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.”
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.