"The Faculty of Homoeopathy acknowledges this and recommends the
use of conventional vaccines. Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, was a supporter
of smallpox vaccination."---Helen Bedford
& David Elliman
"The Faculty of Homoeopathy speaks for a medically qualified minority. The more numerous medically unqualified homoeopaths belong to the Society of Homoeopaths, the Institute of Complementary Medicine, or the Homoeopathic Medical Association, totalling some 2000 practitioners. None of these bodies supports vaccination."--Peter Morrell
Is vaccination cause célèbre or bête noire?
EDITOR Bedford and Elliman discuss some of the concerns about immunisation.1 The Faculty of Homoeopathy speaks for a medically qualified minority. The more numerous medically unqualified homoeopaths belong to the Society of Homoeopaths, the Institute of Complementary Medicine, or the Homoeopathic Medical Association, totalling some 2000 practitioners. None of these bodies supports vaccination. The Society of Homoeopaths, in a leaflet, encouraged parents to seek advice about it. Currently the Homoeopathic Medical Association has no policy on vaccination. The Institute of Complementary Medicine, which has a register of "classical homoeopaths," opposes vaccination.
Homoeopaths' views derive more from leading writers than professional bodies. James Compton Burnett discovered vaccine damage in the 1880s, and Stuart Close denounces all mass treatments as fundamentally unholistic. Harris Coulter, a historian, blames vaccination for mental illness, crime, and social deviance. A prominent Dutch homoeopath describes "post vaccination syndrome," and he claims that potentised vaccines can cure this syndrome and act prophylactically against many infections. This claim was confirmed by Margery Grace Blackie, the Queen's former physician.2
Martin Miles, a London homoeopath, extends Coulter's views, claiming that vaccination causes cancer, meningitis, arthritis, constitutional weaknesses and neurological damage, and increases the level of mucus in the body. A leading homoeopath, George Vithoulkas, thinks that vaccination ignores the susceptibility of individual patients, is fundamentally unhomoeopathic, and leads to the degeneration of whole populations' health. None of them supports vaccination: the original article and the faculty stand alone. From about 1903 until the 1970s, even the faculty endorsed an approach that regarded bacteria as harmless scavengers and opposed vaccination. 2 3
The data presented by Bedford and Elliman do not conclusively show that vaccination
caused the decline of infectious diseases. Diphtheria, tuberculosis, and
pertussis were virtually extinct before vaccines were introduced. American and
British data show similar patterns. More likely causes are improved water
supply, sanitation, adequate food supply, and birth control. Many were declining
before the immunisation programmes began.4 I therefore
remain unconvinced and agree with Stacey's assessment that the decline of
many infectious diseases is or was as much due to improved sanitation as to
Peter Morrell honorary research associate, history of medicine.
Department of Sociology, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2DE firstname.lastname@example.org
|1.||Bedford H, Elliman D. Concerns about immunisation. BMJ 2000; 320:
|2.||Winston J. The faces of homeopathy: a history of the first 200 years. Wellington, New Zealand: Great Auk Publishing, 1999.|
|3.||Miles M. Homeopathy and human evolution. London: Winter Press, 1992.|
|4.||Leavitt J, Numbers R. Sickness and health in America. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1978.|
|5.||Stacey M. The sociology of health and healing. London: Unwin, 1988.|
Competing interests: None declared.
Hon Research Associate, History of Medicine
Staffordshire University UK
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I think this article is highly misleading to your readers in two very important respects. Firstly, for trying to portray support for vaccination from homeopathy. Secondly, in trying to over-interpret scant figures.
It is not true that all homeopaths, at all times, have supported vaccination. Far from it. In fact, the majority of them have had profound difficulty in accepting this technique. I shall offer some reference material below in support of this statement.
Nor is it true that the Faculty of Homeopathy represents anything more than a minority of medically qualified doctors, who until the 1970s never amounted to more than 300 practitioners in the UK, and for most of this century hovered around the 200 mark. The vast majority of practitioners today are medically unqualified and are represented by three different professional bodies and registers: the Society of Homeopaths, the Institute of Complementary Medicine (ICM) and the UKHMA. Together, they total fast approaching 2000 practitioners, and represent at least three quarters of the entire profession in the UK. It is significant that not one of these three bodies supports the use of vaccination, and, indeed, they warn patients that it can be a dangerous practice.
