Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Domestic Abuse? Treat it with Magic Water!

Its safe to say that quacks, by the very definition of what they do, just love a vulnerable person. But even so, it makes me incandescent with rage every time I see an example of it occurring.

Tonight, my naively skeptic self has been utterly taken aback by a tweet I've seen. It was retweeted by "I'm-Not-Really-A-Dr" Nancy Malik, who I have had some dealings with in the past. These previous dealings basically revolved around a discussion about what constitutes high impact journal evidence (i.e. pointing out that books are not actually journals). This culminated in me (rather generously) offering my evidence retrieval services for any future posts she wanted to write. Homeopaths, don't say I never offer you anything.

So tonight, what's made my blood boil is this post. Homeopathy for domestic violence. HOMEOPATHY for domestic violence. Homeopathy for DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.... etc etc.

I count myself very lucky that I have never personally had any experience of domestic violence. I don't pretend to know how it feels for the many men and women who do experience it, and whose lives are relentlessly ruined by such a crime. And a crime it is, there's no two ways about it. It may have multifactorial causes, some of which may be illnesses, but, certainly in the UK, it is very definitely considered a crime. 

I'm going to attempt to be as systematic as possible here, but frankly I'm so furious I think I'm going to find it hard to collect my thoughts in any sort of semblance of order. But anyway, here goes:

So how can homeopathy help, according to "I'm-also-a-fake-Dr" Binal Master? Well, first of all: "It involves a detailed case history, which serves as ray of hope to both the patient- i.e., the one who is abused, as well as the offender. The patient has an opportunity to be heard and understood from her own perspective"
Ok, do you know what? I sort of agree with some of this. The opportunity to raise concerns in a safe place to someone who is listening is great. However, that safe place should be with someone who a) isn't being paid for a consultation b) isn't likely to make money from any recommendations they make c) is properly trained in dealing with domestic violence and d) ideally should be the police, or a specialist service who are able to give protection to vulnerable people.

Apparently, anger management (along with yoga, meditation etc) are available as adjuncts to homeopathy. ADJUNCTS?! Don't you think that anger management therapy would be rather more important than an add-on? This suggests to me- and it could be how i'm reading it- that homeopathy ON ITS OWN can feasibly be used to treat both victims- and perpetrators- of domestic violence.

The article goes on: "Some cases are due to psychiatric disorders such as antisocial personality, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Homeopathy has been found effective in such cases also, where it gives people a second chance to adapt to society and live within the community ."
Agreed, some cases can be due to a variety of mental health disorders. Has homeopathy *really* been found to be effective in these cases? I haven't checked right now, but I'm willing to bet there's no robust RCTs proving that homeopathy treats biploar for example. Are these sentences suggesting that homeopathy on it's own can treat these issues? Because I don't see anywhere suggesting that this is alongside conventional medicine. So now we've potentially got a situation where a person with a very serious mental illness is causing harm to another person (not to mention cases of self-harm), being treated with magic woo-water alone. This puts everyone in that situation at potential risk.

The post goes on to give handy tips for what people should do in the event of domestic violence, including not isolating yourself, asking for support, and seeing a doctor. Now, this is all very well and good, but I think we've missed out one rather important step here: what about the police? what about getting yourself out of a potentially dangerous situation as soon as possible? At no point is this suggested, and the general gist of the article appears to be "but it's happening for a reason, so let's treat the reasons and see if it stops". Actually, no. GET YOURSELF SAFE first. If there are reasons, then yes they should be treated, but this is secondary to the safety of anyone who is in this situation, for whatever reason. 

Summing up, "Dr" Master states:
"Homeopathy is a safe and effective way to treat the victims as well as the culprits of domestic violence. It focuses on the way patients have reacted to events and the personality of the patient. It helps to bring complete harmony of physical, mental and social well being."

It's safe, is it? It's safe to treat violent people with an inert substance, and to suggest that the victim treats themselves with inert substances in the meantime, in the vain hope that whoever is being violent will eventually change? Is it effective? What evidence is there for this effectiveness, because there are no references on this post and my word, you should be backing up claims like that. And what about the safety of the homeopathist, who most probably has no training in dealing with volatile and violent- or vulnerable people?

And here's the absolute worst bit: At no point in this article does it state that domestic violence is wrong.