In a recent Australian study, homeopathic medicine has been called a “therapeutic dead-end.” Will the United States be next in declaring homeopathic medicine ineffective? More importantly, are doctors who have been treating their patients with this alternative form of medicine committing medical malpractice?
Homeopathy was developed in Europe during the late 18th Century by Samuel Hahnemann. He published an Essay on a New Principle for Ascertaining the Curative Power of Drugs in 1796. The basis of his new principle was that if a patient had an illness, it could be cured by giving a medicine that would provoke similar symptoms in a healthy person. Homeopathy includes the principle that “like cures like.”
Hahnemann believed that in order to treat his patients, they should be given an amount of a drug which produced only the slightest of symptoms, diluting the substance to degrees of 1:100,000,000 or more. Using the principles of homeopathy, the founder claimed he could cure nearly all diseases. While proponents of homeopathy maintain the efficacy of this extreme dilution, scientists contend that homeopathic medicine is essentially just water.
Since it was first developed, homeopathy has had its skeptics. Doctors and physicians doubted Hahnemann's claims, and continue to do so today. As far back as 1835, a controlled trial found homeopathy was ineffective. However, thousands of homeopathic doctors and patients continue to swear by the philosophy.
In this recent study, Professor Paul Glasziou and the Australian National Health and Medical Review Council reviewed the evidence from 176 homeopathy trials. The trials looked at 68 different health conditions, and, in the end, found no evidence that homeopathy was any more effective than a placebo in treating any of the 68 conditions.
According to Professor Glasziou, he approached the project with an, “‘I don't know attitude', curious about whether this unlikely treatment could ever work… but I lost interest after looking at the 57 systematic reviews which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo.”
Homeopaths stand by their process, claiming that it works despite the double-blind studies showing otherwise. Now homeopaths in Canada are fighting back against pending legislation that would prohibit companies from making health claims for medicines aimed at children, unless they have scientific evidence to support their claims.
Is the United States the next to take issue with homeopathy as medicine? For now, homeopathy remains a growing business, with nearly $3 billion spent on homeopathic remedies in 2007. Despite scientific findings to the contrary, homeopathy shows no signs of slowing.
With only anecdotal evidence that homeopathy works, is it possible that doctors using the philosophy are doing their patients more harm than good by offering unproven products, unregulated and untested by the FDA? If a medical doctor (MD) or osteopathic physician (DO) prescribes homeopathic remedies and a patient is injured as a result, will the homeopath be subject to a medical malpractice claim?
Homeopathic remedies are regularly the subject of class action consumer protection lawsuits, and less often the source of medical malpractice cases. However, in one case, an oncologist, Dr. Vincent Speckhart, was sued by a widow who alleged that the doctor led her husband to believe that homeopathy would be sufficient to cure his Hodgkin's disease. Dr. Speckhart was ordered to pay $235,715 in damages.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical mistake, the Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys is fully equipped to handle the complex process of bringing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensation, so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life.