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Homoeopathy

Sceptics anger at homeopath GP’s lecture

Wokingham: Sceptics are planning to protest outside a homeopathy lecture in Wokingham next week.

Members of the Reading Skeptics group criticised homeopathic remedies ahead of the planned talk from Dr Jayne Donegan, a GP and homeopath, on ‘Nursing Your Child Supportively Through Acute Illness’ at Wokingham Town Hall in Market Place.

However talk organisers from Thames Valley Homeopaths have defended the event, saying it aims to empower parents with more information about treatment methods.

Group chairman Margaret Kincade said it was a shame the Reading Skeptics had felt it necessary to plan a protest for the event.

Protest leader Michael Agg, of Brookside in Wokingham, said: “Dr Donegan advocates the use of homeopathy, a pre-scientific belief that has been proven to have no benefit beyond that of sugar pills.”

The Reading Skeptics promote science and evidence-based policy in the county and are warning Wokingham people to be wary of the advice expected to be given at the talk.

Mr Agg said: “As patients we need our GPs to understand the risks and benefits of the treatments they prescribe.

“That a GP should recommend homeopathy, especially for sick children, calls into question the doctor’s ability to weigh the evidence.”

Karen Hall, a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) breastfeeding counsellor for the Berkshire area, said: “Nursing a child through illness is a harrowing experience; offering a placebo in these circumstances is at best insulting, if not exploitative and dangerous.

“Most parents would be uncomfortable with advice to allow their sick child to recover without offering any effective treatment.

“The complete absence of any scientific evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy is by now well-documented; it is therefore potentially harmful to suggest parents should rely on treatment that is known to be ineffective.

“Homeopathic medicine aims to treat like with like. For example, caffeine is used to treat sleeplessness.

“If this doesn’t sound sufficiently nonsensical already, the caffeine is diluted and diluted to such an extent that no molecules of caffeine actually remain in the water.

“After dilution, the water is vigorously shaken by 10 hard strikes against an elastic body, and this supposedly ensures that the water contains a ‘memory’ of the caffeine.”

Mrs Kincade defended the talk, saying the event would not advocate cutting out medical treatment from doctors and that it would focus on acute, not serious, illness, such as fevers, cuts and bruises.

She said: “We are talking about informing and empowering parents to understand what a fever is doing and what they can do to help.

“You should use medication when relevant and the talk is about knowing when medication is relevant.”

In 2010 the House of Commons science and technology committee called for the NHS to stop funding homeopathy, labelling the treatment as having just a placebo effect.

Mrs Kincade said: “Placebos are very powerful.

“It is not something you should dismiss. Everybody who goes to the GP can get a placebo effect because you trust you are going to get help and talking about it.

“For some people the placebo effect is getting that piece of paper and walking out of the surgery.

“You can’t rule out the placebo effect. There is lots of evidence that homeopathy works but some people don’t want to see it.”

Mrs Kincade pointed out that of 140 randomised controlled trials, which are a type of clinical trial, that took place for homeopathic remedies by the end of 2009, there were 74 with firm conclusions and of those 60 were positively in favour of homeopathy.

The talk at Wokingham Town Hall will take place on Wednesday, March 14, from 7.30pm.

The talk has been organised by Thames Valley Homeopaths and tickets cost £10 per person.

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