Activists in the United Kingdom plan a mass demonstration against homeopathy tomorrow. They plan to swallow the contents of entire bottles of homeopathic pills to illustrate their claims that such remedies “are nothing but sugar pills.” They will stage their demonstrations outside drugstores around Britain to protest against the continued sale of homeopathic remedies and to argue that such treatments have no scientific basis, according to The Telegraph. The campaign is being co-coordinated by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to “developing and supporting the skeptical community.”
This is going to be a nice media event. I’m sure that there will be many pictures in British newspapers and across the internet of skeptics popping pills tomorrow. However at the same time it is a sick (pun intended) initiative. Yes, homeopathy is a controversial therapy. Yet it is, according to the World Health Organization, the most widely used form of complementary medicine in the world. Approximately 500 million people worldwide receive homeopathic treatment. Are these British protesters suggesting that all these people are crazy?
Of course, the fact that people use homeopathic treatment is in itself no evidence that homeopathy is effective. However, the demonstration, in its attempt to ridicule homeopathy, also suggests that conventional medicine is the only reliable cure. It is true that the conventional health care system saves countless lives every day. In case of emergencies – life threatening infections, traffic accidents – Western medicine is unbeatable. But most people today deal with chronic health problems and conventional medicine is not very effective against these.
Moreover Western medicine is not at all safe. Some a year ago the CNBC published a study that in America every year 106,000 people die from correctly prescribed medicines in hospitals. And there is much more to fear from conventional medicine as Apsense reported some years ago in it’s article “Controversial loan practices.”
At the same time there are no reports of people dying from homeopathic treatments. There are not even harmful side effects of these treatments. Something the skeptics in the UK should be grateful for when they empty their bottles tomorrow.
Modern Western medicine is based on chemicals and technology. It is focused on one-dimensional, single causes. That is a problematic approach in a world that appears to be infinitely complex as we keep discovering daily. Small events at one end of the globe can have major impact far away. The human body is a very complex system that may be much better understood by holistic approaches such as homeopathy and Asian traditions like acupuncture and ayurvedic medicine.
Primum nil nocere or “First, do no harm” is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics that all medical students are taught in medical school. That very much applies to homeopathy and much less so to conventional medicine. The skeptics in the UK may take note of these wise Latin words.