Bioethics Blogs

Suckers and Quacks: The Canadian Homeopathy Debate

Samantha Copeland suggests that name-calling is not the best way to change people’s minds about homeopathy.

__________________________________________

Homeopathy has been getting a lot of press in Canada, lately. In early March, the CBC Current featured a discussion about controversial research with homeopathy happening at the University of Toronto. On April 1 of this year, the Ontario Homeopathy Act came into force, affirming Ontario’s choice to regulate the profession of homeopathy. It restricts the use of the label ‘homeopath’ to those who officially belong to the profession, in the same way that only medical professionals are allowed to call themselves ‘doctors.’ The vaccination debate has turned attention to the marketing of ‘nosodes’—homeopathic products that are advertised as alternatives to vaccines. Health Canada has required such products to indicate on their labels that they are not intended as alternatives to vaccines since 2013. This May, the Canadian Pediatric Society called for Health Canada to go further and penalise those who continue to promote these products as effective for preventing or treating infections.

The thing is, it has been accepted by the scientific community that homeopathic products are not effective at preventing or treating infections. They are not alternatives to vaccines, or any other medically effective product. This past March, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council published its conclusive, systematic review of all studies done with homeopathic medicine for a number of indications. They found that, despite considerable research, there is no good evidence that homeopathic remedies work. In response to this and to the moves toward regulation in Ontario, commenters have accused the government of “aiding and abetting…quackery,” and have called those who continue to pursue homeopathic treatments for their illness, “suckers.”

To be clear, the crime of homeopathic products is not that they directly harm the people who take them – the reason they are allowed on the medical market in Canada is that they are, at least, safe.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.