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Homeopathy challenged in House of Lords debate

BHA Distinguished Supporter and All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) member Lord Taverne has challenged the Government on the use of homeopathy in the NHS.  Lord Taverne took part in a House of Lords debate on homeopathy on Tuesday, and asked a question about the removal of evidence-based advice on homeopathy from the NHS Choices website.  Earl Howe, speaking on behalf of the Government, acknowledged that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, but disappointingly did not support an end to the use of homeopathy on the NHS.

Lord Taverne’s question was ‘To ask Her Majesty’s Government why the Department of Health removed from the NHS Choices website the advice that there was no good quality evidence to show that homeopathy was more successful than placebo.’  Earl Howe, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Health, replied that this advice was removed from the website after a review of the NHS Choices pages on homeopathy, but that ‘following concerns that the changes were unclear, NHS Choices has further clarified this information’.

Lord Taverne welcomed the fact that the original passage on homeopathy had been restored, but pointed out that it was originally deleted by officials after lobbying by a charity founded by the Prince of Wales (this was revealed by Freedom of Information requests).  He then asked: ‘Will he [Earl Howe] assure the House that the policy of the Department of Health is to promote evidence-based medicine and not treatment based on nothing but water?’  Earl Howe said that he would look into the matter.  During the debate, Earl Howe also referred to the 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy which said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and said that ‘It is important to emphasise that message.’  However, he then contradicted this by saying that ‘On the other hand, many people have found benefit from homeopathic medicines and, in a way, that is their privilege and right.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

House of Lords, Tuesday, 19 March 2013 – Homeopathy:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130319-0001.htm#13031964001340

The Guardian – Stop homeopathy funding, says Commons committee:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/22/stop-homeopathy-funding-commons

England’s chief medical officer tells Commons Science and Technology committee that homeopathy is ‘rubbish’:
http://humanism.org.uk/2013/01/24/englands-chief-medical-officer-tells-commons-science-and-technology-committee-that-homeopathy-is-rubbish/

The BHA’s campaign on homeopathy:
http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/homeopathy/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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