Saturday, 25 October 2008

Enforced Quackery: Day One

It was remarkably sensible. They students sat in with an osteopath and a homeopath. The osteopath was very respectful, a very nice friendly woman, and offered several pieces of fairly sensible advice - being exceedingly respectful towards one of the students when she found out that she was already a qualified physiotherapist.

The homeopath asked "does anyone know anything about homeopathy", and my girlfriend told her. She apparently went into quite a lot of detail about Avogadro's constant, the fact that every drop of water on the planet should already be a homeopathic remedy for everything and the fact that homeopathy just doesn't work. (To be fair, of course, as Ben Goldacre would say "it's a lot more complicate than that", but the pills don't work any better than any other sugar pills). The homeopath stood there, listened, thanked my girlfriend (I might need to come up with a codename if I'm going to keep doing this... or get her to let me use her real name) for her contribution and then went on to explain about what the various tablet do.

She told them all she'd give them some free arnica tablets next time (for general aches and pains, I believe) and offered to give a few of them medicine for various conditions if they hadn't cleared up in two weeks time, and then finished with an exhortation to "do some research about homeopathy". Her suggested source was the Society of Homeopaths website which I'm sure would offer a "Fair and Balanced" view. I'm going to give her a copy of Ben Goldacre's book,as well as a few of the better meta-analyses.

As for the (very helpful) point made in the comments about using the experience to learn about why people feel the need to go to these people for help instead of using medicine that actually works - yes, we've already talked about that - it is a good chance to see something that she probably won't get to see working in hospitals or on future ward rounds (although asking the patients tactfully why they aren't seeing a traditional doctor might be a challenge). Still, that's not the way the hospital treats it - they consider it an opportunity to watch real-life health professionals at work in the field. Also, I apologise about the comments I made about the qualifications of the psychotherapists at the Centre - I was not happy at the time, and it was unnecessary.

Anyway - the visit didn't go too badly, everyone was polite and, whilst I don't think she got much out of it, my girlfriend was slightly more happy than she expected to be - at least she got a chance to air her views. We'll see how things go next week when she'll have more contact with patients.

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