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Maria MacLachlan

Accolades & Quackolades

"There are ~20 published reviews of my book, but this one must be THE BEST! THANK YOU."
Edzard Ernst

"Best blog of the day IMHO."
Simon Singh

"This blogpost is simply brilliant."
Mark Burnley

"You are a rude argumentative bully. You are a typical "skeptic" - not sceptical at all."
Andrew, anti-vaxer

"Your piece about House of Commons Science and Technology sub-Committee’s ‘evidence check’ on homeopathy was one of the best I’ve seen. Strength to your elbow."

" individual calling themselves ‘scepticat’ or ‘sceptikat’- a highly volatile dictatorial site run by a wannabe megalomaniac. A truly disturbed person with a anger management issue venting via their little site to their own personal herd of sycophants."
Centella, one of Dr Andrew Jones personal herd of sycophants.

"Excellent report, which I can vouch for completely."
Jack of Kent

"The ludicrous nature of the complaint, and some of the responses by Dr Ranj and the BBC, has already been expertly documented on the Skepticat UK blog".
Dean Burnett

"Choke on your own vomit and die in agony..."
r wesley edwards, aka @CommonCormorant, author

"A very good rebuttal…"
Anna Watson, anti-vaxer Arnica UK

"A staggering amount of pathological disbelief allied with a staggering amount of arrogance."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"I just love this blog, and this post is a fine example of it’s content – ‘Inside the spine wizard’s den’ – Skepticat. Why do some of us feel that we are above challenging argument and peer review? I just wish that I could write as well as some of these bloggers!"
Jonathan Hearsey, osteopath

"Skepticat is a particularly venomousness (sic) skeptic, a humanist who lives by the "golden rule", she refused to let me follow her on twitter because I am "bonkers" which may endear her to many in the chiropractic profession..."
Richard Lanigan, chiropractor

Facebook image helpfully captioned by Sandra A Hermann-Courtney (@brownbagpantry)

"Die Die die die!"
r wesley edwards, aka @CommonCormorant, author

"Loved that article. It really shows what chiropractors are really all about. What I call the "chiro show" Exposing people to totally unnecessary X-rays should be criminal. Thank you!"

"I think skepticat is plain mad at not having children of her own. Hatred projected out to the world. It's sad to see someone with so much self hatred, destroying themself internally without even realising it."
Bebo, chiropractor (Note: In fact I'm the proud mother of two brilliant children, whom I mention frequently. Glad of the excuse to do so again.)

"Hooray for Reason! Just want to thank you for writing this. Even though the arguments presented are tired, and played out, they still must be refuted."

"I understand that you have been traumatised by your experience and that this is your way of coming to terms with the emotional scars."
Stefaan Vossen, chiropractor

"All you really seem interested in is banging your repetitive drum and preaching to the converted."
Rick, osteopath

"All the entries I’ve read are excellent. I’ll be coming back to read more. Love the cat logo as well."

"Research in Homeopathy Conference - Skepticat's hilarious account. She went to it."
David Colquhoun

"Her site is Skepticat UK... she wouldn’t know a punchline if it raped her. Or maybe she’d thank it."
Scott Cappurro, comedian

"I rather love the lunacy of the anti-Homeopathists, such as yourself."
James Pannozzi, acupuncturist & would-be homeopath

"Good blog from a skeptic which examines the "science" of Homeopathy in a very detailed way. Skeptics will love this. Proponents of homeopathy? Not so much."

"I really shouldn’t waste my valuable time with someone who obviously has at the very least a borderline personality disorder."
Erika Alisuag, homeopathist

"I’m finding it difficult to come up with some suitable words to say how good and interesting your stuff is. So, in the absence of suitable hyperbole can I say what a very well written and presented blog you have here. Really well thought out and researched. And passionate about it too! Complimenti!"

"You’re whole life is worthless because you lack reason."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"Great stuff Skepticat."

"When you have learnt some big words and also studied your history books you’ll find that the world was once thought to be flat…by people just like you."
Sarah Hamilton, homeopath

"Thanks for keeping the banner of reason flying high."
John Willis Lloyd

"This is just a general comment. I love this well-written an unfussy little blog (I don’t mean little in a derogatory way, but in the sense it’s not bombastic, self-important and posturing). Excellent material and a worthwhile focus, keep up the good work."

