CAM Codes – A question of Professionalism and Ethics

Posted on July 6, 2012

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A little over 3 weeks ago I did a post on Homeopathy Awareness Week where I looked at some of the website claims being made by homeopaths who are members of the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) and the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH) and how these claims breached their own Code of Ethics and Practice.  Awareness should cover all aspects of homeopathy, not just the propaganda!

This is not primarily about ASA/CAP regulations, this is about their own professional codes.  The introduction to these codes state:

SoH:  The aim of the Code of Ethics and Practice is to encourage integrity and responsibility in the practice of homeopathy. Homeopaths should conduct themselves with truthfulness and dignity at all times in relation to their dealings with patients, and colleagues.

ARH:  This Code of Ethics and Practice describes the standards of conduct and practice the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH) expects of its registrants.

Ethics, integrity, responsibility and truthfulness – Fine words indeed.

Both the SoH and ARH call these codes a code of Ethics and Practice.  So we should question the professionalism and ethics of any homeopath who deliberately and repeatedly breaks these rules and we should also ask the same questions of any organisation that knowingly permits members to  act in this way.

I said I would contact the SoH and ARH to see what action, if any, they would take to ensure their members acted in accordance with their respective codes.    In both cases they were informed that this was NOT a formal complaint and that I was simply making them aware of the situation and giving them an opportunity to resolve the matter informally.

I did point out that should they fail to uphold the integrity of their own code then it may leave their members exposed to the possibility of further action (Trading Standards).  I also stated that I would revisit the websites concerned on or around the 1 July.

Society of Homeopaths:  The SoH were contacted about the claims being made on the websites of  Doy Dalling  and Madeline Grove.  The initial response from the SoH was encouraging, even if it didn’t really acknowledge the main issue:

“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention, I will contact the homeopaths and advise them to have their copy checked by the CAP.”

The homeopaths would be contacted – Good!     Advised to have their advertising checked by the CAP – Good!.   All very positive stuff, but there was something missing (at least in their response to me) and that was any mention of their own code. I replied to the SoH that I welcomed this advice:

“However, I do feel that in addition to simply offering advice, the SoH are in a position to insist that your member also complies with the Code to which they are professionally committed to abide by.”

 There was no response to this email.   I have no idea exactly what the SoH said to its members, but let’s have a look at the results:

Doy Dalling’s website remains unchanged, the site still lists a everything from headaches and autism to depression and dyslexia. Should we be questioning her ethics or the professionalism of the SoH ….. or both!

Before: http://www.freezepage.com/1339768766JRZHRBDZZB (15 June 2012)

Current: http://www.homeopathyworks.org.uk/homeopathy.html  (Checked 6 July 2012)

Madeline Grove on the other hand did make some changes.  She took the opportunity to remove claims for a number of named conditions and also the statement that homeopathy can be used as an alternative to vaccination, however she failed to remove the reference to malaria in her homeopathic travel kit.  Perhaps this was just an oversight and will be corrected shortly.

Before: http://www.freezepage.com/1339768869CBBKAQJITM (15 June 2012)

“People seek treatment for various conditions including asthma, eczema, fertility, menopause and menstrual problems, M.E., arthritis, headaches, anxiety. It is used by many as an alternative to vaccination”

After: http://madeleinegrove.com/?page_id=2 (Checked 6 July 2012)

Alliance of Registered Homeopaths:   I will admit that I wasn’t sure if I’d even get a response from the ARH, but a couple of days after contacting them Karin Mont (ARH Chair) replied. Despite me clearly stating that I wished this matter to be dealt with informally, she said:

Please note that any concern raised by a member of the public in relation to a registered member of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths must be made in writing, on letter headed paper, and sent via the post.

Well at least I could be sure that they had read my email, but I wanted to make my reasons for contacting them perfectly clear. I told them that I would take her reply as confirmation that the ARH were aware of my concerns and that if I wanted to raise the matter as a formal complaint I would indeed submit it in the manner suggested, however ….

In the meantime, I will leave you to act in a manner that best fits the professionalism of the ARH (with respect to compliance with your Code) and in a way that represents the best interests of your member.

A friendly phone call or the forwarding of my emails may be all that is required. You may feel that the interests of the ARH are best served by doing nothing, this would be unfortunate as it leaves you member exposed to the possibility of a complaint, a situation that is totally avoidable.

Initially I heard nothing back from this email, however eventually I was told that Wenda Holland had been informed of my communication.  At around the same time Wenda Holland made changes to her website, removing the conditions listed on both of the pages I highlighted:

Before: http://www.freezepage.com/1339768587HHSISLLZOZ   & http://www.freezepage.com/1339768720MRTQEVIGFV

After: http://www.wendahomeopathy.co.uk/ & http://www.wendahomeopathy.co.uk/phdi/p1.nsf/supppages/3875?opendocument&part=2  (Checked 6 July 2012)

Gone are all the ADHD, Eczema and Threatened Miscarriage claims, gone are the claims to treat Alzheimer’s, Autism, Thyroid and Addiction problems.

There is little doubt that the removal of these claims is a positive step,  this raises a number of associated issues.

Some of the claims made by SoH members have not been removed (particularly Doy Dalling).   Both the SoH and the individual homeopaths are aware that there are still breaches to their Code of Ethics and Practice.  So how will the SoH deal with this ?  Will they simply allow this to go on or will they do what any professional body would do and insist on adherence to the code ( I will be contacting them shortly to ask)

On a wider scale, there is the fact that both the ARH and SoH are aware that many of their members are making claims that breach their respective codes, yet they seem to turn a blind eye unless contacted directly about each individual case.  This sets a very poor example for a profession that constantly seeks wider acceptance, accreditation and even ‘regulation’.

During my contact with the SoH and ARH they seemed willing to do little more than ‘advise’ about CAP compliance whilst totally failing to address the fact that many members routinely fail to uphold their own standards of ethics and professionalism!

The Codes of both organisations contain wording that clearly states that each member has:

agreed to observe and be bound by and observe the Code of Ethics and Practice”

I guess that for individual homeopaths and the trade associations alike, it’s all a question of  Ethics !

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Posted in: CAM, Homeopathy, Quackery