Today was the final day of World Homeopathy Awareness Week. The best way that I can explain my elation is to put it this way: Take 1 part sad, dilute it to a 50 LM potency, put it in your pocket and ride a horse around the world. That’s how happy I am.
Though it’s been easy and enjoyable taking shots at the ridiculousness of homeopathy, I think the proper end to this week is to address the most important issue regarding homeopathy: the children that have died or been seriously injured because of it. I don’t want to give the impression that either adults do not get hurt from using homeopathic remedies or that the adults that do somehow deserve it. I don’t blame the victim. But the child victims had no choice. They could not do their own research. The people they cling to for safety failed them because of a belief that mint-fearing water and lactose pills could cure them.
All the names and links in this post were pulled from the site WhatsTheHarm.net. I’d really like to thank Tim Farley, the owner of the site, for putting together such an amazing and powerful resource, depressing as it may be.
Age: 17 months
Died (malnutrition, pneumonia)
September 25, 1987
Lorie’s parents, concerned about modern food additives, were advised to give her an organic vegetarian diet. She was also treated with herbal & homeopathic remedies and an energy machine. Her parents were convicted of neglect.
According to The National Center Against Health Fraud, when Lorie was 9 months old she was in perfect health, but “when she died she was nearly bald, covered with deep red rashes, and so emaciated that the paramedics thought they were being tricked by being given a doll to treat.”
When Lorie became ill she was treated with royal jelly, “cell salts” (homeopathy), and an herbal concoction brewed by Hanswille. He also treated Lorie with an electromagnetic “vitalizing” machine that “stimulates the blood” and has attachments such as an electrified comb that “livens up the hair.” Sonia Atikian testified that they became very concerned about Lorie’s condition but that Hanswille assured them that it was normal for clumps of her baby’s hair to fall out and not to worry if Lorie didn’t gain weight. Hanswille told Sonia that taking Lorie to a hospital would be like “holding a loaded gun to Lorie’s head and pulling the trigger.”
Age: 6 months
Fulham, west London, England
Cameron was born with a rare but treatable disorder, but his parents distrusted conventional medicine and never took him to a GP. A nurse/homeopath begged them to take him to a doctor, but they refused. He died.
Cameron was the son of a homeopathic doctor who refused conventional diaper rash lotion because it was too “suppressive”.
Cameron died in May last year after suffering a defect in his metabolism which caused a swollen stomach and testicles, extensive nappy rash and an enlarged liver.
He was fed honey and vinegar from an early age by his parents, Jeremy and Sylvie Ayres.
They refused to take Cameron to a doctor, instead visiting a homeopath who begged them to have him treated using conventional means.
Experts believe the baby either suffered an intolerance to a sugar present in fruit and vegetables or there was a defect in the way his body used fat for energy.
Age: 13 months
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Died (untreated epilepsy)
October 19, 2002
Isabella was prescribed medications for her epilepsy. Instead of using them, her parents consulted an iridologist, a kinesiologist, a psychic and an osteopath. She was being treated purely with homeopathic medication when she died.
Isabella was diagnosed with “life-threatening epilepsy”. Her parents didn’t like the side effects caused by the medicine prescribed by her neurologist. Instead they decided to treat her exclusively with alternative treatments.
Even though the alternative treatments were not working, she was repeatedly hospitalized because of her seizures, and her neurologist reported her parents to the Department of Human Services, the parents still believed that the side effects of anti-convulsants outweighed the benefits of them and that their daughter was “reliving a past life trauma” that apparently she had to try to get through without modern medicine.
Age: 9 months
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Died (untreated infection)
Gloria was diagnosed with eczema at four months. Her father, who taught and practiced homeopathy, treated her using that instead. She died of sepsis caused by broken skin due to her eczema.
Orac summed it up best:
Although it’s possible that modern medicine might have been able to prevent this death, one thing’s for sure: Treating the baby with water, which is all that homeopathic remedies really are, rather than effective medicine certainly didn’t make it more likely that this baby would survive. Worse, the baby almost certainly suffered far more than she should have.
Brain injury during childbirth
Jaspar’s father is one of England’s leading naturopaths. His homeopathy assisted birth went horribly wrong. He suffered brain damage and now has cerebral palsy.
From skepdic (the original article is no longer available):
December 5, 2004. UK naturopath Max Tomlinson convinced his wife to have a home birth assisted by a homeopathic midwife and his son nearly died and was born with cerebral palsy because of it. When Tomlinson’s wife, Filipa, was 35 weeks pregnant and suffering from something Tomlinson’s herbs couldn’t help, he took her to a GP. She was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis, a liver disorder that meant there was a high risk of the baby being stillborn. The GP wanted to induce labor but Tomlinson took Filipa home and gave her milk thistle and dandelion. When Filipa did go into labor and had dilated to the point where they could see the baby’s hair, she did what felt natural to her. She walked around and crushed the baby’s skull. When they finally went to the hospital, they failed to tell the conventional medical personnel that she’d been in labor for more than 15 hours. Had they known, they would have induced labor. Two hours later, the baby was born. Writes Tomlinson: “When he finally emerged, he looked like he had been beaten up. One side of his head was so swollen, he had no neck, and his skull was squashed into a point.”
Wellington, New Zealand
Died (untreated meningitis)
In a Coroner’s Court late last year, a mother described how she had refused antibiotics for her baby’s ear infection, preferring to take homeopathic advice. Two weeks after the initial consultation, the baby was taken again to the homeopath, who expressed concern about its poor health but who did not suggest seeking conventional medical treatment.
The mother, a registered nurse, commented that the symptoms looked like meningitis and, two days later, took her baby to her regular doctor. The doctor insisted on the baby being hospitalised immediately and noted that it took some time to convince the mother to do this.
The consultant paediatrician at Wellington Hospital, Dr Thorston Stanley, reported a “great sense of frustration in dealing with the mother, who opposed him every step of the way”. Despite intensive treatment, the child died a week later from brain damage as a result of bacterial meningitis.
The past week I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how people could buy into something that was so obviously bullshit. The more I read about homeopathy, the more it angered and frustrated me. The mere stupidity of it all is easy to poke fun at when we’re talking about homeopathic nose spray and antacids.
It’s amusing to think that there are people running in fear from mint flavored dental floss because it could interfere with a homeopathic cold remedy. That perhaps someone’s rash isn’t getting better because his water solution wasn’t whacked against a leather book enough times. That people actually take caffeine pills to fall asleep. That there are infertility remedies specifically for bald wrinkly men with upset tummies. That children’s non-existent school problems can be cured with the milk of their favorite animals.
But when children are needlessly dying from eczema and epilepsy; when, in their last days on earth, they have to suffer from “swollen stomach and testicles, extensive nappy rash and an enlarged liver” because conventional medicine is considered “suppressive”; when parents just can’t face the fact that maybe real medicine is at least worth a shot; the level of ridiculousness has not decreased, but the whole thing has ceased being funny.
World Homeopathy Awareness Week is over. Hopefully we are all a little bit more informed on the subject. Hopefully we all have more ammunition to fight with when we are face-to-face with a true believer. Hopefully, but not likely, someone will have changed his or her mind on the subject.
I will not be meeting you here tomorrow to discuss homeopathy. I’m done with that for a while. Right now I just want to go hug my son and be grateful that he was born into a society and into a time where we are fortunate enough to have western, evidence based, modern medicine.