Questions about the practice of homoeopathy have been re-ignited by two recent events. One has to do with a homeopathic rabid-dog-saliva treatment and the other about the retrial of a couple originally found guilty of failing to provide for the necessities of life.
If you thought that dog spit was an effective treatment because Health Canada approved it, you would be wrong. Health Canada approved rabid dog saliva and 8,500 other homeopathic remedies, not because they are effective but because they have concluded that they are safe. Health Canada doesn’t test these remedies for efficacy.
Other homeopathic treatments are made from cancerous cells, black mould and the smallpox virus; they sound dangerous until you realize just how much they have been diluted.
The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, devised a dilution system that he called “C scale.” Homeopathy claims that the more remedies are diluted, the more effective they are. A 6C dilution will result in the original substance being diluted to one part in a million million. Kamloops’ tap water has a million times more naturally occurring fluorides than such remedies.
No wonder Heath Canada has deemed homeopathic remedies to be safe. They are purer than the water we drink. So, why go to all that trouble to make pure water? The difference between pure water and homoeopathic pure water, homeopaths claim, is that the later contains a “memory” of the original substance even when it is diluted virtually out of existence.
A Vancouver Island naturopath got into trouble when she provided a remedy containing (or not containing, depending on the dilution) rabid-dog saliva. Anke Zimmermann, gave a child lyssin because he demonstrated behavioural issues after a dog bite. The problem, according to Health Canada, had nothing to do with the fact that it contained rabid-dog saliva: five others had been approved. The problem was this one, lyssin, which is made in Britain and not approved.
People can imagine whatever they want, but if they think they are taking medicines when they are drinking pure water, that’s a worry. B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry, wrote Health Canada expressing her concerns.
“I believe all of these products that are purportedly based on infectious or dangerous material should not be classified as ‘medicines’ and should not be regulated as health products (Globe and Mail, May 13, 2018),” Dr. Henry said in an e-mail.
Professor Bernie Garrett at the University of British Columbia’s nursing school says:
“It’s absurd that these homeopathic remedies should be licensed for use when technically, they’re nothing more than water because of the dilution process. But they still cause harm by delaying access to effective treatment and by causing people to lose money.”
David Stephan and his wife, Collet, were found guilty in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel. They treated him with garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor. Ezekiel’s body was so stiff from meningitis that he couldn’t sit in his car seat. She took him to naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge on a mattress where she bought an echinacea mixture. Ezekiel died later.
The Supreme Court allowed a new trial based on a technicality. The couple appealed the original decision and lost. But because appeal court’s ruling wasn’t unanimous, the couple had an automatic right to take their case to the Supreme Court.
Michael Kruse, executive director of Bad Science Watch, is blunt in his assessment of homeopathy:
“These self-regulated professions are based on magical thinking, and until provincial governments take responsibility to be the arbiter of what is scientific and what is not, the doors are open for any profession with a training program and standard of practice to make potentially deadly claims.”