Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Monday, 28 May 2018

The Society of Homeopaths agrees that it's unethical to claim to cure autism with CEASE

Pic credit: Water, aka Abstract Aqua Background from Pixabay

Several people have complained to the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) about their members (lay homeopaths with no medical training) making claims on their websites to cure or treat autism in children using a form of treatment (CEASE therapy aka Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression). The treatment is likely to cause harm to these vulnerable customers.

After my own complaint to the SoH (Nov 2017) I kept an eye on the five websites I'd reported but when no changes were made to any of them that would have addressed my complaints I raised the matter with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). The PSA accredits the SoH's members' register (people who are entitled to call themselves RSHom).

For the latest round of reaccreditation the PSA imposed a condition (as well as some suggested recommendations) on the SoH with the risk that their accreditation would be cancelled if the condition wasn't met. This was the condition -
"The PSA panel imposed one condition (p2 of the document linked above) - to improve governance on CEASE therapists and advertising (if this is not met then accreditation may be rescinded). The condition has three parts: (i) a position statement on CEASE therapy and on its advertising by homeopath members, (ii) develop some mechanism to ensure that homeopath members offering CEASE don't breach the Society's Code of Ethics, (iii) review the risks relating to CEASE therapy (and other treatments too)." Source: Better monitoring of homeopaths advertising CEASE therapy for autism in the UK - hooray (my earlier post).

On Friday 25 May the PSA wrote to me to let me know that the SoH had met this condition, and that they had published a position statement on their website making it clear that homeopaths should not claim that they can cure autism and that writing out the full name of CEASE therapy (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) is problematic as the name itself implies a cure
"A number of Society members have been trained in CEASE and make reference to it in their marketing. While this is acceptable, members should be aware the title, meaning ‘Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression’ is misleading. RSHoms must not suggest that they are capable of a complete cure of autism as this would be unethical and in breach of the Code of Ethics.

The Society does not endorse any aspects of CEASE therapy contrary to NHS guidance and nor should RSHoms. In particular on vaccination, homeopathic prophylaxis, and the use of dietary supplements. It is beyond standard homeopathic practice to provide advice on the use of supplements and therefore any guidance given should be in line with the NHS Guidelines." SoH's position statement

As far as I can tell ALL aspects of CEASE therapy are contrary to NHS guidance and there is no mention of the fact that homeopaths have no business treating anyone with autism. Hopefully after the Bank Holiday the SoH will communicate this update to the relevant RSHoms.

I'm not sure how long it will take though for the misinformation to be removed from the homeopaths websites though.

I can't actually take any credit for this because the complaint I put in to the PSA was after they were well along in their decision-making on the conditions for the SoH's reaccreditation. Much of the credit goes to @UKHomeopathyReg (blog) who has also kept the media (both in UK and North America) informed of the problem of homeopaths attempting to treat autism. Stopping homeopaths from claiming to cure autism is one (good) thing but raising public awareness that they've never been able to do this goes along way too.

Further reading
More than 120 homeopaths trying to ‘cure’ autism in UK (27 April 2018) The Guardian
Exclusive: the ‘cure’ involves detoxing children of vaccines and antibiotics held responsible for the condition

Complaints levelled at B.C. naturopaths offering 'complete elimination' of autism (24 May 2018) CBC
3 practitioners offering unproven therapy are subjects of complaint to College of Naturopathic Physicians

Further background
The Society of Homeopaths has a register of homeopaths (who may use the title RSHom) and this register is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. Accreditation does not, and is not meant to, imply that homeopathy is a valid system of medicine (it isn't), simply that the people who've signed up to be RSHoms have insurance and have agreed to follow a code of ethics.

Since the general public may not realise what accreditation means (perhaps believing it to be more of an endorsement than it actually is) there have been a lot of raised eyed mutterings over the strangeness of accreditation.

Some RSHoms (and some other non RSHom homeopaths) claim that they can cure autism by using CEASE therapy. The treatment is potentially very harmful to children with autism, requiring them to take dietary supplements (including high doses of Vitamin C) as well as following a restricted diet. The use of homeopathy alongside this is a bit of a red herring, it is just one component but not the main thing.

Children with autism are vulnerable, as are their parents and carers, to harms done by well-meaning people who offer bad advice. There are concerns that these homeopaths are acting well beyond their competency and putting kids' health at risk - this is really a safeguarding issue. I've no idea if the therapists have appropriate training in caring for children with autism or have passed the DBS check.

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).