On 5 March 2011 I sent a complaint to the ASA regarding the website content of homeopath Helen Saunders. This was done for a number of reasons:
First: This was done because homeopathy lacks any reliable evidence to support the claims being made. Those claims range from minor, self limiting conditions, through to far more serious ones and these claims need to be challenged.
Second: This was done in support of the Nightingale Collaboration who seek to challenge misleading claims. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can play a small part in supporting this organisation and I would urge others to visit the site and get involved.
Homeopaths along with all other CAM practitioners regularly complain that the rules are unfair and shouldn’t apply to them, or that the evidence required is the wrong sort of evidence. What they need to remember is that these rules apply to everyone …… CAM is not a special case, there is no reason why the rules shouldn’t apply to your claims in the same way they apply to everybody else.
Third: I have had dealings with this homeopath before over homeopathic vaccination alternatives, advice & remedies for serious tropical diseases like malaria and Typhoid. Homeopath(et)ic Travel Advice The danger in offering ineffective sugar pills to protect against potentially life threatening diseases is abundantly clear!
I felt that there were a number of areas where Helen Saunders website was making misleading claims and in breach of the ASA guidelines.
The main page made the claim:
“It is also helpful in transitional periods such as the menopause (it can provide a natural and effective alternative to HRT) and life changing situations such as pregnancy and childbirth.“
As in the travel advice she had previously offered me …. she is offering homeopathy as an effective alternative without any evidence to substantiate it
Other pages includes claims that said:
“Homeopathic treatment during pregnancy promotes healthy development of the baby before birth and helps to keep the mother in good health“
If you are going to claim that your little sugar pills can help support the healthy development of an unborn child, then you’re going to need to prove it! The page continued, claiming to be able to help everything from sore nipples and nappy rash, through to asthma, allergies, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and endometriosis. What was lacking was any form of evidence for any of these conditions.
A copy of the page was saved (using Freezepage) here: homeopathy4health
Obviously the ASA have been in contact and something of a change seems to have taken place! Once all the false claims have been removed, there isn’t much left.
A record of the changes can be found here: https://www.changedetection.com/log/uk/org/homeopathy4health/saunders_log.html (Click on the ‘view changes’ for more detail)
Other areas of her website have also changed, the HRT claim has gone from the main page and many of the pages now contain disclaimers like
“IN THIS CONTEXT AND WHERE MENTIONED ON THIS WEBSITE THE WORD “TREATMENT” OR “TREAT” IN NO WAY PROMISES OR IMPLIES CURE BUT AN ANALYSIS OF THE CASE AND SUGGESTIONS FOR A HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY/S”
“IN THIS CONTEXT AND WHERE MENTIONED ON THIS WEBSITE THE WORD “SYMPTOMS” DOES NOT REFER TO SYMPTOMS AS RECOGNISED BY THE MEDICAL PROFESSION BUT SYMPTOMS AS RECOGNISED BY HOMEOPATHIC PHILOSOPHY”
Now I’m not sure how the ASA view these sort of disclaimers. But it seems the best homeopaths can offer is no prospect of a cure for symptoms not recognised by medical professionals!
Current version of her website: http://www.homeopathy4health.org.uk/
Helen Saunders is a registered member of the Society of Homeopaths and claims to practice in accordance with their Code of Ethics, something she was clearly not doing. Their Code of Ethics on Advertising and Media states:
38 All advertising must be published in a way that conforms to the law and to (the guidance issued in the British Code of Advertising Practice).
If the information had complied with the CAP Codes, there would be no need to change it!
39 Professional advertising must be factual and not seek to mislead or deceive, or make unrealistic or extravagant claims. Advertising may indicate special interests but must not make claims of superiority or disparage professional colleagues or other professionals. No promise of cure, either implicit or explicit,should be made of any named disease. All research should be presented clearly and honestly and without distortion, all speculative theories will be stated as such and clearly distinguished.
The information on this site was not certainly not factual and was making extravagant and unrealistic claims, so was therefore misleading. In offering to treat numerous named conditions it certainly implied a cure. Research for any of the conditions totally lacking, let alone clearly and honestly presented.
This homeopath was clearly in breach of the code of ethics she had signed up to. Helen Saunders is not alone here there are many more homeopaths who are registered with the Society Of Homeopaths (or other associations) who make claims of a similar nature … or worse.
The Society of Homeopaths must surely be aware that their members are making these claims, yet they do nothing to ensure their members comply with the code If their members do not voluntarily abide by their code and the Society of Homeopaths take no action to enforce it …….. then their code is meaningless.