The homeopathic debate……Placebo, nocebo, wishful thinking or misunderstood science?

This week Homeopathic treatment has all but been written off.  But why was it ever even entertained as an idea in the first place?

The ‘process’ was based upon a ‘fight fire with fire’ approach, which has some value as vaccinations often use this method to trigger the body to create antibodies,  to allow the body to be prepared to fight off a disease, if it is then exposed in the future.  Homeopathy attempted to work by diluting many, many,many,many,many,many times over a medicine assuming it then actually makes it stronger (potentiation), however most would consider  this as being counter-intuitive.  However there have been some heavy weights historically on the homoeopathic side of things, for example the NHS spent over £100,000 in recent years on the method and the process itself has a centuries old history.  However, the actual  evidence seems to be overwhelming that, as most suspected, that there really is nothing to it from a medical perspective. Those interested in Psychology and the relationship between mind and body will know how significant effect a Placebo can be…but does it have  a place ethically in modern health?

Placebo’s have their own deeply ashamed place in the the history of medical  research. From 1932 to 1972 one of the most unethical pieces of health research was ever conducted – The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment prompting a formal apology from US President Bill Clinton to the families of those involved. Participants were promised a range of benefits including health care and insurance when in fact there was none as their experimenters (the U.S Public Health Service studied the long term effects of syphilis on the naive participants.

‘By the time the study was exposed in 1972, 28 men had died of syphilis, 100 others were dead of related complications, at least 40 wives had been infected and 19 children had contracted the disease at birth’

Here is an interesting podcast on the .Nocebo’ effect  a harmful response to an inert substance..

Whatever an individuals view on the power of the mind over our health….research should be duty bound to put the participants/patients first irrespective of any opportunities to make any new discoveries to their detriment.

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