Don’t get a playwright to fix your wiring

Never take medical advice from a novelist.

There have been a number of articles in the press recently criticising homeopathic remedies as worthless at best, and potentially lethal at worst, if they are being taken instead of tried-and-tested conventional medicines for conditions such as malaria or HIV…The organisation Sense About Science and journalists such as Ben Goldacre and Nick Cohen are targeting a symposium in London in December that will discuss HIV and Aids and the homeopathic response to such diseases.

Are they? Well done Ben and Nick. (Both strong fans of B&W, I can’t resist pointing out. Winterson probably not so much.)

I admit it is hard to talk about what it is that homeopathy actually does, or why it works. For my part, I want to know more, not less, but I can’t dismiss the thing in the way that Sense About Science, many doctors, and some journalists are asking me to…This homeophobia is, I think, a genuine terror of what homeopathy is suggesting; which is that we think differently about the relationship between the cure and the disease.

Hmmmmmmyeah, and why would there be a genuine terror of that? Because it wouldn’t work perhaps? Because ‘thinking differently’ could land us back in the good old days when cholera and typhoid and tetanus and TB and yellow fever and typhus and polio were all incurable and unpreventable? Hmm?

Homeopathy, in common with other holistic approaches, asks that we look at the whole picture – the person, and not just his illness. Specifically, in the case of homeopathy, the remedy picture…follows the “like by like” premise – that tiny dilutions of the “problem” can prompt the body to effect its own cure…Homeopathy seeks to understand everything we are, everything we do, as a web of relatedness. The reason why I have a recurring sore throat will not be the reason why you have one, and what helps me may not help you.

And if the homeopath understands everything we are and everything we do (that’s understanding quite a lot, isn’t it) then the homeopath will know ‘the reason why’ I have a sore throat and also the very different ‘reason why’ someone else does? And then fix it? Izzat whacher saying?

As I understand it, homeopathy is not a linear medicine – a drug aiming for a target – nor does it seek to remove the human factor. The patient and the practitioner are both important and relevant when it comes to understanding how humans respond to treatment.

It’s all a matter of self-esteem, at bottom. Provided the homeopath really gets the patient, really sees the point of her and understands her very core of beingness, then the patient will be comfortable in her skin, and that is the secret of how homeopathy works. (The dilution is just to impress onlookers.)

Never take medical advice from a novelist.

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