It is only recently, within the last twenty years or so, that the Faculty has adopted a pro-vaccination stance. I suspect it is an attempt to draw them closer to mainstream medicine, by reducing areas of conflict and friction. Moreover, the Faculty of Homeopathy had previously adopted a very different attitude on this issue. It was strongly influenced by the views and techniques of the American homeopath, Dr James Tyler Kent, from about 1903 until well into the 1970s [see Morrell, 2000; and Winston, pp.203-4]. Moreover, his metaphysical, anti-bacterial and anti-vaccination views of homeopathy can be very clearly judged from his writings:
"Man cannot be made sick or be cured except by some substance as ethereal in quality as the Vital Force.[Kent]
"The tendency for the human mind to run after the visible, that can be felt with the fingers, leads one to adopt foolish theories like the Bacteria doctrine and the molecular theory. [Kent]
"Most doctors have gone crazy over the vicious Microbe as being the cause of disease, and think the little fellows are exceedingly dangerous. As a matter of fact they are scavengers. Shortly after death, a prick with a scalpel is a serious matter, but when the cadaver has become green and is filled with bacteria, it is comparatively harmless. [Kent]
"The microbe is not the cause of disease. We should not be carried away by these idle allopathic dreams and vain imaginations, but should correct the Vital Force. [Kent]
"The Bacterium is an innocent feller, and if he carries disease he carries the Simple Substance which causes disease, just as an elephant would." [Kent]
"It is not from external things that man becomes sick, not from bacteria nor environment, but from causes within himself." [Kent]
"Whenever a man settles all things by his eyes, and fingers, pseudo- science and theories, he reasons from lasts to firsts; in other words, from himself, and is insane." [Kent]
"If we have material ideas of disease we will have material ideas of the means of cure." [Kent].
"The doctrine of the Vital Force is not admitted by the teachers of physiology, yet without the vital force, without simple substance, without the internal as well as the external, there can be no cause and no relation between cause and effect." [all the above quotes from Kent's Aphorisms]
Thus, it is quite simply untrue that homeopaths accept and endorse vaccination. At its best, it is regarded as a crude example of the law of similars, and it is probably that viewpoint which Hahnemann had in mind when he made approving comments about Jenner and cowpox in the 1790s. Thus, these authors have chosen deliberately to give a highly simplistic and misleading impression of the view of most homeopaths towards vaccination.
Homeopathy is opposed to the use...of drugs in physiological doses...to the methods of vaccine and serum therapy...to so-called pathological prescribing and to group treatment of diseases...It depends for all its results upon the dynamical action of single, pure, potentised medicines administered in minimum dose. [Close, 1924, pp.20- 21]
Hahnemann refers all the phenomena of health and disease under two names: the dynamis and the life force. This is Hahnemanns greatest discovery, and the absolute bedrock of his system. [Close, p.32]
The homeopathic opposition to the use of vaccines has its roots in the work of Dr James Compton Burnett, who was the first to conceptualize that a vaccine...could cause a deep-seated illness, vaccinosis...treatable by the use of homeopathic remedies...so the homeopath, since before the turn of the century, has viewed vaccines as inherently dangerous to the human economy. [Winston, 1999, pp.247-8]
The law of similars was not originally conceived by Hahnemann; it was mentioned by the early Greeks and Galen and used extensively by Paracelsus and the English physician, Thomas Sydenham [1624-1689]. It is also made use of in folk medicine, such as recommending heat for burns and cold for frostbite. In a crude form, it also manifested in the vaccination experiments of Edward Jenner [1749-1823]. It is a remarkable fact of history that Jenner's first experiments with Cowpox in Dorset in the summer of 1796, coincided with Hahnemann's publication of his Essay On a New Principle, both concerning the law of similars.
Hahnemann refers positively and at length to Jenners experiments with cow-pox in paragraph 46 of his Organon [mentioned by Wolff, p.240, and by Rothstein, p.157], which can be viewed online at:
However, we should treat these comments with some caution, firstly, because Jenner was an early medical experimentalist, like Hahnemann, an approach he greatly admired, and which must have predisposed him towards Jenners work; secondly, though vaccination is a crude example of the law of similars, it also contravenes the individualisation of disease symptoms, which is so central an impulse within homeopathic philosophy:
cure is always individual, in the concrete case or patient, never in the generalised disease; and that such a thing as a specific cure for a disease does not, and, in the nature of things, cannot exist, since no two cases of the same disease, are ever the same. [Close, 1924, p.94]
I thus fail to see how Hahnemann today could approve of the widespread and routine immunisation of all children.
