Doctors attack NHS homeopathy

There’s a good letter in Today’s Times from doctors who urge NHS trusts to stop paying for alternative medicine. As Tim Worstall puts it:

If as and when double blind trials are done to show that “alternative” treatments work, they then stop being alternative and become conventional, evidence based medicine. Which is as it should be. If rich idiots (or even poor idiots) which to waste their money on healing crystals, let them do so. The rest of us can then have our tax money spent on crystals that actually work: like the lutetium oxide ones that are at the heart of an MRI scanner.

Sorry, I hit publish before adding this bit: I don’t have a problem with people going for homeopathy, but when the NHS can’t cope with conventional medicine – stuff with a proven effect – then the last thing trusts should be doing is paying for quackery. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know of my own experiences with rationing: despite my GP agreeing that I needed an MRI scan and then back surgery, my local NHS trust wouldn’t fund the scan because my back injury wasn’t life threatening. I was lucky: thanks to generous relatives and a book deal I was able to scrape together the money to go private, and I’m largely okay now.  Had I stuck with the NHS, I’d still be crippled.

14 thoughts on “Doctors attack NHS homeopathy

  1. Stephen says:

    Verily, shalt thou never deny that the NHS is the envy of the world, nor shalt thou complain of thy petty problems, which are as nothing compared to the fact that the NHS is the Fairest Healthcare System in the world! (Except for the healthcare system in Zimbabwe, where everyone is allowed to die of complete neglect in complete equality.)

    Can’t WordPress remember who commenters are, or are you going to install Haloscan?

  2. Gary says:

    It seems to be a bug – WP sets a cookie that should remember this stuff, but by all accounts it doesn’t work in firefox.

  3. Squander Two says:

    Pootergeek‘s on WordPress, and remembers my name. Might be a different version.

    Tim’s absolutely right. But one of my pet hates (yes, another one) is that so many doctors don’t keep up with what has been proven effective, so, for instance, lots of doctors still regard chiropractic as quackery, despite the fact that it was proven effective about fifteen years ago now. If they’re going to insist (rightly) that everything be evidence-based, then they have a duty to keep up with the evidence. Because, every time they call something “quackery” that isn’t, they undermine their own case when they’re criticising genuine quacks.

  4. Gary says:

    > lots of doctors still regard chiropractic as quackery, despite the fact that it was proven effective about fifteen years ago now.

    Yeah, but there’s still a lot of quack claims made about chiropractic too. Relief of back pain, headaches etc? Sure. But I wouldn’t want to try chiropractic as a cure for cancer.

  5. Squander Two says:

    > there’s still a lot of quack claims made about chiropractic too.

    Ditto mainstream medicine. Any migraine sufferer can tell you about a GP telling them not to eat cheese and thinking that that’s the problem solved. And doctors did think until recently that the only reasonable explanation for more than one infant mortality in the same family was murder. But they’re no reasons to write off the entire field.

  6. Gary says:

    Oh, of course, and anybody can give you horror stories about bad GPs. But in the case of chiropractors, they do seem to sit uncomfortably on the line between medicine and alternative medicine – particularly in the US, and especially online. So for every sensible one who believes chiro is a good way to address certain physical problems, there’s a new age bullshitter who tells you it’s the cure for all known ails.

  7. Squander Two says:

    The theory behind chiropractic treatment of things other than joint and muscle problems is that having your spine out of whack interferes with the working of the body’s immune system and therefore that making sure all your joints are properly aligned can significantly strengthen your ability to fight off disease. I’ve no idea what studies have been done into this, but it’s no more logically batty to treat a disease of the liver by working on the spine than to treat headaches by putting pills in your stomach.

  8. tm says:

    >but it’s no more logically batty to treat a disease of the liver by working on the spine than to treat headaches by putting pills in your stomach.

    Actually it is. Whilst promixity and general interconectedness may *suggest* that there is a way for a disrupted spine to influnces how your liver is doing, you stomach contains a well understood, demostratbly effective, method of extracting stuff from things you put in it and distrubtuing it around your body (even from a very primitve more goes in than comes out point of view) so putting something that easily disolves in your mouth in the hope that it will be absorbed and have an effect somewhere else is much more logical that wiggling bits of your back in the hope you’ll stop having those bouts of peeing green slime or whatever.

  9. Squander Two says:

    I think you’ve misunderstood what I meant by “logically”. What I meant was “logically”. What you’re talking about is “empirically”.

  10. W. C. Douglass says:

    Quackery certainly occurs in all realms of medicine, allopathic, naturopathic, osteopathic, homeopathic, chiropractic, etc, but we need to explore what is evidence-based in each and integrate what works. For example the U.S. OTC product Zicam (for colds) is a homeopathic product that works. And there are many others.

  11. Gary says:

    I agree with “integrate what works”, but I’m not sure Zicam is a good example: its active ingredient is Dextromethorpan, which isn’t a homeopathic remedy, and there appears to be a debate on whether such cough suppressants actually work.

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