CBC Marketplace: Homeopathy: Cure or Con? my comments

After CBC’s show Marketplace aired an episode to discredit homeopathy I decided to write to them and let them know my opinion regarding the episode as well as some of the comments that were appearing on their website.  Below is a copy of my letter.  Feel free to comment your thoughts and opinions below.  The full episode can be watched here: http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/

Dear CBC:

I was disappointed by your recent show, “Con or Cure” which aired on your program Marketplace on January, 14, 2011. The “investigative reporting” was plainly biased and did not demonstrate an understanding of the basic tenets of homeopathy. Furthermore, it did not uphold the standards of professional journalism that should be a cornerstone of CBC programs. This episode has called into question the credibility of not only Marketplace, but all CBC programming.

Let me demonstrate my point.  On your webpage for the episode you fail to include any links in your “Related Documents and Links” section to either the Ontario Association of Homeopaths (www.ontariohomeopath.com), or the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine (www.ochm.ca). If you are indeed intending to provide individuals with information to inform themselves about the benefits and risks associated with homeopathy, these links are at minimum required. Both organizations have been advocating for regulation of homeopathy in Ontario to protect patients. The exclusion of these key players demonstrates an unwillingness on your part to allow Canadians to be a part of the discourse on homeopathy and inhibits their ability to exercise self-determination in regards to their health. This is a very troubling misstep, particularly for a public broadcasting organization.

I also found the program’s lack of understanding about the fundamental tenets of homeopathy troubling. How can Marketplace present an overwhelmingly biased position on a health practice it doesn’t understand? There is a historical context for homeopathy that went completely unexamined.  I think the public has a right to know (and Marketplace should have acknowledged that) homeopathy was the dominant form of medicine prior to the introduction of antibiotics and the shift of medicine to rely on pharmaceuticals; instead Marketplace made homeopathy look like an emerging health trend without a historical and societal context.  Were your journalists aware that homeopathy has a rich history in North America and it played a key role in the creation of the American Medical Association, it set standards for curriculum in medical schools that are still being employed today, including standardized testing to obtain a license as a physician? If they had done their jobs, they should have been able to articulate the merits of this practice and the benefits it has attributed to our current health system. A thorough history of the development of homeopathic medical theory and the spread of homeopathic medicine in North America can be found on the North American Society of Homeopaths website under this link: http://www.homeoint.org/history/king/index.htm

I would also like to broach the topic of research that was continuously discussed in the episode. Randomized trials, meta-analyses and Cochrane reviews are not the only way to determine what works and what doesn’t in the field of medicine. Research and its methods are constantly evolving and within the confines of evidence-based methods homeopathy does not perform well due to the limitations of these methods. Randomized control trials are performed to isolate a specific substance and its effect on one isolated symptom in the body.  This is a very linear approach of looking at the effects of A on B and expecting them to equal C.  However, holistic medical models such as homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and naturopathy view a person as an individual with many factors affecting their health and medicines in these fields are prescribed upon the totality of the symptom picture which includes mental, emotional, social, environmental and physical symptoms.  Therefore, isolating a specific symptom or a specific substance through randomized control trials will not yield results representative of how these medicines actually work because they are not currently studied in the context in which they are prescribed.

I think it is completely unethical for your journalists and web moderators to include and allow comments that call into question a homeopaths knowledge of physics and chemistry. These are personal insults and they are contrary to the code published by your organization about what is publishable and what is not. I would like to refute these comments and remind others of a basic concept in physics; the fact that all matter is energy and all energy is matter.  This is the basic concept of the particle-wave duality where a substance exists as the potential to be both matter and energy.  Its expression is based on how it is observed or the perception of the scientist/measuring instrument.  Just because you can’t observe matter in a homeopathic substance in the chemistry lab, does not mean there is not an energy wave that is associated with the matter, which has been diluted and potentized in water to that degree.  Also, if these basic physics concepts are true, this means we cannot deny that our physical bodies are made solely of energy, observable at the quantum level and that a medicine may work on this energetic level and not be detectable through instrumentation available today.  Throughout history we have observed the effects of energies we could not see or measure at the time (for example gravity) and science only came up with an explanation for the mechanism of action after the fact. If your journalists had a shred of integrity and had done research about how homeopathy works, perhaps they would have included this basic information about how homeopathy works. 

Other comments on the website described a concern about the mechanism of action. As a health practitioner, I call into question this concern.  Is it really necessary to fully understand a physical mechanism prior to prescribing a medicine which we have observed through hundreds of years of practice to have a positive healing effect on a patient? Why don’t we ask medical doctors why so many pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed for off label use without the mechanism of action being known? Would we ask medical doctors to withhold these experimental or theoretical treatments, which through experience and case studies have been shown to greatly benefit other patients in a similar situation just because the mechanism of action is not yet known?

Lastly, I’d like to challenge the sceptics  employed by your organization and those that dominate the discourse on your website to open their minds to research in quantum physics, psychology, neurology, immunology and biology which clearly shows evidence that all matter and energy are connected by a quantum field. For those unfamiliar with the basic principles of physics this explains that all theories  are under one “grand unified theory.”  (Here is a link to a great documentary and well-respected researchers who are pioneering their fields http://www.whatthebleep.com/scientists/ ). Perhaps these scientists will disprove that randomized control trials are the only way to prove something exists and create a new scientific framework where alternative medicines can be evaluated in a fair and representative manner.

Until that time, I urge CBC to examine this episode in detail and bring an equitable and balanced viewpoint to the foreground in this and all future programming. To do otherwise risks not only your credibility as a trusted organization, but by misrepresenting a health practice – you are misinforming the Canadian public about arguably the most important public issue of our time, our health.


Ellen Simone, Naturopathic Doctor