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To Royal eyes, homeopaths walk on water
Craig Aaen Stockdale
26 Feb 2010

Last week, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee finally said what most of us have been thinking in a vociferous report on homeopathy.

The report stated that “homeopathic products perform no better than placebos,” and, in a pre-emptive strike against the homeopaths’ perpetual fall-back position that “more research is needed,” the report said quite clearly that “it is … unethical to enter patients into trials to answer questions that have been settled already.” The report also concluded that the exact figure wasted on funding treatments that are not effective should be calculated and published.

So will this actually make any difference?

Unfortunately, homeopathy has very powerful and influential friends, who have, time and again, greased the wheels in its favour. Sir John Weir, then royal physician, used the funeral of George V to prescribe homeopathic “remedies” to three kings and four queens, and its seems from that moment on, the Royals were hooked. The Queen’s dad, George VI, facilitated the inclusion of homeopathic hospitals within the newly created NHS. He named one of his racehorses Hypericum after a homeopathic remedy for depression.

Prince Charles, whose Duchy Originals brand sells ineffective alternative remedies, personally lobbied the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) shortly before it relaxed the rules governing labelling of homoeopathic products. He has also personally lobbied Andy Burnham, the Secretary of Health, on the subject of making alternative medicines (such as those sold by his Duchy, I presume) available on the NHS.

A 2005 report commissioned by the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health suggested that the NHS could save £480 million if GPs prescribed homeopathic remedies for asthma. Yes, and perhaps the country could save money by not having to provide housing for those people by virtue of them being dead.

In response to the Foundation’s report, the editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton said:

“We are losing our grip on a rational scientific medicine that has brought benefits to millions, and which is now being eroded by the complicity of doctors who should know better and a prince who seems to know nothing at all.”

But let’s not lay all the blame at the door of poor beleaguered Charlie. The Queen herself bestows immense respectability on homeopathy. When travelling abroad she is said to lug (or have some poor footman lug) a case full of sixty vials of homeopathic remedies (read: water).

The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (RLHH), of which the Queen is patron, was recently refurbished at a cost of £20 million to the taxpayer. It costs us £3 million a year to run, and receives further funding from Primary Care Trusts that refer patients.

So is the taxpayer getting value for money from these state-funded quacks?

The RLHH includes the Marigold Clinic run by Dr M Taufiq Khan, who has no less than 28 letters after his name! The weirdest qualification by far is Khan’s “FBAHChP,” a qualification is so hard to achieve, that Khan appears to be the only person on the entire internet to have achieved it!

The RLHH runs a “Complementary Cancer Care Programme”. Yes, you read that right. Cancer Care. Cancer patients are offered reflexology, reiki and homoeopathy all the while being lead to believe that this bunkum is actually helping them more than simply drinking tap water and having a nice massage. The RLHH is careful to avoid implying that any of this actually works, stating clearly that “the hospital does not offer a cure for cancer, or a replacement for treatment already being received from other specialists in conventional cancer care.” They go on to say that “the aims of the Complementary Cancer Care Programme are to enhance the lives and care of the individual living with cancer.”

I’m all for enhancing the lives of people living with cancer, but where I draw the line is lying to them by giving them the impression that any of this is more effective than a back rub, a foot massage and a bottle of Evian.

In the light of the Science & Technology Committee’s report, it is likely that state funding of homeopathy will cease, but this is unlikely to be much of a blow to a billion-dollar market. Like the misguided principles it is based on, homeopathy seems to be more potent the less evidence there is in its favour. It almost thrives on the absence of evidence. Part of the reason for this resilience is the fact that homeopathy has the Royal seal of approval and, for some people, that is sufficient.

This is a guest post by Republic member Craig Aaen Stockdale. If you would like to submit a guest blog, contact us with a short outline of your argument.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 26th, 2010 at 4:33 pm and is filed under Prince Charles, The Duchies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Comments are now closed.

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4 responses so far > Add your own

  1. Ash Walsh

    Non-remedies are available for skin conditions, sleeping problems and even cancer, yet nothing available when one falls of a horse.

    They shouldn’t be allowed to peddle rip off snake oil through classified ads next to voodo priests, never mind the NHS!

  2. Dave

    I can’t help feeling the monarchy and homeopathy are made for each other. They are both centred on nonsense reasoning, and the world would be a much better place without either of them.

  3. Craig Aaen-Stockdale

    Good grief, the Prince’s Foundation have finally responded to my perstering and produced a reply to the Select Committees report:

    Long story short: “But the patient! Won’t somebody please think of the PATIENT!!!”

    … as if genuine doctors are too busy admiring the patient’s handbag and accessories to treat them and their symptoms.


  4. Broga

    Charles Windsor, supposedly above politics or non interfering, is his usual meddlesome self. He knows nothing about medicine, or architecture, seems to be idle, whines about his religious faith but ready to ditch it when it suits him (divorce for one thing) and now this homeopathy nonsense. What a bore this man is.

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