Royal amateur medical expertise

Charles Windsor is really extraordinary. He confuses an arbitrary pseudo-magical accident of birth with real quality – he must do, or he wouldn’t keep thinking he has a right and duty to interfere with government medical policies when he has no scientific training whatever.

Prince Charles was last night urged to stay out of the debate over homeopathy on the NHS, amid claims that he had lobbied the Health Secretary in favour of the controversial alternative treatment.

Labour MPs reacted with fury at the revelation that the heir to the throne had met Jeremy Hunt last week, with NHS support for homeopathy believed to be on the agenda. The disclosure of the Prince’s latest communications with senior politicians came days after judges ruled that the public has no right to know the contents of 27 letters he had written to ministers over several years, in an attempt to influence policy decisions.

He shouldn’t be doing that. It’s immoral. He has no relevant training, while the vast majority of people who do have relevant training consider homeopathy to be a complete fraud. It’s a grotesque abuse of Windsor’s anachronistic status to try to foist a quack remedy on a tax-funded health service.

Prince Charles is a long-term advocate of homeopathy, which involves treating patients with highly diluted substances “with the aim of triggering the body’s natural system of healing”. Mr Hunt once told a constituent that “it ought to be available [on the NHS] where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit”.

Earlier this year the Government’s new chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, dismissed homeopathy as “nonsense”, but critics have complained that the NHS is still spending millions of pounds a year on a therapy they claim has no effect on patients.

The Independent should be more forthcoming than that. It should be more explicit about why homeopathy is bullshit. It does get there in the end, by quoting David Colquhoun, but that’s at the very end of the piece and most people read only the first few paragraphs.

Homeopathy is bullshit because it’s so “highly diluted” that nothing is left of the original active ingredient. Homeopaths claim that the water has a “memory” of the active ingredient. That’s why homeopathy is bullshit.

The Tory MP David Tredinnick, a supporter of homeopathy who also sits on the Health Select Committee, said he was not concerned about Prince Charles’s intervention, as “he is probably as well placed as anybody in the country to comment on this”. Speaking on the BBC, Mr Tredinnick said: “We should do what they do in the rest of the world, which is to take [homeopathy] seriously.”

As well placed?? In what sense? In the sense that he can, then yes, obviously, and unfortunately. In the sense that he’s qualified? Emphatically not! Qualified is exactly what he is not. He read history at university, not medicine or biology or chemistry.

But David Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College London, said homeopathy was “utter nonsense”. “Homeopathic remedies contain nothing whatsoever. The Americans have spent $2bn investigating these things … they haven’t found a single one that works,” he said.

There. But that’s the penultimate paragraph, and it should have been said in the second.


  1. says

    Huh, qualified for very little…

    Prince Charles
    Educated: Gordonstoun, head boy
    Qualifications: five O-levels, two A-levels (history B, French C), 2:2 degree in history, Cambridge.

    Wonder how he got into Cambridge on two A-levels… Hmmmm… Homeopathic qualifications, so weak they magically become super strong when considered by the admissions board.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Americans have spent $2bn investigating these things …

    Anybody got any citations on that?

    It would take approximately 16 years of the current funding of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to reach that number – and NCCAM (judging by the above-linked testimony from its director) focuses on pain management and health education, with homeopathy mentioned not at all.

    Doing a search on the NCCAM site turns up “Homeopathy: An Introduction” which says

    There is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition.

    Several key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics.

    Most rigorous clinical trials and systematic analyses of the research on homeopathy have concluded that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition.

    Do not use homeopathy as a replacement for proven conventional care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.

    So who else in the US might have been throwing gigabucks into homeopatheticness?

  3. Brian E says

    Don’t go picking on poor old Charles. He’s not had an easy life, and I think he might have been dropped when a baby, repeatedly. Possibly kicked in the head by polo pony, several times. And the rugger team too. Probably fell and hit his head while as Balmoral hunting stag too.

    It can’t have been easy growing up in his reduced circumstances, and with so much expected of him.

  4. says

    Yes it would be better for all concerned if he had no power or influence… Unfortunately when he takes over from his Mum he will be even worse.

  5. Dunc says

    He shouldn’t be doing that. It’s immoral.

    Actually, it’s unconstitutional, to the extent that that term means anything in this sceptred isle… Part of the arrangement is that the royals are supposed to be apolitical. Of course, since we don’t actually have a constitution in any meaningful sense, there’s not much anyone can do about it…

  6. says

    I know it’s unconstitutional, or at any rate a violation of the unwritten yet apparently strict rule that the monarch has very limited actual power. But it’s the morality that interests me. It interests (and infuriates) me that he can’t (or won’t) see it – won’t see that his standing is 100% artificial and arbitrary and meaningless, that it’s nothing to do with any merit or cleverness of his, and that therefore he shouldn’t use it to do things like imposing quack medical “remedies” on tax-funded health services. It interests and annoys me that he won’t see that his status as eldest son of the monarch is not a replacement for medical training and doesn’t qualify him to influence medical policy.

    Does that make me a “rage blogger”? Ah well, that ship sailed long ago.

  7. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    It interests and annoys me that he won’t see that his status as eldest son of the monarch is not a replacement for medical training and doesn’t qualify him to influence medical policy.

    …but it’s understandable that it should do so.
    His mother was assured by assorted religious leaders in the presence of many of the most powerful people in the world, with tens of millions of people watching on T.V., that she had been selected and appointed to her position by god, and no-one has argued against it. Much the same thing will happen with Charles, and he’s been waiting for it for most of his life, except that hundreds of millions of people will watch it in colour. In circumstances like that, people tend to believe what they’re told. Charles probably genuinely believes his opinions are literally divinely-inspired. In fact, his support for homeopathy on the NHS is generous in a curious way- he wants people who cannot afford to pay for it to get free what he is willing to pay for. The worrying thing is that Jeremy Hunt, the Minister in charge of the N.H.S., actually believes in homeopathy too.
    Charles may decide that being King Log is more comfortable and safer than being King Stork but if you have a monarchy you run the risk that that is what happens.

  8. says

    Well yes but Charles is also an adult with access to many sources of information. He hasn’t been sealed into a bubble ever since his mother was assured that (when he was 4 or whatever it was). He’s been sealed into a social bubble, certainly, but not an information bubble. He should be able to figure out that medical training is medical training, and he doesn’t have any.

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