In Germany, contemporary homeopaths, as well as adherents of sectarian medicine in general, are known to be critical towards immunization. [Wolff, p.218]
...research on the historiography of vaccination recognised the phenomenon that anti-vaccinationism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had a deep response among adherents of non-regular medicine. [Wolff, p.218]
Recently, one German homeopath wrote: By now every homeopath knows what disastrous side-effects vaccinations are able to trigger. . [in Wolff, p.219]
By the end of the 19th century, it was becoming clear to physicians that in the causation of disease, it was not the apparent presence or absence of germs [as had first been thought], which was the main concern, but the precise level of susceptibility to them possessed by the individual. According to regular physicians, that level of susceptibility was entirely due to antibodies, which could be generated or induced artificially, on demand, through the inoculation procedure. Moreover, plainly, according to most homeopaths, that susceptibility was down to the activity of an immaterial vital force, or life principle, inherent in the organism, and not to any physical and chemical process per se. On theoretical grounds, therefore, that clearly divides the two groups of practitioners. However, having said all that, the matter is slightly more complex. It is also true that some homeopaths chose, of their own volition, to accept vaccination as a valid procedure and they did not take the view that it was harmful at all. This latter interpretation was down to individuals over which the movement as a whole clearly had little control.
While homeopaths before the Civil War had vacillated over the question of smallpox vaccination...the use of antisepsis could be clearly linked to Hahnemanns call for physicians to prevent disease, and many saw serums and vaccines as an expression of homeopathic law. [Warner, p.44]
Van Eden pointed to the interest in homeopathy on the part of religiously orthodox circles such as a the example of Abraham Kuyper. He was opposed to vaccination, like Hahnemann, or rather in Kuypers case compulsory vaccination... [Hofstra, p.102]
A lot of very useful background historical information about vaccination and how it first developed is given in Blakes article in Leavitt and Numbers.
Regarding the data presented in this article, the vaccination data supplied in the table looks highly suspect. It looks like a classic case of massaging figures to get whatever spin out of them you like. I would make the following questions about it:
1. More data is required concerning the number of cases and deaths BEFORE the years given, in order to draw the type of conclusions from the data that the authors seem so eager to make.
2. By how much were these diseases in decline BEFORE immunisation was introduced?
3. By how much did their decline accelerate or slow down AFTER the introduction of vaccination for these diseases?
4. To what extent can the vaccination programmes truly be causally connected to the decline of the diseases?
5. Most homeopaths are against vaccination regardless of what the Faculty say. What is the homeopathic principle that dictates that the serum of a virus should be inoculated into all people, when homeopathy contends that all disease is expressed and must be treated upon the sole basis of utterly individualised symptoms?
6. Is it proven beyond reasonable doubt that homeopathic vaccines do not work. Can we please see some evidence for this claim?
The article seems to convey to the reader the strong and unambiguous impression that the figures presented demonstrate conclusively that vaccination has caused the decline of these diseases. This is certainly questionable, as many of them were in massive decline before a single vaccine was introduced. This certainly applies to Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, Whooping Cough and Measles. Such a graph, for the USA and TB, is shown in Leavitt and Numbers, p.6, and for Diphtheria on p.8. These graphs clearly show that TB was all but extinct before vaccination against it was introduced. The same pattern holds true for Diphtheria. Similar data can be invoked for the UK and all these infections.
