France: In the fast lane in the case of homeopathy

Lesedauer / Reading Time: 4 min

The discussion about alternative medical methods in the health system, especially homeopathy, has quickly and apparently sustaining gained momentum in France.

We reported on the request of the National Council of the Medical Chamber of 22 March this year that the National Academy of Medical Sciences and the Ministry of Health should decide on the scientific relevance of “alternative and complementary methods, namely homeopathy”. This was flanked by the #FakeMed medical initiative, which strongly opposed pseudomedicine and all forms of its direct and indirect acceptance and promotion in health care.

The public discussion – also in the media – was intensively taken up afterwards. Health Minister Buzyn, who had expressed herself somewhat indifferently in public after the National Council of the Medical Chamber’s call, came under fire. But even the dissenting votes were not long in coming: The homeopathy lobby in France began to target the physicians’ association #FakeMed as the supposedly weakest link in the chain of critics and to try to shift the matter to both a professional and a legal level. The press, including leading newspapers such as Libération, Le Monde and Le Figaro, reported in part extensively.

Le Monde stated on 25 May 2018 that on 18 May the Academy of Medical Sciences, referring to its earlier opinion of 2004, described homeopathy as “a method developed two centuries ago on the basis of a priori concepts without any scientific basis”. This is not a direct verdict, but at least a very strong position setting, especially as an answer to the initiative of the Supreme Medical Chamber. Le Monde leaves no doubt that this verdict is tantamount to classifying homeopathy as “unscientific”. It might only be a side note that the Association of French Homeopathic Physicians, on the other hand, refers the EPI3 study financed by Boiron, on which we have already made comments here (a detailed discussion on EPI3 worth reading by Dr. Norbert Aust here).  Le Monde refers to this without digression as a “bad study” and quotes the pharmacology professor François Chast: “We are in the world of faith”.

Now Le Figaro reports that the National Council of the Medical Association has for the first time positioned itself – with a new version of a part of the medical code of honour of the chambers, which – as Le Figaro finds – “does not completely close the door for homeopathy”, probably because of the concessions in complementary measures (which we consider problematic). But pseudomedical means and methods are distinguished from scientific medicine here with unprecedented clarity. The text leaves no doubt that the Chamber does not place it at the discretion of doctors to use unproven methods instead of scientifically proven therapies. This Decision is given below in translated form:

Updating of the generally binding ethical framework by the National Council of the French Medical Chambers:

The medial use of the terms “alternative and complementary medicine”, in particular with regard to homeopathy, maintains an ambiguity which leads to confusion and interpretation disputes.

“Without questioning the freedom of critical or divergent opinions of each individual in the public sphere, the National Council of the Medical Association demands that the Medical Association should be able to take a more pro-active approach to the issue:

  • that the term ‘medicine’ as a prerequisite for any therapeutic procedure first includes a medical process of clinical diagnosis, which may be supplemented by additional examinations with the involvement of competent third parties;
  • that every physician must practice medicine according to scientifically gained knowledge and data both in the making of the diagnosis and in the therapy proposal;
  • that, since the data derived from science are essentially based on continuous development, controversy over a particular method of treatment, whether medical or not, must lead to an up-to-date, impartial and rigorous assessment of the medical service provided by the medical and scientific community.

The National Council therefore affirms that the medical care of a patient must meet the requirements of quality, safety and urgency of care.

A medically recommended treatment can in no case be an alternative to the knowledge gained from science and the state of the art, but it may include an adjuvant or complementary, medical or other prescription, which the doctor will decide to the best of his knowledge and belief in the individual situation after giving the patient fair, clear and appropriate information.

However, the National Council recalls that the Code of Medical Ethics prohibits the presentation of unattended treatment or therapy as safe and therapeutic effective.

This is the ethical framework that applies to the entire medical profession.

Text adopted by the plenary session of the National Council of the Medical Association on 14 June 2018 (original here)”

Despite the reviving resistance of the lobby, it will probably soon become densely for homeopathy in the French health care system. The polite and unmistakable positions of the highest medical association and the highest scientific authority give a “broad hint” in the direction of the Ministry of Health to draw the political consequences from this joint positioning of practical and research medicine.

We take note that the French medical profession represented by its supreme body has taken the initiative to distance itself from pseudomedical methods, in particular homeopathy. And the highest medical scientific authority in the country follows. And that, since in our country the Medical Association did not even consider it necessary to even debate or even vote on the previously intensively discussed abolition of the “additional medical designation of homeopathy”.

Once again we ask: What’s about us in Germany?

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