Dr Bob Leckridge (FFHom) has written a fine opinion piece on Homeopathy, which we include in full below.
I’ve often wondered why the attacks on homeopathy are so vitriolic. What gets one of the anti crowd so worked up about this therapy? Homeopathy doesn’t have a reputation for killing people, or harming them with side effects. The costs of homeopathy are negligible compared to drugs and surgery. So what is it?
On the 27th November, the French newspaper, Le Monde, published an interview with Dr Alexandre Klein, a doctor of philosophy and the history of Medicine at the université Laval (Québec). He’s been studying this question. His key insight is this.
Throughout history when the medical profession has felt under threat it has responded by attacking others. In the past it was folk healers, wise women, or in early 19th century France, « officiers de santé », who were medical practitioners who didn’t hold the title of doctor. Currently it’s homeopathy and any therapy they classify as « complementary or alternative ».
As we see in all walks of society, this is the human tendency to blame someone else for your suffering, usually targeting a minority group, such as immigrants or groups defined by ethnicity or religion.
The question then is why is the medical profession under threat?
He gives a number of reasons.
Firstly, the core role of doctors has been that of curing diseases and saving lives.
But in 1946, WHO defined health as not the absence of disease, but a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. Whole new professions and sectors of the economy have opened up around « wellness », « wellbeing » and « health ». These areas are not the preserve of doctors. Doctors have lost their monopoly on health and their status as experts.
Secondly, alongside this shift, the number of chronic diseases has exploded. These are diseases doctors can’t cure, and often struggle to even manage.
Thirdly, he says you can see the hand of corporations in the anti movements. Drug companies fund patient groups and encourage them to fight for drugs and against anyone promoting alternatives.
Fourthly, he highlights the fact that the most active players in the medical profession against homeopathy and other complementary therapies are young generalists. Young GPs are amongst the most stressed and threatened doctors for a number of reasons. They deal with patients with complex multiple chronic diseases every day. They can’t cure them, and they struggle to manage them. They haven’t enough time to spend with each patient (and are jealous of those who do), are faced with informed patients who challenge their advice and decisions, have to deal with complaints and threats to sue when things don’t go well, and have to conform to an increasing number of protocols and guidelines which undermine their authority.
His final point is about how the polarisation we see in political discourse has spread into other areas. In France there is an anti group called #Collectif Fakemed which attacks all alternatives and a pro group called Collectif Safemed which promotes Integrative Medicine. They are not able to dialogue with each other.
So, here’s my question.
How can the Faculty open a constructive dialogue with mainstream doctors?
Are we able to recognise and acknowledge their stresses, struggles and their suffering? Do we have anything to offer them which would help? Do we have anything to learn from them? In other words can we use the same skills and values we use with our patients? Non-judgemental, attentive, listening and care, sharing insights and learning together how to live.
Dr Bob Leckridge FFHom
The article Dr Leckridge refers to from Le Monde is: