Liberia is suffering a serious Ebola outbreak — people are dying, treatments require intensive efforts from medical personnel, and there aren’t enough doctors. So you’d think they’d welcome a team of four doctors flying in to help. But then it was discovered how they planned to treat critically ill patients dying of a viral disease.
We are blessed with 110 remedies in 3 to 4 potencies ( from 30 to 10M) from Hahnemannian, Gudjons & Remedia. How Could we have dared to go here without our most valuable tools???
There we are : tired ( Richard travelled for nearly 36 hours), hungry but spot on: we finally reached after so many weeks of struggling to be able to travel to what we had decided to do. We are destined to help the people of Liberia to fight Ebola Virus Disease with an effective means of fighting epidemics : homeopathic remedies.
They were going to treat a deadly epidemic with…water?
Read the whole story of the debacle. Once local health officials learned what they were planning to do, they were not allowed anywhere near an Ebola patient, fortunately.
The team suited up, broke out their homeopathic treatments and tried to get to work on some patients. At which point the medical staff and administrators at the Ganta Hospital realised what it was they were attempting, before completely banning them from the ETU (Ebola Treatment Unit).
It turned out that no one in the hospital – or, it seems, the entire Liberian medical administration – had any idea that this team would be using homeopathy. The Liberian government had approved the expedition and issued visas on the basis that all four were medical doctors coming to support local staff.
But the authorities were clear: there was no way they were going to let Ebola patients be treated with what are essentially sugar pills soaked in water.
So these four morons spent their trip running back and forth between the capitol and remote villages, pestering government officials, clinic administrators, and doctors, wasting everyone’s time and effort in the middle of a crisis.
The thought of four experienced medical doctors stretching the resources of a poverty-stricken country in the grip of an epidemic, when they could be really helping, is kind of galling. This is certainly the view of Mike Noyes, head of ActionAid, who is quoted on the MailOnline: “With this crisis, you can’t be offering false hope. There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy has any impact on dealing with viral disease like Ebola. Coming in from the outside with these unproven approaches is damaging to the response and bringing the disease under control.”
The team did eventually get to treat non-Ebola patients in Ganta with homeopathy, and reported good results. Of course, every one of those patients was also receiving all the prescribed conventional treatments, so those results are totally meaningless from any scientific or therapeutic perspective.
All in all, the whole trip just sounds like a massive disaster – four doctors running around Liberia, banned from peddling their quackery by bemused local medics. Even the obvious question of whether they underwent quarantine on their return – or were just planning on curing themselves with snake venom – is irrelevant, as they never actually came into contact with an Ebola patient.
Besides the clusterfuck of tossing a quartet of tossers into the middle of a medical disaster, these guys had also raised donations from the public to send doctors to Liberia…and sure, they all had qualified medical degrees, but they weren’t planning to use their medical knowledge, but were planning instead to use quackery on patients, and were going to have a cameraman with them to make a propaganda film.
Disgraceful. The phrase “You’re not helping” is simply not strong enough for this situation.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
Don’t wanna be part of the solution? Be part of the problem!
Is there such a thing as Darwin award nominees? Honestly, those Liberian professionals did those idiots a favour by not allowing them the chance to contract Ebola.
I hope this makes sense. Very tired. Sleep now.
Pity these doctors!? were kept away from the Ebola patients. Personally I’d have let them close to a few Ebola victims then quarantined them along with there hocus pocus ‘cures’.
Homeopath heal thyself.
Were they planning to use a dilute solution of virus particles? On people already infected with said virus?
Holy fucking christ, those fucking arseholes were there with a camera crew to create propaganda for their homeopathic shite? Seriously? How fucking low can you get….?
I’m sure they’ll use their “results” from “treating” the non-ebola patients to promote their fucking horseshit.
Disgusting…just fucking disgusting…
So these are properly qualified medical doctors. How is it possible to have the education essential to actually become a qualified medical professional and be a homeopath?
It seems to me as preposterous as a physicist pedalling perpetual motion.
No more preposterous than people who don’t believe in government running for office, and winning.
Not really, comfychair, because for those people the only way to change the system is from within. It’s not like you can opt out of or ignore the government. Not that I agree with them, but running for office is in itself consistent with their professed philosophy. What they tend to do when they actually get there, not so much.
Back on topic, the first quote does raise the question – if Richard was so hungry after his 36 hours of travelling, why didn’t he use a homeopathic food remedy?
Because medical doctors aren’t scientists… they’re engineers.
Some go on to get more training and do research, but it’s not required.
Giliell@1 – when we’re talking about homeopathy, “not part of the solution” is a particularly apt phrase!
only way it works …
Snake oil merchants wasting local people’s time and resources like this is inexcusable. And shilling those who wanted to help support the efforts of real doctors? I hope they can be made to pay it all back ten or a hundred times over – and prevented from peddling any lies about their “achievements” in Liberia too.
twas brillig (stevem) says
I need this spelled out for me a little more. My question: Isn’t homeopathic remedy a dilution of the source of the disease? So, they treated a non-Ebola patient with a dilute mixture of Ebola virus? They “reported” good results, did they actually _get_ good results. And they tested how many patients?
So my understanding is; that to make the homeopathic solution, you gotta dilute it so much there is a 1/10,000,000,000 of actually having a virus in the solution. To then _test_ the solution’s efficacy by using a few patients is a little lacking in the epidemiology statistics (uhh, “homeopathic statistics”).
But then again, I get hung up on single definitions when a word has many. “Homeopathy” is often used to label “natural” medicines (as opposed to those “chemicals” Big Pharma sells), as well as those bottles of water that have been diluted 10X.
Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says
You’re missing one point: homeopathy is based on what is called the Principle of Similarity (“like cures like”). This means basically that they don’t need to use a dilute solution of whatever it is that actually causes the disease (which may, in some cases, not even be known); they can use something that would cause similar symptoms in a healthy subject. In the case of Ebola, presumably, that would be something that would cause bleeding. Perhaps a dilute solution of ground-up razor blades?
But the more dilute it is, the more the potency increases. Wouldn’t ‘nothing at all’ then be the most powerful treatment of all?
CaitieCat, Harridan of Social Justice says
When I was an undergraduate, I rented a house one year with a friend who was doing grad work in nursing. We sublet a room to a med student, who it later transpired was a “fully-trained homeopath”*, taking up a place at one of Canada’s best teaching hospitals to gain her MD as cover/justification for her true calling.
Her worst excess that we witnessed was her advice to the painter we hired, when he showed up one morning looking hanged over and with his painting hand all swollen and nasty. He’d punched a wall over something, and it turned out to be wood panel over brick (OW!).
Our homeopath gave unto Steve a salve for what was clearly at least some broken fingers, and probably broken hand bones too.
The nurse and I got him to take his new rattle to an x-ray, and eventually surgery.
A fucking SALVE. Dangerous creeps, the lot of the
* A qualification ranking with “pixel grower”, ” thinky leader/Twitter guru”, and “fairy wrangler” for sheer scientific impressiveness.
From the link:
Ah, nothin like a nice cool mug of medicinal arsenic on a hot afternoon.
CaitieCat, ugh, that is such an egregious example of irresponsibility and utter incompetence. My girlfriend is a med student at UWO, I’ll have to mention this to her when she gets home. Should a med student really be giving medical advice at all? I know they have a list of things where that med students are not supposed to do lest they embarrass the school. I have only met a few of her fellow students, I fear the day I meet someone like this.
Hooray, yet another “Everything I Know About Ebola I Learned From Richard Preston” writer explainifying to us what Ebola is. Great.
I realize The Hot Zone is easy reading, but there’s other fact-based sources out there that are equally easy to read. At this point in time there’s no excuse for anyone, especially anyone writing anything news-related about Ebola, to not have figured out that Preston isn’t a reliable source of info on this thing.
CaitieCat, Harridan of Social Justice wrote:
It’s probably reasonable to assume that these qualifications have a much lower body count than “fully-trained homeopaths”.
@16: Rattlesnake venom? So they’re using literal snake oil.
@ Giliell, Only if these users of quack medicines are part of a 30C solution which I make as each one gets a cube of water 1.2 x 10^23 meters per side.
The homeopathy for ebola crowd is a sub-group of the anti-vaccine crowd. They are quite delusional, and not quite checked into the real world
I find this situation interesting from a psychological point of view because it’s relatively easy to look at homeopaths going to Africa to treat Ebola and conclude that they are con artists and opportunists — OR seriously self-deluded. A case could be made either way. It could even be a bizarre mash-up of both. Alternative medicine does after all appeal to “alternative” thinkers.
Alties are romantics, I think. I don’t mean that they’re “romantic” in the romance sense (though they usually do throw around ideals like “love” and “compassion” as justifications.) I mean they’re romantics in the classic sense, valuing emotion, intuition, spirituality, Nature, and the visionary ideal of the Romantic Hero or heroes who brave danger, criticism, and ridicule from the mainstream to nobly stride ahead with their noble ideas and thus we have progress. Romantics scorn rules and restrictions: that doesn’t always work out well.
My guess is that the doctors who presumably have enough science to know better don’t know better because they’re living out a story in their heads and have been doing so long enough to either compartmentalize or dismiss anything which doesn’t “fit” into the scenario. They’re Brave Maverick Doctors. It’s a seductive narrative… and very dangerous when it clashes too hard with reality.
Plus it makes them look stupid. There’s a reason you’re supposed to keep “complimentary medicine” as one of the many options for dealing with pain, self-limiting problems, or what-the-hell-it-can’t-hurt. This looks like they wanted to be able to test it on something clear and obvious. No, that’s not the way
GodNature works. You have to want to believe.
A 30C solution of rattlesnake venom doesn’t actually contain any venom, because it’s been diluted by a factor of 100 thirty times. If you start with a 1 mol/L solution of your remedy (and I really doubt the venom is that concentrated), you throw out 99% of it in your first dilution, you throw out 99% of what’s left in your second dilution, and by the time you’ve done it 12 times, you have something like a 60% chance of having a single molecule of remedy in a litre of solution. Then you dilute it 18 more times, which completely obliterates any chance of there being any “remedy” left.
Incidentally, at the bottom of the blog page, you can go back to earlier pages…
All 666 of them. That got to freak out a fundie somewhere.
jrfdeux, mode d'emploi says
The profit margin on homeopathic “solutions” must be astronomical, which makes the fact that they’re completely ineffectual that much worse. I’m not sure there’s anything one could sell that would be more morally repugnant than false hope.
I’m surprised the John Travolta and his Scientologists haven’t jetted in to hand out their own brand of ¨healing¨ like they did in Haiti after the Earthquake.
jrfdeux #27 wrote:
I could probably come up with examples if this were a game, but I’ll grant your point that it’s repugnant. But while this seems rather obvious to us, it’s apparently not at all self-evident to people who are seriously into alt med — deep enough to think that it doesn’t matter if it IS all placebo. As they see it, “Hope” — like “Faith” — is worthwhile no matter how brief, how temporary, how deluded, or how illusionary it is. Somebody felt better. They really did. So they were comforted and therefore it counts. Nothing exists unless we believe it does, and we create reality with our minds.
The disillusionment afterwards — let alone the expense — isn’t supposed to matter.
@ Sastra: Yeah, I think you’ve got it exactly right. Goes back to the sad fact that faith itself is defined as virtuous by most mainstream elements of our culture, right from early childhood.
And yes, making somebody feel substantially better in the throes of pain IS a good thing, all other things being equal. It’s part of what makes “life worth living”, right? The catch is that when we lionize faith and demonize skepticism, people end up chasing the specter of “hope” well past the point of harmlessness. Science-based medicine is hugely important for this reason and others…
Anyway, that’s all pretty obvious. Just wanted to chime in.
Faith has gotten to be the whole damn point of Christianity. Not as in trusting in God’s motives, but as believing that a rabbi was the son of God, and ninety other impossible things. How that ties in with other new faith-based bullshit, and how that all is a reaction to science, is up for discussion.
I remember standing by a coffin, hearing the preacher say, “a sure and certain hope”. What does that even mean?
Homeopathy is so silly. The premises are all wrong, there is no quality control, and Hahnemann has one of the biggest monuments in DC. (Most of the ways that they say the water works are immediately invalidated when the water goes on a sugar pill, for dog’s sake.)
Check out the good Dr. Hiltner’s website here. He’s into other kinds of woo: iridology, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, medical astrology (“fact or fiction”…there’s a question) and theosophy. And! He’s certified. He’s based in Ojai, Ca, a place famous for it’s alternative this and that.
@ #1: Don’t wanna to be part of the solution? Dilute yourself to 30M.
@ #12 Twas Brillig
The statement “The team did eventually get to treat non-Ebola patients in Ganta with homeopathy, and reported good results,” does not tell us much in the first place. Did they treat them for some other disease(s) than Ebola? And what do you call “good” results?
TTBOMK medical science does not know exactly how the placebo effect works, only that it does. Ben Goldacre, medical doctor and researcher, did some videos about the placebo effect that I found amazing. It’s a fascinating phenomenon:
Ben Goldacre on the placebo effect
That said, my best guess is that for someone to care and to listen to a patient then give them something the “doctor” (probably) sincerely believes is “medicine” can turn a sugar pill into an effective treatment. Sometimes. But not for everything, and not for everybody. When the placebo effect does kick in, that can create the illusion (delusion) that homeopathy “works.”