"Her website is a temple to diatribe – I have no sympathy for the homeopaths, etc, with whom she battles, but she clearly gets off on confrontation."
JF Derry

"Skepticat is strictly logical and attacks in unparliamentary words what she deems to be “quackery” – or suggestions that she sounds a little strident."
Andy Reporter

"LOVE the badass attitude! Seriously...KEEP IT UP!"

"You were a playful little diversion for a. moment, but I do have better things to do with my time than waste more than half an hour of it stooping down to play your ego supporting self delusional mind games……"
Susan Elizabeth, homeopathist

"An excellent read, thanks for taking thr time to compose it."
Alan C

"You need to do a course in anger management."
katenut, nutritionist

"FWIW I think you manage your anger rather well...mostly by focusing it into a thin, narrow beam of incisive rage which you then use to inscribe words on screen. ;)"

"Excellent description of the events."
Simon Perry

"You seem to be of probably well-meaning, but bigoted and fundamentalist disposition, just parroting slogans from others without any really knowledge or insight yourself."
Neil Menzies

"Superb, as usual"

"You seem only interested in ranting against an enemy which you are apparently still struggling to come to terms with “fifteen years” later."
Rick, osteopah

"Bravo, great post!"

"One day if you are not very careful you will be left behind in the dark ages. I’m sure this will not be printed..but hope it is read by you poor little scaredy cats."
Sarah Hamilton, homeopath

"Brilliant piece!"

"While you babble on like a total airhead about Myhill, you ignore the real doctors who are a danger in the UK".
struck-off doctor, Rita Pal, 'NHS whistle-blower'

"I sincerely hope I never get to your stage of wilful ignorance. You know absolutely diddly squat about the subject but you think your opinion is the only opinion."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"Keep up the spin, you manky old chicken's foot."
JB, chiropractor

"I am forced to conclude you are blogging on behalf of a specific entity that does wish to remain anonymous."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"The person writing all this negative press on homeopathy must be getting a big fat check from one of the pharmaceutical companies who would dearly love to push homeopathy off the map."
Erika Alisuag

"Such reporting lands you clearly in the realm of fundamentalist extremism–much noise, no substance, and money from those who have something to sell. It is so unfortunate that your listening skills are in need of repair."
Tanya Marquette, homeopath

"She seems to revel in presenting the many insults that she has attracted as a column of “Quackolades” on her site, as if war wounds on display,"
JF Derry, self-publicist

"Oh shut up SK. You write hot air and spew rubbish as usual."
Rita Pal again.

Watch your backs, homeoquacks

“First they came for the homeopaths…”

I’ve lost count of how many self-pitying blogposts by homeopaths I’ve seen begin with those words. The assault on homeopathy is continuing relentlessly and the poor homeopaths don’t know what’s hit them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a bit sorry for them.

Only joking. Didn’t you just love watching Tom Dolphin’s turn at the BMA conference recently? For those who missed it, Dolphin — who is deputy chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee — announced that, contrary to his headline-grabbing comments back in May, homeopathy isn’t witchcraft after all. He graciously apologised for the offence caused to all the witches who’d objected to the association with homeopathy. “I take it back — it isn’t witchcraft”, said a contrite Dolphin, before going on to explain what homeopathy really is.

It’s nonsense on stilts. It’s pernicious nonsense that feeds a rising wave of irrationality that threatens to overwhelm the hard won gains of the Enlightenment and the scientific method. We risk as a society slipping back into a state of magical thinking when made up science passes for rational discourse and wishing for something to be true passes for proof.

Amen to that and the motion to stop funding homeopathy was carried overwhelmingly. The only surprise — apart from the fact that it’s taken them this long to get this far — being that anyone voted against it. Most of the speeches against the motion were the usual pap: “paucity of evidence does not amount to lack of efficacy,” whined one speaker, ignoring the wealth of evidence of hundreds of clinical trials; “It works — ask the people of anywhere in the world,” bleated another.

But the speeches against weren’t all that bad. Here’s London GP, Paddy Glackin:

I’ve got a group of patients who go to the homeopathic hospital and it’s a great relief to me that they do because, frankly, I’ve got nothing else to offer them. I am completely stuck while they have found a place where they are getting better and if we remove NHS funding I don’t know what I’m going to do with them because they have been extenisvely investigated, extensively managed and the only person they are getting benefit from is the guy who waves some water in their face and is really sweet to them once a month. That keeps them well.