The article also seeks, unashamedly in my view, to give the strong and unambiguous impression that all homeopaths accept and endorse vaccination as a safe technique. They do not. And historically, they have opposed it from its first introduction, regardless of what Hahnemann said:
In 1879 William Tebb, the leading British anti-vaccinationist came to New York, and the Anti-vaccination Society of America was founded. [Kaufman, p.465]
Blake, John, B, 1978, The Inoculation Controversy in Boston: 1721-22, in Leavitt and Numbers, pp.231-40
Close, Stuart, 1924, The Genius of Homeopathy, Lectures and Essays on Homeopathic Philosophy, New York
Ernst, Edzard, 1995, Letters, Homoeopaths and Chiropractors are Sceptical About Immunisation, BMJ 1995; 311: 811
Hofstra, Marijka Gijswijt, 1998, Critics and Converts of Homeopathy: The Dutch Debate in the Nineteenth Century, in Juette et al, pp.89-110
Juette, Robert, G Risse and J Woodward, Culture, Knowledge and Healing - Historical Essays On Homeopathy in Europe and North America, EAHMH, Univ. Sheffield Press, UK, 1998
Kaufman, Martin, 1967, The American Anti-vaccinationists and Their Arguments, Bull. Hist. Med. 41, pp.463-78 Kent, James Tyler, 1926, New Remedies, Lesser Writings and Aphorisms & Precepts, Chicago Leavitt, J, and Numbers, R, 1978, Sickness and Health In America, Univ Wisconsin, USA
Morrell, Peter, 2000, Kents Influence on British Homeopathy, Jnl of Amer. Inst. of Hom. Jan 2000
Rothstein, William G, 1972, American Physicians in the 19th Century, Johns Hopkins Univ Press, Baltimore, USA
Warner, John H, 1998, Orthodoxy and Otherness: Homeopathy and Regular Medicine in Nineteenth Century America, in Juette et al, pp.5-30
Winston, Julian, 1999, The Faces of Homeopathy A History of the First 200 Years, Great Auk Publishing, New Zealand
Wolff, Eberhard, 1998, Sectarian Identity and the Aim of Integration: The Attitudes of American Homeopaths Towards Smallpox Vaccination in the Late Nineteenth Century, in Juette, Risse and Woodward, pp.217-250
Hon Research Associate, History of Medicine
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I thought I had been very careful in my letter NOT to actually state that these organisations are opposed outright to vaccination, or that they support it unquestioningly; what I said is they do not support it. I would contend that there could be a large difference between not supporting something and opposing it. Is it safe to conclude that because I do not support Bradford City, that I am opposed to them? The problem is more or less as I stated in my letter, that homeopaths are uncomfortable about vaccination in general. Some are more uncomfortable than others are. Some oppose it strongly, while others accept it. Most are sceptical of its benefits while being cognisant of its possible dangers. I think that is a fair account of the matter. At no point did I use the word 'formal'. We are in danger of splitting hairs here.
If Mr Dean's aim is to point out a factual inaccuracy, then it is probably a flawed attempt, as it assumes that I have stated that this issue is straightforward. It isn't; it is very blurred. It also assumes that these professional bodies have tight governing control over, or reflect the general opinions of, homeopaths in the field. They don't always; their members are at liberty to form their own views on such matters. Homeopaths are only loosely answerable to these professional bodies on doctrinal matters. And on such emotive and divisive issues as vaccination, they are accountable to no-one but their own consciences. What therefore is the point Mr Dean is trying to make?
However, I willingly apologise if I was guilty of including any factual error in my letter. I must also thank this writer for raising an interesting new point, which I had not seen before, about the relationship between a controlling body and the views and beliefs of those it claims to represent. I also thank Mr Dean for inspiring me to convey, in more detail than before, the extent of anti-vaccinationism within homeopathy today.
Whether a specific organisation supports, does not support, or opposes the vaccination technique, what I said in my letter still applies: homeopaths are generally uncomfortable with and ambivalent towards vaccination. They regard it as an unwanted and integral element of allopathic medicine, which they never seek to promote. Many believe it is toxic, suppressive and can cause damage. If Mr Dean had read the other letters eBMJ has published, especially several by John Heptonstall, he would have apprehended a plethora of evidence, from within holistic medicine generally, of people who are opposed to vaccination or who do not support it. Moreover, for a whole range of different reasons.
The Society of Homeopaths certainly used to issue a leaflet on this subject. While not outrightly opposing vaccination, it did suggest that parents should seek the widest possible advice about it. Why did they do that, if they wholeheartedly support vaccination? They clearly did it because they recognise a possible danger about the subject, and it reflects the fact that throughout their own history homeopaths have more or less consistently opposed it as a damaging, suppressive technique, that generates ill-health. Thus, it is no more correct to say that all homeopaths are opposed to vaccination than it is to say they all support it. The vast majority is ambivalent or sceptical.