Why “3 to 4 potencies”? (Heck, why “3 to 4”, are you not even sure what you’re carrying?)
Homeopathic remedies are “perfectly safe” [of course they are, they’re just water], so in a serious situation like this, why would you waste your time carrying around the weak sauce when you’ve got the supposed full-strength stuff on hand?
Placebo can have surprising effects on subjective symptoms, like pain and discomfort. I’m not aware of any studies showing the placebo effect diminishing objectively measurable symptoms such as internal hæmorrhaging!
Isn’t the placebo effect more pronounced in things which taste nasty or have side effects? Sugar pills and water lack most of the trappings of medical theatre, and so they aren’t even that good compared to other placebos.
CaitieCat, Harridan of Social Justice says
Travis @17, my undergraduate was at McMaster, a good school with an excellent teaching hospital. I had a job working in the School of Nursing, working on layout for the brand-new field of desktop publishing, and got to see their teaching method up close. They used teams of doctors and nurses of mixed levels of education, each following a case from presentation to resolution, focusing on cooperative rather than competitive approaches. It was very cool to see in action, as an observer and once as a patient for knee surgery.
I was lucky to be there in the days when one could do so using part time employment and smallish loans, before the selfish side of my generation pulled the ladder up behind them. Fight the power.
@33 Homeopathy went recursive some time ago.
Yes, that’s a “proving” of 30C water. It isn’t a parody.
My sister who is pretty smart and a doctor here in UK, said I should try homeopathy for my sinuses. Facepalm.
Fergl100: Flushing out the sinuses with saline solution is pretty helpful for many causes of post-nasal drip. Maybe your sister thinks homeopathy is any non-drug approach to common ailments?
A lot of people have no idea that homeopathy is ridiculous woo. I always thought it was just non-drug treatments, or minimally-processed “natural” treatments, e.g. eating a fuckton of salad to cure constipation. This blog educated me to the heights of quackery that is homeopathy.
At least when they got there they could have agreed to drop the homeopathy bs and use their “medical expertise” to actually help. Instead they waste the time of people who are willing to help out. They took DONATIONS? To cover the expense of the water pill of the camera man? Lets think…
The good news is that they were stopped. They should at least be fined for the waste of time that they caused. Even though that probably wont happen, I can only imagine cost and suffering from people believing they were stopped from receiving a miracle treatment by some conspiracy.
“They were going to treat a deadly epidemic with…water?”
That might have been a start, though they probably wouldn’t be using it for rehydration..
“We are accompanied in all of our steps by our most skilled and lovely filmmaker Divine Key Anderson”
Oh dear.. Also there is no doubt this was a religious group.
“One of the luggage pieces is lost: thanks to God at least it is not one with our medicines. We are blessed with 110 remedies in 3 to 4 potencies ( from 30 to 10M) from Hahnemannian, Gudjons & Remedia. How Could we have dared to go here without our most valuable tools???”
There is no answer to that final question, despite the fact that that is precisely what they did.
My wife is from Europe, and insists that homeopathy isn’t quackery- it’s the use of herbs and stuff. When I show her homeopaths explaining their ridiculous dilution hypotheses, she claims that I’m still wrong- that’s just a stupid North American version of homeopathy, and that *real* homeopathy is the use of herbs and stuff….
As someone living in Europe, and having some knowledge about it, I can fully confirm that ‘European’ homeopathy is exactly the same as described above, eg, something diluted enough times so no trace amount of the actual ingredient remains, in other words, pure water.
Oh, yes, I know that- I’ve seen the homeopathic remedies on European shelves, with the same 30C notation. She simply can’t believe that I’d ever be right about anything.
By sheer coincidence, CBC Marketplace is taking on homeopaths on this week’s program. This is totally fucking scary. They even dig up the mmr-autism fraud.
Why isn’t Dr. Oz coming out in support of this?
Maybe your wife is referring to Naturepathy?
IIRC — that would be herbs and stuff, non-processed — like willow salic instead of aspirin.
Disclaimer: I am not a naturepath, and I go to real doctors. In my opinion, naturepathy is to medicine like a chiropractor is.
You get stuff like this with chiropractors as well. Anecdote: My son fell during soccer practice and hurt his wrist. One of the trainers, a chiropractor-in-training told my ex that she shouldn’t take the boy to the hospital because it wasn’t a break. He made a medical diagnosis by looking that the wrist. My ex, being a real science teacher, effectively said “fuck you” and took the boy to the hospital. Where it was revealed that yes, he actually had a break.
The principle here is that the True Believers will never let reality get in the way of their ideology.