Where's the beef?
February 19th 2008, 12:10Recently, homeopathic hospitals across Britain have had their funding withdrawn because of the claim that homeopathy lacks the proof of modern 'evidence-based medicine'. I've turned my usual column over to master homeopath and naturopath Dr Harald Gaier for his response.-Lynne McTaggart
The bedrock of modern conventional medicine is the principle of causality, the idea that if we fully know the present, we can then predict the future. Yet, causality has been challenged by Heisenberg's 'uncertainty principle', which says that, as you can't truly define all aspects of matter on a subatomic level, the law of causality doesn't hold. This is in accord with one of the most basic tenets of naturopathy: that disease is
only possible if a combination of preconditions is present such as impaired resistance, diminished vital energy, the presence of toxins, parasites or nutritional imbalances, dietary or other abuses and psychogenic stress.
As Professor Stuart Close, the eminent philosopher of homeopathy, explained, "The fatal tendency in . . . medical research to focus attention and effort upon one cause to the exclusion of all others inevitably leads to error and failure . . . Any successful method of treatment must be able to meet all the conditions arising from any existing combination of the causes."
So how does Orthodox Medicine arrive at the cause or, more important, its 'evidence-based' medications? Conventional medicine believes that it is possible to generalize the responses of more than one patient, as individual unpredictabilities will then cancel each other out if a large-enough group is analyzed. So, the higher the number of patients in the generalization, the more broadly established it becomes. That is the rationale behind medicine's 'gold-standard' randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Nevertheless, such an approach is fundamentally flawed. When testing drugs, medicine obliterates the causal elements in patients by submerging them in a sea of other people, all of whom are being collectively tested. From these data, medicine derives a generalized, homogenized result. But this result, by definition, is inexact for any given individual.
When a broadly tested agent is dispensed to an individual patient, laden with diverse unpredictabilities (as individuals always are), doctors are then surprised by the individual response, which can vary to a little or large extent from the expected, published and statistically significant, generalized and homogenized one.
In short, orthodox evidence-based medicine takes individual patients with their idiosyncrasies, places them in a crowd of other patients to obliterate these differences, and hopes to obtain a lowest-common-denominator' result. When it does, it then uses this result to treat each idiosyncratic patient, who is far removed from the 'lowest-commondenominator' patient-who is, after all, a fiction created solely by clinical methodology.
Any naturopath worth his salt would call this inappropriate prescribing. Naturopaths treat individual patients, not disease categories. This difference in approach calls into question the very foundations of conventional medicine-the concept of 'best practice', based as it is on the vagaries of medical science's flawed experimental models.
So, to put it most simply, the questions that need to be asked are not only where's the evidence in the standard medical model, but where's the evidence that so-called evidence-based data offer any genuine proof of effective treatment?
Dr Gaier, also an osteopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London, and the Irish Centre of Integrated Medicine, Co. Kildare (www.drgaier.com).