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