Death by homeopathy
This site is dedicated to the memory of Penelope Dingle, who desperately wanted to live but who was misinformed by those she trusted most and, instead of having the surgery that might have saved her life, she relied instead on homeopathy to treat her rectal cancer. The full story is told in this documentary but for a look at the letters she sent her homeopath, one Francine Scrayen, see here. A taster:
During the 7 months you treated me exclusively, the tumour grew in size to 10cms long and 8 cms wide and my uterus, second ovary and more lymphs became cancerous. Because of the size of the tumour, it was no longer possible for the surgeon to perform a complete resection. As a result, I have a margin at the sacral bone of only 1mm, and very close margins in the pelvis. In cases like mine, there is a 70% – 80% likelihood that metastatic spread will reoccur.
Homeopaths argue that homeopathic remedies are perfectly safe. As most homeopathic remedies contain no active ingredients, this is generally true. One exception was Zicam Cold Remedy, an over-the-counter nasal gel, whose manufacturer, Matrixx Initiatives, ended up paying millions of dollars in settlement of hundreds of lawsuits brought by consumers whose sense of smell was destroyed by the product. A systematic review evaluating the evidence regarding the adverse effects (AEs) of homeopathy was published in November 2012. It found a total of 1159 patients experienced adverse effects from homeopathy, the most common being allergic reactions and intoxications. The main danger with homeopathy lies not with the “remedies” themselves but with those who promote them as if they are efficacaceous for serious conditions. Encouraging a faith in homeopathy has resulted in a number of tragedies, in addition to that of Penelope Dingle, though only a few of these have been widely reported. Here are some more examples:
New Zealand baby
From a story from 1991 that featured in the now defunct New Zealand Science Monthly: “In a Coroner’s Court late last year, a mother described how she had refused antibiotics for her baby’s ear infection, preferring to take homeopathic advice. Two weeks after the initial consultation, the baby was taken again to the homeopath, who expressed concern about its poor health but who did not suggest seeking conventional medical treatment. The mother, a registered nurse, commented that the symptoms looked like meningitis and, two days later, took her baby to her regular doctor. The doctor insisted on the baby being hospitalised immediately and noted that it took some time to convince the mother to do this. The consultant paediatrician at Wellington Hospital, Dr Thorston Stanley, reported a “great sense of frustration in dealing with the mother, who opposed him every step of the way”. Despite intensive treatment, the child died a week later from brain damage as a result of bacterial meningitis.”
“A couple’s faith in alternative medicine led to the death of their six month old son, an inquest heard yesterday. Cameron Ayres died from a hereditary condition which caused severe nappy rash and a swelling of his liver and stomach. But Coroner Alison Thompson said: “With conventional medicine it would have been diagnosed and the child could have expected a normal life span.” Cameron’s parents refused to take him to a doctor, instead visiting a homeopath who begged them to have him treated using conventional means.
In 2009, New South Wales Supreme Court sentenced Thomas Sam and his wife Manju, for at least six years and four years in jail respectively for the manslaughter of their eczema-stricken daughter. Both were accused of “gross criminal negligence” by failing to get proper treatment for their nine-month-old baby, Gloria Thomas, relying instead on homeopathic remedies. She died in Sydney in May 2002 from an infection her body could not fight. “Thomas Sam’s arrogant approach to his preference for homeopathy above conventional medicine, and Manju Sam’s deference to her husband, had led to Gloria’s death,” said Justice Peter Johnson.
Malka was the one-year-old daughter of American Israelis. She died after they had disregarded a doctor’s prescription of antibiotics to treat her high fever, and instead turned to a homeopath.
In a statement to the coroner’s court, the father of 13-month-old epileptic Isabella said the family replaced her anti-convulsant medication with a homeopathic remedy in the weeks before she died.
The 7-year-old Canadian boy died in March 2013 after a Group A strep infection that kept him bedridden for 10 days. His mother only sought medical help when she feared her son was suffering a seizure. He died a short while later. There was no record of the child ever having had a medical check-up and his mother had chosen to treat him with homeopathic remedies.
A two-month-old baby girl died of a cerebral haemorrhage in Japan after she was given a homeopathic treatment by a midwife instead of the normal treatment of vitamin K.
42 year-old Podgoršek died because he believed a homeopath’s claim that homeopathy would work to prevent him getting malaria and, when it didn’t, he believed the homeopath’s claim to be able to treat the malaria he’d caught.
Lady Victoria Waymouth
Waymouth, referred to at her inquest as “Mrs A.”, died in August 2004 at the age of 57, a few days after a doctor friend told her to stop taking her usual heart medication and to only take homeopathic treatment. The doctor was subsequently found guilty of professional misconduct. For more victims of homeopathy, see the What’s the harm? website.