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   Dec 13

Homeopathy organisations could lose charitable status if they can’t provide medical evidence of benefits

Measurable medical efficacy has not been proved for homeopathic treatments, and last year the NHS banned funding for homeopathy

The Charity Commission has overhauled its rules for organisations promoting forms of alternative medicine including homeopathy, saying they must now provide scientific evidence for all medical claims they are making or lose their charitable status.

The updated guidance will apply to organisations already registered as charities as well as those who wish to apply.

The rules could prove problematic for several charities supporting and promoting homeopathy.

Measurable medical efficacy has not been proved for homeopathic treatments, and last year the NHS banned funding for homeopathy.

There have been numerous reviews into the effectiveness of homeopathy, which official NHS guidelines describe as “a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM)” and they cite the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which said there is “no evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition”.

The British Medical Association has previously described homeopathy as “witchcraft”, while the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, has dismissed it as “nonsense”, and the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has labelled it “rubbish”.

The Charity Commission stressed they expected the vast majority of registered CAM organisations to be unaffected, but added they “will be considering whether past registrations of CAM organisations should be revisited”.

David Holdsworth, the deputy chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “I am confident that this outcome, as well as reflecting the law and the available evidence, will serve to increase the public’s confidence in registered charities and the benefit they provide. Our updated approach means the public will be better able to make informed choices about CAM charities and whether they wish to support them or use their services.”

He added: “Our review was not about whether CAM is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or should be made available through public health provision – that is a matter for others. And nor do we expect our outcome necessarily to please all those with strong views about CAM generally. Our focus is on the integrity of the register of charities. We know the public place value on the concept of charity, and we must ensure that the register of charities is accurate and that only organisations that are, in law, charities are registered as such.”

In the Charity Commission’s response to the consultation on CAM status, the organisation wrote: “Registration of a charity is acceptance that the organisation meets the legal test for being a charity, including that it is established for exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit. Public benefit is based on evidence. In registering a CAM organisation as a charity we are not endorsing any treatment or confirming its efficacy but confirming that the organisation meets the test for charitable status including that of benefit to the public.”

There is no universally agreed definition of what constitutes a CAM, and practices such as massage, acupuncture, tai chi, and drinking green tea may all be considered as such.

The British Homeopathic Association (BHA), a charity which aims to encourage and enable patient access to homeopathic remedies, appears not to be concerned about the results of the review.

Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the BHA, told The Independent: “As a patient focused charity we are pleased to see the emphasis of the Charity Commission’s long-awaited outcome report is about ensuring that CAM organisations are subject to the same governance and legal requirements as other charities on the register.

“The BHA was established in 1902 and our charitable status is not only a fundamental part of our identity, it also means that members of the public can have confidence that we are meeting the public benefit and legal requirements set by our governing body.”

Homeopathic treatments are separate from science-based western medicine, and are based on ideas developed by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann in the 1790s and early 1800s.

Hahnemann’s key principles are based on theories that a substance which causes particular symptoms can also be used to take away those symptoms. This is usually done through a process of dilution and shaking called “succession”. Remedies may often therefore be made from a substance that has been repeatedly diluted with water, until there is almost none, or absolutely none of the original substance remaining.

Common ailments homeopathy is said to “treat”, include a broad spectrum of physical and psychological conditions including bruises, toothaches, nausea, coughs and colds, asthma and depression.

Source: The Independent

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