Opinion

Ebola: here come the homeopaths

Ebola: here come the homeopaths

You would think Ebola would be enough for the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone to deal with. Unrequested visits from homeopaths seem like a cruelly excessive additional burden, but that’s what they’re getting all the same.

A website calling itself the National Center for Homeopathy reports homeopathic boots on the ground in “West Africa” (with any luck they’ve gone to an Ebola-free country in West Africa, where the harm they can do will be minimized).

The good news is that a small international team of experienced and heroic homeopaths have arrived in West Africa, and are currently on the ground working hard to examine patients, work out the ‘genus epidemicus’, and initiate clinical trials. This work is being done alongside the current conventional supportive measures and treatments already in place. We applaud and congratulate this team’s dedication and courage in joining the front lines in treating Ebola with homeopathy. The answer to whether homeopathic medicine has an important role in the Ebola epidemic could be forthcoming quite soon.

Or not. But the frightening part is the “currently on the ground working hard to examine patients” – I truly hope that’s just wishful blather meant to impress us with the potency and efficacy of water as a treatment for Ebola, and not a factual account of what the small international team of “heroic” homeopaths are doing. I hope they’re not getting in the way of real doctors and nurses, but I fear the worst.

One Larry Malerba, author of Metaphysics & Medicine and Green Medicine and proprietor of the website Spirit, Science & Healing, wrote a post dated October 21 reporting on the arrival of a group of homeopaths in Monrovia, but the post was later taken down. Embarrassment? Harsh reactions? I don’t know, but the archived post remains to tell the tale.

A team of homeopathic physicians sponsored by the LIGA (Liga Medicorum Homoeopathica Internationalis (LMHI)) left from Brussels and arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, on Friday evening, Oct 17. There was only one other plane at the airport, a plane used by the United Nations. Dr Richard Hiltner (US), Dr Edouard Broussalian (Switzerland), Dr Medha Durge (India), and Dr Ortrud Lindemann (Germany) have a pharmacy of 110 remedies in multiple potencies with them.

They were greeted warmly by representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Health Department, and were provided comfortable lodging … The team will be working at Ganta Hospital, which apparently has only three Liberian doctors on staff. Many doctors have reportedly fled the country. Initial indications are that the Board of Trustees from the hospital is highly interested in their mission.

They have a “pharmacy” of 110 samples of water, which is no pharmacy at all. But perhaps they will help the staff at Ganta Hospital with supportive care while the reported three real doctors there do the actual medicating. Again, one can hope.

I rack my brains trying to figure out why anyone thinks this is a good idea. I can never really convince myself that adherents of homeopathy actually believe that it works, because how could anyone believe that a “treatment” so diluted that not even an atom of the active ingredient remains can possibly be effective? It’s as if it’s designed to be unbelievable, or like a child’s joke or silly question:

If you drop a teaspoon of coffee into the Atlantic Ocean off New York City and someone in Bordeaux, France takes a sip of the ocean, will she taste the coffee?

If they do really believe it, they shouldn’t, as W K Clifford argued in “The Ethics of Belief” in 1877:

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

Given how wrong and absurd and above all reckless it is for homeopaths to believe, or play at believing, they have anything useful to contribute as homeopaths to an Ebola epidemic, how dare they go there, and take up people’s time, and write boastfully about their trip?

But I shouldn’t be surprised. There are other people promoting bogus cures; of course there are. There is Rima Laibow, for instance, a psychiatrist whose company, Natural Solutions Foundation, claims that their product, “Nano Silver”, can cure Ebola. The US Federal Drug Administration has recently issued a letter telling her to stop doing that.

And then there are always the “essential oils.”

oils

If people actually wanted to help with the Ebola epidemic there are plenty of real ways they could do that. They could give money for clinics, isolation units, protective clothing, doctors and nurses, infrastructure – any number of things. They could volunteer to do necessary work in the area, as a young woman who is a firefighter a few miles from me has done. They could help educate people about how to avoid exposure to Ebola. They could even pray; at least that wouldn’t hurt anything, or impede the work of people who actually are helping.

Editor’s note: See FDA Cracks Down On Fake Ebola Cures Sold Online. Also, Mad bishop has a cure for Ebola: Vimto.

9 responses to “Ebola: here come the homeopaths”

  1. Vanity Unfair says:

    Is that fourth bottle really labelled “Thieves”? Full marks for honesty, anyway.

  2. Broga says:

    The human species is doomed.

  3. Vanity Unfair says:

    May I suggest an experiment?
    (1) Homoeopathic experts go to Liberia.
    (2) Homoeopathic experts devise a homoeopathic cure for ebola.
    (3) Homoeopathic experts dose themselves with the cure.
    (4) Homoeopathic experts expose themselves to the ebola virus.
    (5) Homoeopathic experts take the cure again in case it only works after infection.
    (6) Wait
    Either
    (7a) Homoeopathic experts fly to Stockholm to receive Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
    Or
    (7b) Other homoeopathic experts explain why the experiment did really work even though the result was not quite what they expected.
    I think this would be accepted by all parties as a fair test.

  4. Vanity Unfair says:

    That statement about essential oils:
    “…no tested virus, bacteria or fungus can survive in the Essential Oils of cinnamon or oregano, including the deadly Ebola virus..”
    is probably true. Essential oils are often sold in such a highly concentrated form that they come with strict warnings that they have to be diluted in great quantities of (e.g.) olive oil otherwise tissue damage will occur if used for purposes such as massage.
    Of course, if used medicinally there is the slight problem of ensuring that it only contacts the ebola virus and nothing else.

  5. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    These countries and their people require real assistance, not this bullshit.

  6. Ivan says:

    We can but hope that they wear homeopathic protection suits.

  7. Can’t understand what all the fuss is about with this ‘ere homeopathy. Our benevolent government has made it available free on the NHS and the Society of Homeopaths have recently achieved P.S.A. (Professional Standards Authority) accreditation. Address :- 157 -197 Buckingham Palace. London. I mean, how cool is that?
    I think the chairman must be that brilliant entrepreneurial whizz kid, old Big Ears.
    The mind boggles!

  8. Brian Jordan says:

    One contributing factor to the spread of he epidemic is a lack of clean water. I.e. water with nothing in it. So homoeopathic medicines might help – if supplied in tanker-loads.

  9. Stephen Turner says:

    We’ve already learned from this site that holy water is effective against Ebola, that it’s cured by Vimto, and it’s caused by homosexualism. I wonder if homeopathic remedies could be distinguished from holy water or my domestic water by an experiment?

    Thanks very much for the pointer to W K Clifford’s essay. The link only seems to go to an edited version, though. I found a longer one here:

    http://www.uta.edu/philosophy/faculty/burgess-jackson/Clifford.pdf

    Here’s another bit.

    “If an event really happened, which was not a part of the uniformity of nature, it would have two properties: no evidence could give the right to believe it to any except those whose actual experience it was; and no inference worthy of belief could be founded upon it at all.”