Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 87–96 | Cite as

How Should We Respond to Non-Dominant Healing Practices, the Example of Homeopathy

  • Ben GrayEmail author
Original Research


The debate around the ethics of homeopathy in recent issues of the journal has been approached as a binary question; is homeopathy ethical or not? This paper suggests that this is an unhelpful question and instead discusses a framework to establish the extent to which the dominant (medical) culture should tolerate non-dominant health practices such as homeopathy. This requires a sophisticated understanding of the placebo effect, a critical evaluation of what evidence is available, a consideration of the harm that the non-dominant practice might cause, and a consideration of how this might be affected by the culture of the patient. This is presented as a matter of cultural competence. At a clinical level clinicians need to respect the values and beliefs of their patients and communicate with all the practitioners involved in a patient’s care. At a societal level there are a number of factors to be considered when a community decides which practices to tolerate and to what extent.


Homeopathy Ethics of placebo Cultural diversity Complementary and alternative medicine 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Otago University WellingtonNewtownNew Zealand

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