“Saving A Lost Generation” – Autism and Homeopathy

December 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm (Homeopathy) (, )

Just thought I’d share a few thoughts that came to mind when I read about the advertisement documentary being made by homeopath and filmmaker Carol Boyce. The Hpathy website gives us an idea of what the film is about:

At rates approaching 1 in 100, we are at risk of losing a generation of children to the pandemic of autism. The pandemic needs options…homeopaths have them and the public needs to know.

Homeopaths around the world are having success reversing Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some parents we contacted declined to be filmed (even though after homeopathic treatment their children no longer fall under the diagnosis of ASD), because the educational stigma of even a past diagnosis is still so strong.

Oh, FFS. Where to start? Well, for one thing the language used seems a bit dubious to me. If you say that “we are at risk of losing a generation of children to the pandemic of autism” then aren’t you implying an awful lot? That autism is something you “lose your children to”, rather than being a different way of seeing the world; that autism is a disease; not to mention the implication that there is actually an epidemic of this disease that spreads over a very wide area, such as an entire country or continent. It seems to me that there is also an implication that autism is rising dramatically – after all, if it were normal for populations to have levels of autism as high as the quoted 1 in 100 then it would surely be endemic rather than pandemic or epidemic? [In the words of wisegeek.com, “An epidemic is defined by an illness or health-related issue that is showing up in more cases than would be normally expected. However, in the case of a pandemic, even more of the population is affected than in an epidemic.”] This view of rates of autism does not take into account changes in diagnosis – see this paper for more on diagnostic substitution.

The fact that homeopathy has not been shown to be effective for any single condition is another point that we could pick up on. In other words, it doesn’t work. There is no such thing as magic water – nor is there such a thing as magic sugar pills that remember what was in the magic water that was dripped onto them. See here for more on homeopathy – includes references. Perhaps Ben Goldacre will one day reveal his in-joke and tell us why he quotes those five meta analyses in particular. Enquiring minds want to know.

Yet another thing we could look at is the reference to the stigma of an autism diagnosis. Does a film that looks at “saving a lost generation” help to destigmatise autism? If you’re suggesting that not only is there a lost generation of autistics, but that they need saving then perhaps you should at least find out what people with autism actually think about that? Who has been asked to give an opinion on the premise of this film?

“The homeopathic community urgently needs this kind of production and I am really happy you are doing it!” – Jeremy Sherr FS Hom

“This footage shows brilliantly the depth and breadth of how and where homeopathy can help.” – Miranda Castro FS Hom

Ah, so they’ve canvassed the opinion of Homeopaths rather than Autistics, then.

Perhaps the most striking claim is that “Homeopaths around the world are having success reversing Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).” If this is true then where’s the evidence? “Reversing ASD” with homeopathy is the kind of thing that would get you a Nobel prize and a million dollars from Randi – if it were true. Let’s see what Pubmed tells us. A search for homeopathy and autism brings up one paper. The authors state that

Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies are commonly used by parents for their children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorders. The use of these therapies is well documented, yet the evidence of the safety and efficacy of these treatments in children is limited.

There is nothing on Pubmed to indicate that homeopathy might be useful for autistics. Claims that homeopathy may reverse autism have no basis in fact and can be safely ignored.

As for the film, it strikes me that this looks like nothing more than a shameless attempt to use autistic children and their families in orer to advertise homeopathy. If Carol Boyce is genuinely making this film in order to try to help autistics and their families then I think she is barking up the wrong tree.

47 Comments

  1. draust said,

    “Homeopaths around the world are having success reversing Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”

    AKA:

    “Just because kids are on the autistic spectrum does NOT mean they do not show development”

    “Duh!”

    *Sound of heard repeatedly hitting plank of wood*

    As Orac would say: “The stupid… it burns!”

    For a classic deconstruction of the Alternative Practitioner handbook of autism myths try this one from Prometheus.

  2. draust said,

    PS See particularly Prometheus’ section entitled “Time Is On MY Side”

  3. Kev said,

    Great piece – thank you.

  4. Sharon said,

    I could kiss you for this, hope that idea isn’t too scary or stomach churning.

    Perhaps it’s better if I just say thanks.

