Homeopathy is witchcraft, says Britain's medical body

Hundreds of members of the British Medical Association (BMA) have passed a motion denouncing the practice of homeopathy, saying taxpayers should not foot bills for remedies which have no scientific basis to support them.They demanded an end to all placements for trainee doctors who teach them homoeopathic principles.

Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee in England told the conference: ''Homeopathy is witchcraft. It is a disgrace that nestling between the National Hospital for Neurology and Great Ormond Street in London there is a National Hospital for Homeopathy which is paid for by the NHS.''

The motion could become the official policy of the organisation if it is agreed upon by their full conference next month.Latest figures show that 54,000 patients are treated each year at four NHS homeopathic hospitals in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Liverpool, at a cost of 4 million pounds.

A fifth hospital in Tunbridge Wells in Kent was forced to close last year when local NHS funders stopped paying for treatments.The BMA had previously expressed scepticism about homeopathy, arguing that the rationing body - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, should examine the evidence base and make a definitive ruling about the use of homeopathic remedies in the NHS.

Crystal Summer, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association said attempts to stop the NHS funding alternative medicines ignored the views of the public, especially patients with chronic conditions.

"Homeopathy helps thousands of people who are not helped by conventional care. We don't want it to be a substitute for mainstream care, but when people are thinking about making cuts to funding, I think they need to consider public satisfaction, and see that homoeopathy has a place in medicine," she said.

She said junior doctors' call for an end to any training palcements based in homeopathic hospitals ignored the lessons alternative medicine could provide in terms of how to diagnose patients.The alternative medicine, devised in the 18th century by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, is based on the theory that substances which cause symptoms in a healthy person can cure the same problems in a sick person when vastly diluted.Proponents say the resulting remedy retains a "memory" of the original ingredient - a concept dismissed by scientists.

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