Grandmother loses case for getting Magic pills on the NHS

homeopathicIf the NHS discarded evidence-based decision making and instead reverted to dispensing alternatives such as magic as the best possible means to cure those who are ill then you would, I both hope and assume, be quite rightly more than a tad concerned. That has in one sense actually been happening, but things are now getting better.

If you know me by now that you will instantly grasp that I’m back on the topic of Homeopathy. OK, so for those that are not too familiar with it all, let’s lay the foundation here; homeopathy is not a viable herbal cure and is instead something that is truly mind-blowingly absurd.

I’m back on the topic because of the news of a trial that was initiated to force the NHS to fund homeopathy, and before we get into that, let’s first go over the basics (if you are already up to speed, just skip the next two sections).

What exactly is Homeopathy?

The idea is not ancient, but rather was dreamed up in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann who based it all on his belief of like cure s like. The thinking is that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people.

Now this is where things get rather weird. Homeopathic remedies are in fact dilutions. At first Hahnemann tried undiluted doses for provings, but he later advocated provings with remedies at a 30C dilution and so it is these very dilute remedies that are in use today.

OK, so what exactly does 30C mean?

The C scale is in fact logarithmic. Take 1 part of the ingredient, add 100 parts of water, and then vigorously shake by 10 hard strikes against an elastic body. This is called “succession”. This is 1C. Now take 1 part of the 1C and add 100 parts of water, do the same and you have 2C.  Keep repeating until you get to 30C.

The claim also is that a solution that is more dilute is described as having a higher potency, and so these more dilute substances are considered by homeopaths to be stronger and deeper-acting remedies.

To help you wrap your head around this, a 12C solution is equivalent to a “pinch of salt in both the North and South Atlantic Oceans”.  13C is one drop of that diluted in all the water on the planet.

In other words, by the time you get to 30C what you are given contains no active ingredients at all.

Does it work?

If it actually worked and we simply lacked an understanding as to why then it might indeed still be wholly appropriate, but the bottom line is that it does not work at all and does nothing.

In summary it is at best a placebo.

What is the Official NHS position on it?

Homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos.

So what is the latest news on it all?

The Scotsman reports on 28th Aug …

Honor Watt, 73, sued Lothian Health Board at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after the authority stopped providing homeopathic treatments to ­patients. 

The board decided in June 2013 that the money spent on holistic alternatives would be better spent on conventional medicines. A number of medics believe there is no proof that homeopathy, a form of holistic medicine used by more than 200 million people worldwide, can successfully treat conditions.

Mrs Watt suffers from arthritis and received homeopathic medicine for her debilitating condition.

Her lawyers claimed the NHS board acted illegally by deciding to end funding. They claimed the Equality Act 2010 placed an obligation on the health board to ask patients for their views on whether homeopathy should continue to be funded.

The legislation states that health boards have an obligation to consider decisions in the terms of what is called a public sector equality duty (PSED), designed to tackle racial, sex and class discrimination.

She might indeed “believe”, but people demanding stuff that has not been shown to work is not how medicine works. Not only do they have a rather obvious duty of care, but the above claim is utterly absurd because we simply don’t get to vote on what does and does not work, reality is quite oblivious to our wishes.

One other important point is that this is not about a ban on homeopathy, but is instead the NHS making a good decision to not waste public funds on treatments that do not work and instead focus precious resources on treatments that do. If Ms Watt truly does want to continue utilising homeopathy then she can still do so, because homeopathic tables are freely available and cost something in the £4-10 range. What she does not get to do is to force this deception upon others via the public purse. The judge agreed …

Judge Lord Uist ruled that the board acted legally and refused to overturn its decision. In a written judgment, he stated: “It is clear to me from an examination of the relevant documents that the board was from the outset consciously focusing on its PSED.”

[PSED = public sector equality duty is a reference to UK legislation – the Equality Act 2010 says public authorities must comply with the public sector equality duty]

Finally, I do have one last question, how much did it cost Ms Watt to take this to court to try and win the right to get a £4 packet of ineffective content-free pills that do absolutely nothing at all for free?

6 thoughts on “Grandmother loses case for getting Magic pills on the NHS”

  1. I’m not even sure why you’re upset. Placebo’s are a good thing and actually do some good. If someone is feeling better after taking a placebo, are you the type to say “Hey you, stop feeling better it’s fake.”?

    • There are several issues …
      – it does not work, and so pretending it does is to seriously mislead people
      – dispensing it when you know it does not work breaches medical ethics
      – it wastes public funds that should be better spent on things that have been proven to work.

      I’m quite happy for her to carry on taking it and discard the prevailing medical consensus on it if she wishes to do so, I simply do not wish to see public funds squandered on things that we know do not work.

      • I agree with some of it, but “it doesn’t work” is a bit double sided. It works (because the mind’s power on the body) but doesn’t chemically work. As for the ethics, if the mind’s power on the body does cause it to work, I don’t see a breach of ethics there. (I 100% back your stance if there were no placebo effect)

    • Are you joking? I mean we can correctly apply Poe’s Law to that comment: I sincerily don’t know if you are joking or not.

      But seeing that your site is called “the christian rational” (shouldn’t it be “the rational christian”?) and your last post on it is a revision on Pascal’s Wager, I’m inclined to think you really do endorse unsubstantiated ideas.

      And in your Pascal’s Wager post you actually promote the idea that being delusional about a fairy tale is better than to face, what in your opinion is, a harsh reality. So it may be safe to conclude that you are not joking, and you really think deceiving people is good.

      So first of all, the problem isn’t that homeopathy is a placebo. The problem is that it’s not sold as a placebo, as it should: it’s sold as a drug. If we sell it saying it’s effective against some disease then we are conning people, and not making medicine.