That the homeopathic hospitals should serve as place where doctors can dump untreatable patients is probably the best argument for continuing to fund homeopathy on the NHS. But even if the NHS had infinite resources, I still wouldn’t support it because homeopathy is indeed ‘nonsense on stilts’ and it’s time we stopped pretending otherwise.

Enough already!

I recall the feminist conferences I attended in the 1970s and the fervent discussions we had about how the NHS was failing us. The ideas that were floated at the time contributed to the change in the culture of the doctor-patient relationship we’ve witnessed over the past few decades. These days we demand that our doctors are honest with us, that they listen to us and take us seriously and aren’t paternalistic and condescencing…don’t we?

A few years ago, I attended a talk given by Dr David Reilly, who qualified as a doctor of proper medicine but now works at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. Dr Reilly started his talk by claiming there were some 200 positive trials for homeopathy. Thereafter he refused point blank to talk about homeopathy and he disregarded any challenges to the principles of homeopathy from the audience, stating he hadn’t come to discuss it. What he’d come to talk about was the work of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital and what he took an hour to say could be summed up thus:

Give some people a lovely, tranquil environment, a lot of time, a listening ear and a good bedside manner and they start to feel better.

This works regardless of whether any remedy prescribed has any active ingredients and we know, of course, that homeopathic remedies don’t. The reason I remember Dr Reilly’s talk so well was because it echoed precisely what we’d said at those meetings over thirty years ago and it has absolutely nothing to do with homeopathy. Back then, we all felt the NHS had an ugly paternalistic face and that it treated us something like the pie cases on a Fray Bentos assembly line, filling us with drugs instead of steak and kidney and sending us on our way. What we wanted to happen was something like this:

(1) Train doctors to ask sensitive questions to help patients get everything off their chest and to listen intently while patients prattle on about themselves.
(2) Allow doctors to spend an hour with each patient every visit.

Sorted. No need to refer anyone to a homeoquack so we can stop funding them pronto.

We knew then as we know now that the second requirement wouldn’t be fulfilled any time soon in a publicly-funded health care system, and that this would obviously impact negatively on the first requirement. Thus the new and improved generation of today’s GPs still end up, as Dr Paddy Glackin suggested in his speech, prescribing too many unnecessary meds that don’t work anyway and don’t get rid of chronically unwell patients who have nowhere else to go. That’s what the homeopathic hospitals are for.

Crikey, I could almost talk myself round into supporting them, were it not for the fact that I am haunted by the spectre of my dying mother being ejected from an NHS hospital without them even changing her nappy and with a fucking cannula still stuck in her arm because they were so short of beds and staff. Wanting to get rid of patients because you don’t know what else to do with them isn’t reason enough to lie to them and to spend £4 million out of the public purse annually financing the lie. As I once heard oncologist Prof Michael Baum say to a hysterical homeopathy user, “You can buy your homeopathy if you want but you can’t have it at the expense of other women’s lives”. It may only be a tiny portion of the NHS budget — as they never stop reminding us — but you can buy a lot of Tamoxifen for that.

It might seem callous to suggest that people who want the NHS to fund their homeopathy should buy themselves a tube of Smarties and ring the Samaritans for a nice chat instead. But these are hard times and if the NHS can’t afford proper meds, it needs to stop wasting money on pretend ones. It also needs to have the debate on the placebo effect that Martin Robbins called for in the Guardian recently. Perhaps most importantly, it needs to work out how to harness the benefits of the homeopathic consultation for the good of all patients. Just to reiterate: the benefis have nothing to do with homeopathic remedies. Let’s stop pretending that every health problem has an ingestible solution. That’s what homeopaths do and it’s a load of crap.

What’s next?

No doubt there are some who think that, once the NHS stops funding homeopathy and once Boots and other chemist shops stop presenting the remedies as if they do indeed have ‘therapeutic indications’, then there’d be nothing left for skeptics to do and we’ll shut up and move on to something else. But they’d be wrong. The problem is that homeopaths are liars. Yes, I know a lot of the lies are unintentional because they are delusional but for others there is no excuse. Take, for example, the oft-repeated claim of the “five systematic reviews” that supposedly amount to evidence for homeopathy. This lie is as common as pigeon shit and easily exposed for being exactly that. I caught and exposed the odious American homeoquack Dana Ullman repeating it here and in a previous blog I did the same favour for Jayne Thomas of the Society of Homeopaths, who had the audacity to repeat the falsehood on national TV. Martin did an excellent job in another Guardian column more recently.

