HAHNEMANN – THE EMPEROR OF QUACKS

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HAHNEMANN - THE EMPEROR OF QUACKS

Not only is there no evidence that homeopathy works. It cannot work unless “water has a memory”. If they could show that they’d win the Nobel Prize for Physics as well as Medicine. Needless to say, they can’t. Homeopathy is fraud, pure & simple- Richard Dawkins- Biologist and author of the Selfish Gene.

Pseudoscientists have gained fame and popularity in no other field as in medicine. And among pseudoscientists, in the medical field, homeopaths occupy a pride of place.

It is not difficult to understand why. In the first place, if a homeopath manages to pose as a dignified physician, he can build up a lucrative practice and make a great deal of money . In the second place, if he creates an impression of sincerity, the few healing successes he claims to have achieved will greatly bolster his popularity .

There are two great secrets of the homeopath’s success. One is the fact that many maladies, including some of the severest, will run their course and vanish without treatment of any sort. Suppose, for example, Janaki Ammal is unable to get rid of an annoying cold. She decides to try a homeopathic doctor she has heard about, whose methods are unorthodox, but who has been strongly recommended by her friends. The doctor, looks distinguished and talks with great authority about his work. Diplomas from several medical schools are displayed on the walls of his clinic, and he is apt to have a number of degrees after his name. ( Janaki Ammal doesn’t know that these degrees were given by small schools no longer in existence, and some of which the doctor himself may have founded.) Janaki Ammal decides she has nothing to lose. In addition, she is lonely and enjoys talking to doctors about her troubles. The doctor prescribes a white pill with a strange homeopathic name. It costs only fifty rupees but of course she has to return for two or three times during the week. By the end of the week she finds that her cold has vanished. Incredible as it may seem, Janaki Ammal is convinced that the white pill is responsible for the cure. She becomes one of the doctor’s loyal adherents. Before the year is over, he has milked several hundred rupees from her bank account.

The other other reason is that many of life’s ills are wholly or in part psychosomatic (there is also a well founded saying that the common cold would be cured in a week if a patient is given a medicine and would be cured within seven days even if no medicine is given !).

If a patient with such complaints has faith in a doctor, regardless of how bizarre the doctor’s methods may be, he would claim to have been miraculously cured. And, of course, the larger the following the doctor has, the more the patient’s faith is augmented. Moreover, if dozens of Janaki Ammal’s friends are chattering about a strange new powerful pill, the more will be their desire to become part of this trend. When everyone claims to have seen flying saucers, you naturally would also like to claim having seen one yourself. In the Zoo when all your friends claim to have seen the lion behind a bush, you would also claim to have seen it even if you haven’t. So also, if everyone claims to have been cured by a homeopathic pill, you would also claim that you had been cured the same way.

Regardless of what her more enlightened friends, or even the family doctor, may tell her, Janaki Ammal has one simple and irrefutable answer— it works, and her close friends agree. The doctor acquires fame and gets many more patients.

And many of the homeopath’s patients ( particularly in India) are very influential and powerful persons- senior bureaucrats, judges, journalists, lawyers, politicians and professors in educational institutions . Every homeopath will always find some influential persons he claims, as his patients.  

Homeopathy is the brainchild of a German doctor Samuel Christian Hahnemann, who earned the distinction of being regarded as the” Emperor of Quacks”

He published his great opus”The Organon” in 1810 .

Martin Gardner, has analysed the pseudoscience of homeopathy better than anyone else. He points out that according to Hahnemann there is a” Law of Similia” which states that “like cures like.” In other words a drug will cure a disease if that same drug, taken by a healthy person, will produce symptoms similar to those of the disease. Hahnemann and his followers set about “proving,” as many new remedies, for diseases as possible. This involved giving the compound to a healthy person, in increasing amounts, until symptoms appear. The symptoms are then compared with those of known ailments, and if similar, the drug is deemed of value in treating that particular ailment. Although certain diseases have characteristic symptoms, and hence call for specific medication, each individual is considered unique and treated in terms of whatever complex of symptoms are found, regardless of the name of the disease.

 It is not unusual to hear in homeopathic pharmacies, the pharmacist shouting for the patient’s parentage, name, age, and weight, place of birth, hobbies and many other facts, as according to him each medicine, which has to be tailor-made for a patient, must take into consideration all the above irrelevant details . Almost all medicines look the same–a small white pill, in the majority of cases. Only the pharmacist knows the ingredients.

 Gardner points out that homeopathic medicines are administered in inconceivably small doses. Hahnemann believed that the more minute the dose, the more potent a medicine, an assumption that defies logic. Compounds are frequently diluted to one decillionth (i.e., a millionth of a millionth of a millionth, etc., up to ten of these millionths) of a single grain. Such dilution is like letting a drop of medicine fall into the pacific, mixing thoroughly, then taking a spoonful.

One doesn’t require any great intelligence or imagination to conclude that such an assumption not only defies logic, but is also an insult to human intelligence !

Scientific knowledge about physics, chemistry, biochemistry and biology, contradicts homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are typically biochemically inert, and have no effect on any known disease.Its theory of disease, centred around principles Hahnemann termed “miasms”, is inconsistent with subsequent identification of viruses and bacteria as causes of disease. Needless to mention that no homeopathic drug can therefore cure an infection! Surgery was and still is beyond the scope of homeopathy and has never been performed by homeopathic doctors.