As for the HMA, which Mr Dean has specifically referred to, I am advised by Simon King, a homeopath practising in Norwich, and a Council member of that body, that no such policy on vaccination has so far been devised, but, and I quote his private email to me [of 2 Feb 2000]:
'They just don't advocate allopathy per se, as they are promoting a system, which is opposite to it. Vaccination is allopathy, so they won't promote it. That's not the same as damning it. I think what they say is people have a choice, a choice based on having more than allopathy to choose from, that allopathy doesn't have the monopoly on effective health care.'
As for the ICM Register, that used to be controlled by Sheilagh Creasy, a very firm Kentian homeopath, who now mainly teaches in the USA. She is widely regarded as one of the foremost classical homeopaths in the world, and she is renowned for her firm views on the dangers of allopathic suppression, of using single dose of high potency remedy, chosen along Kentian lines, and for her strong views against all forms of drugging and vaccination, which she believes frequently constitute root causes of much modern pathology. Suppression of disease, by strong drugs and inappropriate techniques like vaccination, into the deeper, interior layers of the organism, is, of course, a fundamental axiom of the Kentian approach. Such views are fairly widespread within homeopathy today [see quotes below by Vithoulkas].
Moreover, it is not really the controlling bodies that formulate, reinforce or control the beliefs of homeopaths, as this writer seems to suggest in his letter, but the major figures and the major writers within the movement, who much more deeply impress their beliefs upon the movement as a whole. Thus, the idea that these professional bodies have an official view about vaccination, which is enforced upon the mass of homeopaths, is misleading. Whatever 'formal views' they may espouse in documents, homeopaths can take or leave them with impunity. Their views and beliefs are determined much more by the main figures, who dominate the movement, than by the controlling bodies. This apparently removes the central supporting pillar of this writer 's main complaint.
Of even greater significance to our discussion, are the actual stated views of some leading modern homeopaths. To illustrate this point, let us consult the writings of the foremost homeopath in the modern world, and the leading light of the entire movement, George Vithoulkas. He has this to say about vaccination:
'Vaccination is cited by many as being an example of the allopathic use of the Law of Similars. Superficially, this would appear to be true...however, vaccinations are administered to entire populations without any consideration of individuality. Each individual will have a unique degree of susceptibility to any vaccine, yet it is administered without regard to the uniqueness of the individual. Therefore, the concept of vaccination is almost the precise opposite of the principles of homeopathy; it is indiscriminate administration of a foreign substance to everyone, regardless of state of health or individual sensitivity.' [Vithoulkas, George, 1980, The Science of Homeopathy, Grove Press, New York, p.113]
'...in homeopathy any chronic condition which can be traced to a vaccination is called a 'vaccinosis'. Dr. J Compton Burnett presents his very detailed cases which demonstrate clearly that vaccinations can have profoundly disturbing and lasting influences on the health of susceptible individuals...the fact that vaccinosis is indeed due to vaccination and not merely coincidence is seen by the fact that many cases are dramatically benefited by administration of a potentized preparation of the particular vaccine used.' [Vithoulkas, pp.115-6]
'Such cases can be quoted in great numbers by any homeopath who takes the time to elucidate the complete history of the patient. Thus even something as popular and widespread as vaccination - one of the so-called major 'successes' of modern medicine - can be a large-scale factor in the degenerating health of our populations.' [Ibid. p.116]
'How does a person acquire a predisposition to illness...? As we know, powerful acute ailments, allopathic drugs, and vaccinations are major factors...' [Ibid. pp.120-1]
'It is natural to inquire into the evolution of the present pathological state of the patient...what eliciting causes can be considered as factors in producing the symptoms? In particular, the evolution of the pathological state of the patient should focus on the following major influences:
1. Any mental or emotional shocks....
I think these quotes demonstrate, that leading, modern homeopaths - whose written works are regarded as influential texts upon the attitudes of the movement - are just as resolutely opposed to vaccination, on therapeutic grounds, as many of their forebears. In addition, this stands in stark contrast to the UK Faculty of Homeopathy's stated position on this subject, and that claimed by Mr Dean on behalf of the main professional bodies in the UK. I therefore stand by my original remarks.
On balance, therefore, vaccination appears to be something of a Russian roulette game, in which it cannot be predicted with much certainty whether your own precious child will be damaged by any kind of injection or not. It is an emotional matter, of course, for any parent, but these are the kind of factors, which people try - desperately and probably unsuccessfully - to evaluate, whenever they have to consider this very difficult problem. Moreover, in that sense, I think homeopaths, and others, are perfectly entitled to be uncertain and sceptical over this issue.