  5. Maria said,

    Many thanks for a supberb piece. I’ve posted a link on TH forum here:

    http://www.thinkhumanism.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=640&p=45079#p45079

  6. Teek said,

    cracking post jdc325.

    it’s bad enough to label children with ASD as being ‘lost,’ but to imply that special water containing diluted nothing can help is not just absurd, it’s plain nasty. Parents with autistic children, partly driven by the stigmatisation shown here, are desperate to try any ‘interventions’ that people claim could help their child. claiming that homeopathy can have any effect simply increases the possibility that these parents enter a cycle of raised expectations and eventual disappointment.

  7. jdc325 said,

    DrAust – thanks for the Photon in the Darkness link, I’d not seen that post before.

    Kev, Sharon – thanks for your kind words.

  8. jdc325 said,

    Maria – thanks for your comment. I don’t think I’d visited Think Humanism before, looks like a decent forum.

    Teek – well put. (And thanks for your generous praise – this seems to be one of my more popular posts!)

  9. stavros said,

    Alright! So, after “Expelled” we are now going to have another film promoting a major pseudo-scientific cause possibly using yet again the “oppressed” and “conspiracy” cards! I can’t wait…

  10. draust said,

    Yes, stir equal parts “oppressed” and “conspiracy!” together for a splendid broth of paranoid nonsense.

    Personally I’m waiting for a movie funded by the Dr Rath Health Foundation about the S African AIDS crisis. Herr Dr Mathias will play the persecuted hero figure, naturally.

    Don’t say it too loud, though, you may give them ideas.

  11. The Gonzo Girl said,

    Thanks so much for writing this, and pointing out, how these quacks are not only deluded, but truly vile, it is so obvious, how it’s always the quacks, who talk of an autism epidemic, what a terrible disease it is, and that ordinary development is a “reversal” of autism.

    It’s quite telling that in this footage, a worried father described his autistic sons as a “spinner” and a “tapper” (in reference to harmless stimming) and he “can not accept his children being autistic” because he thinks that means they “would not have a life”.
    This idea, he got from seeing “Rainman”.
    All that he knows about autism is from a movie???
    Obviously Carol Boyce did nothing to rectify his warped views on autism, but then this film is all about spreading warped vews on autism anyways.

    Someone who’s out to help autistic children would naturally tell their parents what it’s like to be autistic, that it means we may need help and assistance, but not a “cure”, but this vile asshole, who’s just out to sell her diluted tapwater treatments for a bleeding fortune, claims these harmless behaviours are symptoms of a shocking disease, and that quack treatment is necessary for several years to show progress, convenient really, because, like DrAust said, within several years every kid will make some progress, autistic, or not.

  12. The Gonzo Girl said,

    I just read Prometheus brilliant article on alternative autism treatments, and realized, how in my comment above, I pointed out some of the same things he did, in my own clumsy wording.
    This just shows, how obvious this pattern is, that alternative practitioners stick to.

  13. lisadom said,

    oh sweet jebus save us from this shite.

    There is a poster calling themselves “remedy” who dives into threads on the Rollercoaster.ie special needs discussion board, threads like “delayed speech – what do I do?” And ” “Please help me, I think it is A.S” and suggests guess what:
    HOMEOPATHY.
    All speech disorders are caused by damage in the birthcanal (apparently) and all behavioural and other developmental delay issues can be solved by homeopathy according to this wan.

    Normally I would be live and let live about this stuff; but the parents who post on this board are usually at the very first stages of looking for information about ASDs and are pretty vulnerable; so it seems exploitative at the very least to be reading such threads and looking for opportunities to post a reply that points to Homeopathy.

    The really sad thing is that so many people who I would otherwise respect believe this stuff. You have a serious inner ear infection and cannot raise your head without spinning? Here, take some echinacea. Fur fecks sake!

    It is like finding out your best friend is a scientologist, and just wants you to come to this great meeting to you know, get your personality audited and rebuilt.

    Thankyou. One more of us.
    xx

  14. alyric said,

    Thanks

    Great post:)

  15. Dr. Nancy Malik said,

    Homeopathy cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails

  16. jdc325 said,

    Dr Nancy Malik’s comment seems familiar. There’s a reason for that: it is a standard reply to any criticism of homeopathy that is used by Dr Malik as an alternative to engaging with the issues addressed in the critical blog post. I googled the exact phrase and got 28 hits (Linky). Which became 15 when Google “omitted some entries very similar to the ones displayed”. I suspect that Dr Malik doesn’t bother to read the actual criticisms and simply responds to what she imagines the blogger might have written.