Allopathic (a homeopathic term for modern western medicine, which is obsolete )doctors have at their disposal a number of powerful diagnostic tools like Magnetic resonance imaging, CT scan, PET scan to detect injuries and infection which enable them to take remedial measures i.e surgery or administering appropriate drugs as the case may be. Homeopaths, are severely handicapped as they are not have these diagnostic tools. Homeopaths are delightfully unaware of the presence, and functions of various enzymes and hormones. They are not even aware of the difference between the ascending colon and the caecum! Under these circumstances, how can they ever cure a disease ! How can intelligent and educated people believe in such a pseudoscientific system of alternate medicine?

However modern homeopaths make use of allopathic surgical practices, in an emergency . Personally I would never submit myself to a surgical procedure performed by a homeopath and risk losing some important organ of my body.

Gardner points out that according to Hahnemann as the drug became less “material” it gained “spiritual” curative powers, and in many cases recommended diluting until not a single molecule of the original substance remained! This produced remedies of extremely high potency. The doctor also claimed, that the full effect of such medicine may not be manifested until thirty days after being taken. According to him the in some cases, curative powers persist until the fiftieth day. Hahnemann also believed that seven-eighths of all chronic diseases were variations of “psora”, more commonly called the itch. This aspect of his views, were however, rejected by his followers.

The controversy among homeopaths over the exact nature of the”homeopathic dose” soon split the movement into two factions— the purists who followed Hahnemann, and the “low potency” men who thought it of value to preserve at least some of the original compound, even though only a few molecules.

Modern purists have totally given up Hahnemann’s “spiritual” effects for mysterious “radiations” which according to him remain after the material substance has vanished.

Gardner says that just as the Law of Similia has an analogy in the vaccination principle, so the doctrine of the infinitesimal dose has a slight factual basis— but only in reference to a small number of drugs. Homeopathy’s serious error was to take these limited truths, exaggerate them to the point of absurdity, and apply them universally to all medicines. The” materia medica” of homeopathy is understandably” as large as that of “allopathy”. According to Homeopathic doctors, about 3,000 distinctly different drugs have been “proved,” and new ones are still being added. Needless to mention that a scientific study and analysis of the utility of these drugs would be a complete waste of time, and energy.

Gardner points out that some idea of the worth of homeopathic medicines may be gathered from the fact that one of the drugs (no longer used) was called lachryma filia, and consisted of tears from a weeping young girl. Other curious remedies are made from such substances as powdered starfish (asterias rubens), skunk secretion (mephitis), crushed live bedbugs (cimex lectularius), powdered anthracite coal, powdered oyster shells, and uric acid (acidum uricum) obtained from human urine or snake excrement.

Research by reliable pharmacologists, in prestigious laboratories has shown that all these weird drugs, in the extremely diluted form in which they are given, are entirely harmless— producing neither symptoms nor cures (except, of course, psychosomatic ones). In any case a medicine has to be administered for some benefit by way of a cure for a disease and not because it does no harm !.

The pseudoscientific cult spread rapidly over Europe in the 1820’s, reached England and America in the 1840’s, and came to its pinnacle of success about 1880 in the United States.

Homeopaths also cite the cases where someone who has been on allopathic drugs either dies, or fails to recover. This may be due to the fact that the patient was too weak or because he had started the course too late, or because even allopathy cannot have a 100% success rate. This is where the homeopath will step in and say that had the patient been given homeopathic drugs, he would have been cured !

Another favourite theme of the homeopaths is that every antibiotic is a poison and should be avoided. One wonders how many millions of soldiers would have died in World War II had penicillin not been administered!

One by one the American schools faded away. The same trend could be seen in England. India however is still fertile ground for homeopaths. Very educated and otherwise enlightened people such as those mentioned earlier in the fifth paragraph, are faithful adherents to the cult of quackery.

Some of the more prosperous homeopathic schools kept diluting the amount of homeopathy in the curriculum( as homeopaths do in the case of their own drugs! ) until they evolved into potent, first-rate allopathic medical schools. Today there are no established homeopathic colleges in the States, though a few schools, offer graduate courses in the subject. Several thousand doctors still consider themselves homeopaths. Ironically however these men have standard medical degrees and in matters of diagnosis, surgery, etc., make full use of allopathic medical science. It is only in the giving of drugs that they call upon homeopathic tradition, though even here, especially in emergencies, they resort to prescribing allopathic medicines. The homeopathic drugs are obtained from special pharmacies which flourish in several large cities.

Why should we refer to homeopaths as quacks? The Dutch word quacksalver was used in the 17th century to describe people who sold medicine. However so many of these ‘miracle cure’ peddlers were selling fake potions, that the word soon evolved to mean a crook i.e a quack. 

One therefore wonders why Homeopaths, and other charlatans, like, professional astrologers, palmists, and Vaasthu practitioners, are not prosecuted for fraud, under the law. It is no doubt due to the fact that all influential and powerful men in society such as those mentioned in the fifth paragraph are their most loyal adherents. Without their backing these pseudoscientists would not be able to acquire, popularity, fame and prosperity.

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