Talking of the Society of Homeopaths, apart from telling porkies on national TV and bullying skeptics who tell the truth about them, what exactly is it for? Browsing the Society’s website, I came across its Code of Ethics and Practice and skimmed through it. One line leaped out at me:

“No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases”.

Quite right too. However, given the dishonesty that is the very essence of the whole cult of homeopathy, I wasn’t particularly surprised to come across this claim on a member’s website (actually the first hit on Google after entering ‘registered with the Society of Homeoapths’):

Basically any condition you would see a GP for can be treated homeopathically.

It doesn’t name any diseases, it simply claims to be able to treat any condition under the sun. WTF??

I am approaching the age my mother was at when she discovered the lump in her breast that turned out to be a malignant tumour necessitating a mastectomy, which allowed her to live for another 30 years. If only she’d seen a homeopath instead of her GP, eh?  She might have saved herself a lot of trouble and just died a slow, agonising premature death like Penelope Dingle did.

Yes, people should be free to make their own choices about health as long as they fund their more eccentric choices out of their own pockets rather than everyone else’s. Does that mean that UK homeopaths working outside of the NHS should be able to say whatever nonsense they like on their websites and in their promotional literature? I think not. Thanks to the efforts of skeptics fed up with seeing desperate people being conned by unscrupulous quacks, the chiropractic ‘profession’ now has to mind its ps and qs. It’s high time the homeopaths got a piece of the action.

9 Responses to Watch your backs, homeoquacks

  • Great post. There is an enormous amount of money being made through the exploitation of people’s ignorance and vulnerability. NHS funding serves to legitimise it.

    I believe that London GP is Dr Paddy Glackin, not Blacken. If I am not mistaken, we were classmates at college many years ago. I can see his point, but that doesn’t justify supporting and promoting a system which is known to be complete nonsense.

  • Catherine, thank you so much for your comment and the correction! I’ve amended the name in my post.

  • What name is attached to “tinctures”? Non-homeopathic and non-allopathic concoctions such as say a herb soaked in alcohol then diluted enough to make salable quantities, but not 10^30 dilutions. Snake oil is an old name; is there a newer name besides natural food supplement?

  • Nice post, Catherine. As I read it, I was reminded of a cartoon by Randall Munroe. It’s available here:

  • LOL, love the cartoon, John. My name’s not Catherine though. 😉

  • Yes couldn’t agree more, but when are you going to move on to more pressing topics such as how the jews run the media (and the world)???

  • @Skeptic1337:

    Are you for real?


  • @ Jim R.

    If you think that herbal tinctures are watered-down nothingness, I would hasten to inform you that you are completely incorrect. Hundreds of herbs have very measurably active medicinal activities across numerous body systems, and the “addition” of alcohol to them is not for dilution purposes but as an extracting agent and a preservative.

    Very quick anecdotal case in point, I was having persistent, severe anxiety with significant palpitations for several weeks recently, and treating this with motherwort tincture brought almost total relief within a few days.

    If you think plants have no medicinal compounds, I would point you to a few very obvious and common examples such as tobacco, coffee, and marijuana, which contain very powerful drugs which require minimal processing to obtain. Fortunately most other medicinals are not intoxicants…

    I would add that food (much of it vegetable in nature) can also be considered medicine, and many common spices such as turmeric contain significant anti-inflammatory compounds.

  • By the way, I don’t typically use homeopathic remedies, as I am skeptical of the logic of them. However, one of my close friends was suffering for about a year with skin problems (massive, cystic acne), chronic constipation, and an anal fissure, and literally nothing was helping it at all — increased fiber, a healthy diet, nothing. She then went to a chinese herbalist who gave her a homeopathic remedy, and within two weeks, she began to experience significant relief; the condition then reversed itself within another couple of months. Unless this was just a coincidence — unlikely IMO since it had been getting slowly worse previously for quite a long time — it would appear that the treatment worked. I still hold my skepticism, as I haven’t heard a convincing explanation of the mechanism behind the action. Then again, just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

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