The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee will shortly release its report on the evidence base for homeopathy. The hearings and evidence submitted for this report have already been proven to be controversial and the outcome is eagerly awaited by homeopaths and skeptics alike. The results of the committee are likely to affect arguments over the regulation of homeopaths. There are effectively two current arguments within the homeopathic community for regulation, exemplified by the differing strategies of the two largest membership organisations, the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) and the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH).
The SoH are seeking registration with the Health Professionals Council (HPC), a statutory regulatory body, while the ARH would prefer to use the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). The HPC typically regulate real health care professionals, not alternative ones, and as there is no government support for the SoH’s application this route is unlikely to succeed. The CNHC however, while more than willing to regulate homeopaths, may run into issues with the homeopaths themselves. Simon Perry, of Leicester Skeptics in the Pub, has extracted an astonishing response from the CNHC in response to complains about alternative practitioners:
- CNHC will tell practitioners to remove claims they cannot justify.
- CNHC will conduct a review of evidence base for regulated therapies.
- CNHC will contact all registrants to instruct them not to make claims without justification.
- CNHC will contact complementary health course providers and authors to instruct them not to make claims without justification.
The homeopathic colleges and course providers will not be happy with being instructed not to make claims, such as curing cancer – as on the UCLAN course, without justification and the practitioners will be furious, no longer will they be able to claim they can treat malaria, that homeopathic vaccines work or that diluted duck liver can cure the common cold. This will be unacceptable to homeopaths. So where will their regulatory arguments take them following the committee’s report?
I will make no predictions about the regulatory arguments but I am willing to bet on an outbreak of internecine war within the profession. The SoH have not been cooperating with the ARH regarding their application to the HPC. Karin Mont, Chair of the ARH, recently met with the HPC to discuss the following, according to the meeting summary:
How regulation would work for the profession / Impact of regulation on profession
Progress of Society of Homeopath’s application for regulation
How the Alliance’s views could be heard if the Society of Homeopaths applied for regulation
Discussion around apparent ongoing campaign against homeopathy by parts of scientific community
Information about the Alliance, how it works and what it does
Discussion about HPC processes and procedures
Regardless of the fact that without government support, lacking at present, the SoH application will fail it is fascinating to see that relations between the SoH and ARH are so bad that the SoH are not willing to consult with or inform the ARH on the progress of their HPC application. Not only that it appears the ARH seem to verging on conspiracy, as recorded in official HPC records, in imagining that the scientific community is campaigning against them, no doubt funded by big pharma.
The SoH are also not getting involved with campaigns organised by other organisations to express support for homeopathy. H:MC21, a pro-homeopathy lobby group, have organised a mass protest in support of the trade for later this month:
HOMEOPATHS, PATIENTS, SUPPORTERS!come toTHE MASS LOBBY OF PARLIAMENTWEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2010 at 2.30 p.m.HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, ST. STEPHEN’S ENTRANCE .So far supporters include:Alliance of Registered HomeopathsHeliosHomeopathy HealsSouth-West London HomeopathsThe School of HomeopathyWest London HomeopathsYorkshire Centre of Classical Homeopathyas well as many individual homeopaths and patients
The SoH are noticeably not listed. Perhaps this is because they have concerns over harassing authors, although this has not stopped them from using libel law to silence criticism, or perhaps they are appalled that H:MC21 have Jeremy Sherr, the homeopath who inspired the World Health Organisation to issues a statement against homeopathy, is a patron of H:MC21, except they funded him. More likely it is because the SoH want to control the lay homeopathic profession. This might be difficult as the ARH and other organisations represent around 40% of homeopaths.
It increasingly looks like lay homeopaths cannot and will not reach agreement on regulation. Perhaps the only regulatory solution for homeopathy will be to ban the practice for individuals who are not on a credible professional register, that is, restrict its practice to medically qualified homeopaths. That option though will depend on medical homeopaths demonstrating that they have higher standards than lay homeopaths. Is anyone willing to bet that this will be the case?