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A Gentle Ethical Defence of Homeopathy

Abstract

Recent discourses about the legitimacy of homeopathy have focused on its scientific plausibility, mechanism of action, and evidence base. These, frequently, conclude not only that homeopathy is scientifically baseless, but that it is “unethical.” They have also diminished patients’ perspectives, values, and preferences. We contend that these critics confuse epistemic questions with questions of ethics, misconstrue the moral status of homeopaths, and have an impoverished idea of ethics—one that fails to account either for the moral worth of care and of relationships or for the perspectives, values, and preferences of patients. Utilitarian critics, in particular, endeavour to present an objective evaluation—a type of moral calculus—quantifying the utilities and disutilities of homeopathy as a justification for the exclusion of homeopathy from research and health care. But these critiques are built upon a narrow formulation of evidence and care and a diminished episteme that excludes the values and preferences of researchers, homeopaths, and patients engaged in the practice of homeopathy. We suggest that homeopathy is ethical as it fulfils the needs and expectations of many patients; may be practiced safely and prudentially; values care and the virtues of the therapeutic relationship; and provides important benefits for patients.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Gary Levy, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University Melbourne, for his helpful and critical suggestions on a number of iterations

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Correspondence to David Levy.

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Levy, D., Gadd, B., Kerridge, I. et al. A Gentle Ethical Defence of Homeopathy. Bioethical Inquiry 12, 203–209 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-014-9563-y

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Keywords

  • Homeopathy
  • Ethics
  • Utilitarian
  • Patient values and preferences
  • Evidence
  • Evidence-based medicine (EBM)
  • Outcomes