It's a word that gets them every time - because, to them, it's unscientific, it's witchcraft, and it's a return to the dark ages and superstition.
They were turning purple again last week after the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decided to allow manufacturers of homeopathic remedies to specify the ailments for which they have been traditionally used. Nothing too serious, mind you, nothing like 'cancer' or 'heart disease', just the mild irritations of life such as colds, cough and hay fever.
Still, that was enough to get the purple brigade going. Six hundred doctors have signed a statement that says homeopathic remedies should not be allowed to make "unsubstantiated health claims", and that the MHRA move is "damaging to patients' best interests" (huh?).
The petition was organised by a group called Sense About Science (motto: Let's stay unpurple), whose chairman Lord Dick Taverne pontificated that "evidence-based medicine has been a major public gain of the 20th century (music swells). This is the first time, since the thalidomide tragedy, that the regulation of medicines has moved away from the science rather than towards it."
So being able to state that a homeopathic remedy might, just possibly, help a little bit with your cold, is the worst thing to happen in medicine since thalidomide? You say these sorts of things when you're really, really purple.
In all, 12 national societies have protested against the MHRA decision. The Royal College of Pathologists were "deeply alarmed" as were the other 11, apparently.
As we say, great fun. Teach the kids, too, for that special day of family amusement that you'll all fondly look back on in years to come.
(BBC website, 25 October 2006).
E-news broadcast 2 November 2006 No.306 [Subscribe]