In honor of World Homeopathy Awareness Week 2010, part 2

As I pointed out yesterday, World Homeopathy Awareness Week began yesterday. One common question that’s asked about homeopathy goes something like this: If homeopathy is just water, then what’s the harm?

Here’s the harm:

Part 1

Part 2

Homeopathy is magical thinking, far more religious or superstitious in nature than medical or scientific. And this form of magical thinking can lead people people to eschew effective medical therapy, with tragic results.

Posted in: Homeopathy

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16 thoughts on “In honor of World Homeopathy Awareness Week 2010, part 2

  1. DevoutCatalyst says:

    You just harmed my breakfast.

  2. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    I liked the picture posted by Orac :

    “If water has memory, then Homeopathy is full of sh*t.”

  3. wales says:

    My son had eczema for most of his first year, as do about 20% of infants. It was chronic, with severe, oozing flare ups at times. Our pediatrician explained that as both parents had eczema, pollen allergies and/or asthma and food allergies, our son was genetically predisposed to it. NOTHING worked, including the prescription topical steroid (that was pulled from the market after we used it for two months due to suspected carcinogenicity). The only thing that brought some relief was applying Lansinoh, a purified form of lanolin marketed to breastfeeding mothers for nipple problems. We kept his skin clean and moisturized to prevent bacterial infection and he outgrew it eventually.

  4. ScarySkwerl says:

    I just assigned this post as homework for my class! They have an exam on pseudoscience as well as the formal structure of clinical trials next week. It also powerfully brings home the concept of “alternative” as opposed to “complementary” and poses a heart-breaking case study of cultural sensitivity and bioethics and legal consequences. Thank you.

  5. BillyJoe says:

    Stop posting videos, I’m still being throttled :(

  6. A news article that discusses the Gloria Thomas Sam case.

    “A general practitioner booked them an appointment with a dermatologist they did not attend because they took the child to India instead, a course of action the doctor told them was “cruel”.

    They also visited two doctors in India, but discarded the advice of one to return to him every second day, instead consulting a succession of homeopaths including Thomas Sam’s brother, who had recently completed his dissertation on eczema.”

    “Gloria died on May 8, 2002, in her mother’s arms, unable in her weakened condition to combat the septicemia that had developed in her left eye.

    The pathologist who did the autopsy, Ella Sugo, said she had sought advice from experts outside Australia because she had never seen a child so malnourished and her condition was at a level more commonly observed in third world countries.

    But even after Gloria died, Thomas Sam adhered to his belief that homeopathy was equally valid to conventional medicine for the treatment of eczema.

    He told police: “Conventional medicine would have prolonged her life … with more misery. It’s not going to cure her and that’s what I strongly believe.”

    As a parent I try to understand, we all make mistakes, we don’t all function well in a crisis. But to make the same mistake, over and over for months, while a infant is obviously ill, in pain and either losing weight or not growing. Completely unacceptable. I’m not sure if I’m more pissed off or sad.

  7. wales says:

    While I certainly don’t condone the apparent lack of appropriate medical care in thel acute stages of illness in this case, I can sympathize with the fact that severe infant eczema is a frustratingly recalcitrant problem. I am hesitant to judge without having walked a while in the shoes of these parents. The parents took the infant to at least three physicians, two in India and one in Australia. As I know from experience, it is frustrating to be told by a pediatrician that, after trying all the doctors’ recommendations, there really isn’t much else to do about severe eczema except keep the skin clean and moisturized and wait until the infant outgrows it. The most powerful immune-suppressing treatments have serious side effects for infants.

    This article is informative and it does address the difficulty in treating eczema and the anxiety it creates for parents.

  8. manixter says:

    Not to be cynical, but this is the sort of thing that counters Jenny McCarthy. I don’t know why news stations don’t run this sort of story– it’s tragic and horrifying. I guess the hook is unsatisfying “child dies because standard medical treatment not used” vs. a much more interesting “Child’s life saved by unconventional therapy”.

  9. Wales, perhaps if someone would have had less sympathy with the parent’s frustration and more concern for the child who was obviously loosing weight or failing to grow at an alarming rate, they would have intervened more forcefully. Maybe if that had happened, the child would still be alive. Which, I think, would be better for both the parents and the child.

    Sometimes a swift kick in the pants is more constructive than sympathy.

  10. wales says:

    Michele you have a point, apparently the parents did not get a “kick in the pants” from their pediatrician. “Dr Symons, now retired, agreed he had made a mistake in not giving much greater consideration to the baby’s weight loss when he saw her three months before she died.” And “Dr Symons said the child did not look malnourished and his attention was focused on her rash.”

    Also “But, he said, he had told the mother it was “cruel” to take baby Gloria Thomas to India until she had seen a specialist about the eczema. His concerns were alleviated when the mother promised to get treatment on their arrival, which she did, he said.” So according to this the parents did seek more treatment in India, from two doctors. I wasn’t present at the trial so can’t know what details were revealed. I just see misplaced emphasis on this as the “failure and harm of homeopathy” and not the failure of conventional medicine as well, in dealing with a stubborn and difficult to treat condition. In my experience with eczema, the “specialists” (dermatologists) didn’t have anything to offer that the pediatrician hadn’t already offered.

  11. Wales, so you don’t think there was much conventional medicine could have done for this child if the parents would have consistently pursued medical attention rather than homeopathic attention?

  12. wales says:

    Don’t know, I am not a doctor and I don’t know the patient. I only know that in my experience the doctors expressed their own frustration with difficulty of treating severe eczema (and one had even had the same experience with his own child).

  13. But the parents were not convicted for having a child with unresolved eczema, which I’m sure is difficult and frustrating. They were convicted because they failed to provide sufficient medical care to a child who’s weight and health deteriorated over a matter of months.

    “The court heard that Gloria was above average weight, height and head circumference until she was four months old, but lost 20 per cent of her body weight in the last five months of her life after a nurse first identified her eczema and advised her parents to send her to a skin specialist.

    The Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, told the court they sat on this advice for two months and then saw a general practitioner who was so concerned by her condition that he told them to see a skin specialist immediately. But again, they demurred.”

    “Had they gone straight to hospital, had they got proper medical attention for Gloria when they first got back to Australia or even for several days after that, the evidence will be that Gloria would have survived.”

    Four days after they arrived in Australia, Thomas Sam’s sister allegedly offered to take the baby to hospital but he declined.

    Later that night, the couple decided they would take the baby to hospital, but they were too tired to do it that evening and waited until after he had completed an obligation at the church the next day before going in about midday on May 5.
    Immediately, the baby was categorised as in need of urgent medical attention and rushed into emergency. She died three days later.”

    You can not say that conventional medicine failed, unless you actually make a reasonable effort to pursue conventional medicine.

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