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.