A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.

Friday 13 November 2009

Edzard Ernst shows Society of Homoeopaths break their own code of conduct

In this excellent article in the BMJ, Zosia Kmietowicz interviews Edzard Ernst on the Society of Homoeopaths breaking their own code of conduct. Similar observations were made on Gimpyblog back in 2007. Apparently they didn't learn too much from that then.

Homoeopath society breaks own ethics code by making speculative claims on website, says expert Zosia Kmietowicz

The Society of Homeopaths is in breach of its own code of ethics by posting "speculative," "misleading," and "deceptive" statements on its website, claims a leading UK expert in complementary medicine.

Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, identified numerous statements on the society’s website that he claimed could be seen as contravening the code. He was writing in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02249.x).

The code of ethics, which runs to 23 pages, sets out the rules that the society expects its members to abide by. These state that advertising should not make claims to "cure named diseases" or be "false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, extravagant or sensational." It adds that "all speculative theories will be stated as such and clearly distinguished."

However, a review of some members’ websites showed a series of violations of the code that led Professor Ernst to scrutinise the society’s own website.

Despite there being no good clinical evidence to substantiate such claims, says Professor Ernst, the society’s website carried statements claiming that homoeopathy can help with various symptoms and illnesses, including fever, sore throat, toothache, arthritis, eczema, asthma, anxiety, insomnia, chicken pox, erectile dysfunction, and prostate problems.

"In my view, they [the statements] do ‘expressly or implicitly’ claim ‘to cure named diseases,’" writes Professor Ernst. "If this is so, they violate the SoH’s [Society of Homeopath’s] own Code of Ethics."

He concludes, "If the SoH wants its members to behave ethically it should evaluate its own website carefully and deliberate whether it is responsible for a professional organisation to make health claims which are not supported by the current best evidence."

Professor Ernst told the BMJ that advertising by members of the Society of Homeopaths "should be more than lip service to evidence based medicine, otherwise it is confusing and potentially harmful."

Paula Ross, the society’s chief executive, said she was grateful to Professor Ernst for highlighting his concerns and that the society would be investigating the concerns and making amendments "where appropriate."

BMJ 2009;339:b4605

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