      Secondly, placebo effect may be used as part of a treatment with real drugs, not fake ones. This is in the sense that real drugs may work better if the pacient knows they are receiving drugs (as oppose to give them drugs without their knowledge). That’s the “good thing” about placebo. But when you use placebo to deceive patients as the sole treatment, that’s not medicine. If you don’t make it clear to the patient that they are not taking real drugs, you are conning them. And if you make that clear to the patient and they accept it anyway, they are delusional. Homeopathy is not a drug that can have it’s effects potentiated by a placebo effect. No, homeopathy is not a drug at all, and it’s only effect, if it has any, is only placebo.

      So there are two situations where we use the word placebo: when we make people aware that they are taking drugs, and another one when we lie to people telling them they are taking drugs, when in fact they aren’t. You are taking these two different meanings of the word placebo and applying it as if it was one. You are using the ambiguity of the term to make your argument look sound, when it isn’t.

      But most importantly: there is nowhere in the article sugesting that we should tell people to stop doing what makes them feel better by whatever reason. That’s not even the point of the article. It’s not even implied. The point is we should not fund this kind of magical thinking.

      Can’t you really not see the difference between what you said and what is being actually discussed? You are free to delusion yourself all you want and feel good about it, but it’s a government responsibility to endorse only real drugs. Or else, we might as well start endorsing the eating of own feces as a treatment to cancer, or any other stupid idea. What would stop us?

      • Do you not realize that to state something is a placebo negates the placebo effect? Don’t you know that the placebo effect is due to a belief?

        And this is not the place to talk about my analysis of Pascal’s Wager, but yes. If in the end, nothing truly matters, why not choose the road of greatest happiness? It’s that WHY that doesn’t have a just answer without things truly mattering (after all, if everything is truly meaningless (by nature), you lose all ability to state what is “better”. You only are really stating your desires.)

        Back on topic, Placebo’s do a lot of good, and they only work if they are not known to be a placebo to the general public. Those are simple facts. Your metaphor for eating feces has a flaw though because that we know to be biologically unhealthy.

        And yes, I’m afraid my argument is sound. You just don’t seem to like it because I’m meshing pure rational (which is a noun as well as an adjective, hence I can use it for my site) with “fairies and dragons”, which doesn’t speak on molecules or numbers. The Placebo effect itself is actually pure science. No beliefs- just tests and results. The end result is curing symptoms vs suffering. “Harsh realities” ought only be enforced if it is for a good (greater good).

        “No James, I’m sorry you’ll never be president” Does good by causing the person to not to devote their time poorly spent. Please tell me the good in telling those on placebos that they are fake.

        • //Do you not realize that to state something is a placebo negates the placebo effect? Don’t you know that the placebo effect is due to a belief?

          Yes, I do realize it and that is why giving placebo to people is a con. You are lying to people and that is unethical and should not be endorsed by a government.

          //And this is not the place to talk about my analysis of Pascal’s Wager

          //Placebo’s do a lot of good, and they only work if they are not known to be a placebo to the general public

          Once again you are being ambiguous. There is another type of placebo effect that only works if you tell people they are taking real drugs when they are in fact taking real drugs, as opposed to giving people drugs without their awareness. You can show that people feel better when they know they are being treated.

          You are using one aspect of one type of placebo effect to talk about another type of placebo effect. This is called falacy of ambiguity.

          Misleading people into thinking they are receiving medicine is not a good thing.

          //Your metaphor for eating feces has a flaw though because that we know to be biologically unhealthy.

          No. I can rebut this by saying “but this is a healthy feces, it went through a cleaning process” and people would just have to believe in me to start treatment. This treatment would have it’s own placebo effect, so by your standards you can’t say it wouldn’t help. The point of the analogy is that once you start making unsubstantiated claims, anything goes. I can counter any rebuttal to my argument by simply moving the goalpost, as I’m not backing it with evidence, but only with “I said so”. That is exactly what happens with homeopathy.

          //I’m afraid my argument is sound

          You can’t claim that, you have to prove it. That’s logic 101.

          //The Placebo effect itself is actually pure science.

          Yes, it is. But once again: ambiguity. One type is a good one and the other is bad. One is helping people, the other is unethical. If there was no need to be ethical with medicine, than why not do other unethical treatments? I thought religious people were the first to jump on riots demanding ethics in medicine. Should we liberate abortion then?

          //“Harsh realities” ought only be enforced if it is for a good (greater good).

          That’s called social darwinism, in case you haven’t thought about it before you said it. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here and I won’t jump to believe you actually support this.

          But just a thought on the matter: if that was the case, then who should decide which greater goods are worth chasing and which are not, by using this enforce harsh reality method? Should it be you, as long as you say it was your god who told you which is which?

          No man, I don’t even want to go there.

          //Please tell me the good in telling those on placebos that they are fake.

          Missing the point: you shouldn’t be giving placebos to them in the first place.

          Have you seeing the movie The Ledge? When the christian asks the atheists what would he do if he was in a situation where a little girl was dying and all he could do was say something to her before she dies? And he asks “what would you say to her? Sorry, no evidence?” The atheists responds “No, I would probably tell her the same lie as you would”.

          I’m saying this because you are trying to make this a discussion about letting people delude themselves versus not letting. That’s not the discussion I’m having. I’m all for freedom of choice. They can delude themselves all they want, and, like the movie character, I’m not the guy who is going to push you away from the delusion that makes you happy.

          I’m the guy who tries to help people into not needing a delusion in the first place. Do not give people fake medicine! That is as basic as it can be.


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