Very often defenders of homeopathy address us with a statement like this. “No orthodox doctor could help me, but the homeopathic doctor/healer cured me practically immediately with only little few globules.” The unspoken – occasionally spoken – question then is: “How do you explain that?”
Do we have to explain it?
Such claims are very (it’s okay to say highly) improbable from a scientific point of view. So, according to the rules of the scientific burden of proof, if someone has to explain it, it would be the person making the claim – not ourselves. This starts with “orthodox medicine did not help” and continues with “homeopathy did”. For these are two assertions that must first of all be considered separately from each other.
And this also makes it clear that “we” cannot explain or answer such “questions”, because we do not know all the relevant factors – we have never experienced that such a questioner has ever told us.
The anamnesis, the indispensable prerequisite for a well-founded opinion, is therefore – just like the findings – certainly incomplete. The lists of treating (specialist) doctors, laboratory values, examination findings and diagnoses, medication plans and therapy suggestions including medical lifestyle advice: diets, sports, physiotherapy or psychotherapy are not communicated. (Lifestyle advice such as abstaining from smoking and alcohol, more exercise, etc. are unpopular measures and are often not carried out at all, even though they make medical sense – the failure is then “blamed” on the practitioner).
Of course, the unspoken purpose of the question is to discredit scientific medicine and to ennoble homeopathy. For this purpose, one cannot accept an incomplete, subjective – or perhaps even tendentious with purposefully selected data – individual case. In order to answer such crucial questions, the general practitioner, an internist, a laboratory physician, a radiologist, if required a surgeon, if necessary, a competent specialist, a neurologist / psychiatrist, under certain circumstances also a psychotherapist and a forensic pathologist, and last but not least also a pharmacologist / pharmacist, should first of all, depending on the indication and the specialist field, comment on what exactly happened.
However – even if such an expert opinion could be commissioned free of charge: We expect that no patient who confronts us in the way described would request one. For the “fame” of having demonstrated “conventional medicine” and saved the honour of homeopathy, one should actually be prepared to pay a certain price – if the chances of fame were realistic. But nobody does that. We are convinced that the “risk” of finding a non-esoteric answer would ultimately be too great for any patient. Of course, he would justify this – certainly also to himself – with his “distrust of conventional medicine”. However, we have not yet experienced anything like this or heard of it happening anywhere. In the final consequence, no patient considers it realistic that a precise expert clarification will confirm the carelessly pronounced claim “no doctor could help me, only homeopathy”.
The claim, “an anecdote is not a study”, is of course completely correct, but could be seen by die-hard homoeopaths in this case as an evasion on our part: “Critics always demand studies because they are bad for homoeopathy and ignore anecdotes merely because they are good for homoeopathy”. No, the reason we do not pass judgement (anywhere) on the basis of an anecdote is that almost every anecdote is highly incompletely reported and thus distorted and worthless for generalisation.
Therefore, case studies published in medical science only aim to draw attention to an observed phenomenon in order to find out whether and where something similar could be observed and whether there are already indications of an explanation for it (which only makes sense if the observation does not contradict established scientific knowledge from the outset, as in the case of homeopathy). Assertions of validity are thus neither made nor counter-evidence claimed.
They want to extract an explanation from us, but withhold the essential information – the complete medical history – and at the same time reverse the burden of proof. After all, as was explained at the beginning, it is not a question, but an unsubstantiated assertion. We are not even assuming intent (we are well aware of the usually honest but false conviction of those making the claim), but “incomplete” is and remains “incomplete”.
Anyone who presents us – expressis verbis or not – with the question of why homeopathy works in their particular case, but medicine does not, must know that we not only do not answer such a question, but conversely expect solid information on our part – with plausibility and evidence and not just mere assertions.