    On the plus side, I’ve found some new blogs. Brent Norris thinks that “Homeopathy is bullshit”; stupidevilbastard.com has a post on Homeopathic remedies doing “jack shit”; while Freemania has a post titled “Homeopathy – there’s nothing in it”; and Dr Rant relates an amusing line from a column in Pulse – home truths.

  17. Neuroskeptic said,

    I quite like that new definition of CAM though. I’m all in favor of CAM…the good kind of CAM that is.

  18. Nash said,

  19. Alan Henness said,

    Nancy Malik said: “Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM)”

    LOL! If you can’t win, move the goal posts and change the terms of reference!

    We’re having a ‘discussion’ with her on our forum, but it’s difficult discussing anything with someone who just doesn’t get what science or the scientific method really are and why that’s the best way to look at the world.

  20. EnjoyMedia said,

    It doesn’t matter that kind of medicine one is using as long as it has the desired effect.

  21. jdc325 said,

    That’s kind-of the point: homeopathy doesn’t work.

  22. Targets: Aids, Cancer, Autism and Dyslexia « jdc325’s Weblog said,

    […] Sometimes with tragic consequences. And sometimes the attempts at a cure are, in my opinion, offensive and ignorant rather than dangerous. Patrick Holford has a chapter on autism in his book Optimum Nutrition for […]

  23. Dr. Nancy Malik said,

    Homeopathy: Micro Doses Mega Results

  24. jdc325 said,

    Hello again Dr Nancy. I note that there is one result on Pubmed for “homeopathy” and “autism” (PMID: 18061787). It doesn’t specifically examine homeopathy as a ‘treatment’ for autism, but looks at SCAM (Serious Complementary and Alternative Medicine) treatments for autism or ADHD. I note that the authors write: “use of these therapies is well documented, yet the evidence of the safety and efficacy of these treatments in children is limited”. Given that this post is about homeopathy as a purported ‘treatment’ for autism, would you like to comment on the substance of this post or the lack of published research into homeopathy and autism rather than leave silly messages that are barely relevant to the post you are commenting on?

    Also – I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a thread on the Think Humanism forum relating to an experiment you apparently proposed that you believe will show a difference between a homoeopathic preparation and plain water. They’ve been waiting about two months for a response from you. Perhaps you would like to respond?

    PS – if the results are as “mega” as you suggest, how come researchers are unable to spot them? I note that Shang et al state that the findings of their meta analysis are “compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects”.

  25. paolov said,

    Great post jdc325, if only the SCAMers would actually read it and understand it instead of just staying long enough to leave puerile messages that are barefaced and irresponsible lies.

    Just in case Nancy pops back to leave another little skidmark of bullshit on this otherwise shiny example of reason – we at TH are still waiting Nancy…

  26. jdc325 said,

    Thanks Paolo. I may steal your “skidmark of bullshit” remark for use in case of future drive-by comments. (I think “pithy” is the word I’m looking for.)

  27. paolov said,

    No need to steal it, consider it a gift – I was quite pleased with the “pithyness” of it myself. I think I may start using it as a stock response for creationists who leave their sad little skid marks when they do a driveby post on science articles…

  28. Zeno said,

    Homeopaths: Micro science knowledge, mega egos.

  29. Dr. Nancy Malik said,

    Homeopathy is evidence based modern medicine for the 21st century
    whereas
    SCAM stands for Serious Conventional Allopathic Medicine

  30. zeno said,

    Nancy

    Have you completely forgotten the trial you proposed four months ago to test homeopathy?

    http://www.thinkhumanism.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2871

    Don’t you have the conviction or integrity to follow this through? Or don’t you believe in homeopathy?

  31. jdc325 said,

    “Homeopathy is evidence based modern medicine for the 21st century
    whereas
    SCAM stands for Serious Conventional Allopathic Medicine”

    That has to be one of the funniest comments I’ve ever had on this blog. I don’t even know where to begin. Should I ask Nancy to justify her bizarre claim that homeopathy is evidence-based? Do I start by pointing out that homeopathy, far from being modern, is based on outdated and discredited concepts? Or do I simply laugh at Nancy’s continuing use of silly redefinitions of acronyms as a ‘debating tactic’?

    Or perhaps I should complain about Nancy’s failure to address a single one of the points I raised in my comment of 18th May? She is clearly here to conduct a thrity second drive-by rather than make any substantial points, or reply to anything that anybody else has raised. Is it fair to say that you have zero interest in debate, Nancy?

