A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Cure or Treat? Here’s a Remedy

Posted by apgaylard on October 20, 2007

There has been a good deal of comment recently on the vain attempt of the British Society of Homeopaths (SoH) to silence a blogger’s criticism by legal means.  It has not, however, been made clear by the SoH quite what it objects to.  A commentry on the criticism by James Randi points out that the difficulty may lie in two words: cure and treat.

Here are the definitions of those words, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

Cure (verb) “1 a : to restore to health, soundness, or normality b : to bring about recovery from <cure a disease>”

Treat (verb) “4 : to care for or deal with medically or surgically <treat a disease>”

Bearing these in mind, let’s refer to the SoH “Code of Ethics and Practice” (August 2004).  It states that SoH members “… who are qualified and insured to practise …” shall not use publicity or advertising that contains claims of superiority or which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases (§48).  Further, homeopaths are instructed to avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in writing) implying cure of any named disease (§72).

This probably explains the use of the word “treat” by the SoH and its members.  It implies something that any patient would want: to be cared for medically.  However, the word can be argued not to offer the prospect of recovery or restoration to health.  Therefore it’s not a cure and no violation of the SoH’s Code has occured.

Anyone tempted to follow a course of homeopathic treatment should, therefore, think about this very carefully.  According to the SoH they are not being offered the prospect of a cure, that is recovery or restoration to health.  I wonder how many people would really wish serious conditions to be dealt with under these terms?

Speaking personally, I’d rather like to recover from what is ailing me or have my health restored, if at all possible.  I also wonder how many homeopaths’ patients understand the difference between homeopathic treatment and a medical cure?

It also sounds like the SoH don’t really trust what they are offering.

If it is really the case that they offer treatment then I think they need to abandon the use of one word that homeopaths all like to use, and that I think does not comply with their own rules: remedy.  This means, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “…a medicine, application, or treatment that relieves or cures a disease …”

So a remedy is a treatment that goes beyond caring for and dealing with, to cure.  So, do homeopaths offer remedies for named conditions?  Yes they do.  Here’s one example.  They have a “remedy finder” that matches “remedies” to named diseases.  I am sure that the more I look, the more examples I’ll find.

So, I would say, that as long as the normal English definitions of these words apply: claims that match remedies to named diseases are a violation of the SoH “Code of Ethics and Practice“.

Therefore, I argue, that the SoH and its members should strike “remedy” from their vocabulary and stick with “treatment“; if that is what they really mean.

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