  32. Dr. Nancy Malik said,

    Not every physician is a homeopath physician, and not every medicine is allopathic

  33. jdc325 said,

    I’m starting to wonder if Dr Nancy’s posts are composed by an automated program – a bit like that PoMo English paper title generator. Would anyone care to guess at what the point of Dr Nancy’s latest comment is?

  34. Zeno said,

    Nancy

    Still not interested in following through on the claim you made about your homeopathy, then?

    http://www.thinkhumanism.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2871

  35. Examples of Homeopathic Debate « jdc325's Weblog said,

    […] this commenter first responded to one of my posts, I googled the exact phrase as it seemed familiar to me. I got 15 hits once Google had omitted the […]

  36. Rowan Lewis said,

    Hey, I know I’m a little late to this, but there is at least one condition homeopathic remedies actually have been proven to help – dehydration. I think it was very unfair of you to not point this out.

    :)

  37. jdc325 said,

    Nicely done Rowan. Am now trying to think of a legitimate use of sugar pills.

  38. The Evidence Check on Homeopathy – a merciless punch to its vitalist organs (despite attempts to water down report) « gimpy’s blog said,

    […] Stewart was lobbied hard by Carol Boyce, a homeopath who believes it can cure autism, to oppose the report.  She claims that “Mr Stewart made a valiant attempt to to bring […]

  39. Beth L Lee - Natural Therapeutics said,

    It does seem difficult to understand: “the less = more”; that something more dilute is actually stronger, but my 25 years of using homeopathics for myself and my own family, has made me a strong beliver. I would not want to be without them. Anyway, for the sake of children and their over-stressed families, it is worth a significant trial.

  40. jdc325 said,

    “Anyway, for the sake of children and their over-stressed families, it is worth a significant trial.”
    I happen to think that trials should be conducted *before* practitioners begin treating people – I am not in favour of untested remedies. If homeopaths want to treat autism, the trial should come before treatment of the general public, rather than being an afterthought.

    “It does seem difficult to understand: “the less = more”; that something more dilute is actually stronger, but my 25 years of using homeopathics for myself and my own family, has made me a strong beliver. I would not want to be without them.”
    But after 12C, you aren’t getting “less” of the active ingredient – you are almost certainly getting “none”. To argue for highly-dilute homeopathic remedies, you have to be convinced that “none = more”. In fact, the less=more argument for homeopathy isn’t that difficult to understand – it is, however, utterly implausible.

  41. Nancy Malik said,

    Studies in support of Homeopathy published in reputed journals

    1. Scientific World Journal

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17982565

    2. Lancet

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9310601

    3. Neuro Psycho Pharmacology
    http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v27/n2/abs/1395862a.html // Bacopa Monnieri for memory

  42. jdc325 said,

    Hi Nancy,

    I’m afraid you’ve just failed the Linde Test.

    “The Linde Test” If a homeopath cites Linde 1997 and fails to mention the full conclusion and the later Linde 1999 update, they FAIL!

  43. Nancy Malik said,

    Hello JDC

    What about Kleijnen test?

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/short/302/6772/316

  44. jdc325 said,

    Here are the conclusions of the 1991 paper that Nancy links to:

    At the moment the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias. This indicates that there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homoeopathy, but only by means of well performed trials.

    Since then, several meta analyses have found that the effects of homeopathy are compatible with placebo. See, for example, Shang et al 2005: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589

    Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.

    tldr: Conventional interventions work, homeopathy doesn’t.

    Note: Hawk/Handsaw has responded to Nancy’s original comment (which has now appeared on several blogs) – linky.

  45. Blog Interviewer said,

    Homeopathy in Cuba – Gustavo Bracho exclusive interview on the ……

    We’ve linked to you on BlogInterviewer.com . Could you put a link back to us?…

  46. Nancy Malik said,

    130+ studies in support of homeopathy medicine published in 45+ peer-reviewed international journals

    Medicines for specific disease conditions, Ultra-molecular dilutions, Structure & Memory of Water, Animal Studies, Plant Studies

    http://knol.google.com/k/dr-nancy-malik-bhms/scientific-research-in-homeopathy/pocy7w49ru14/2#

  47. nobby said,

    oooh nancy i think you need to take a look at this great piece of work by xtaldave. he has done what you have not and read them…or at least the ones that were available.

    http://xtaldave.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/scientific-evidence-for-homeopathy-2/

    are you going to update your knol now to incorperate the new information?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: