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Phenomenology, pathography, and the concept of illness
18 December 2017 (online)
When I started my research I found that the language and concepts routinely used to describe illness are inappropriate, incomplete and often misleading. I became increasingly aware of the impoverished language used in the medical world I encountered, which, in turn, led me to suspect that an impoverished concept of illness was in the background.
(Havi Carel[ 1 ])
“Homeopathy works!” – is the watchword in the Faculty's argument for the acceptance of homeopathy by the medical profession, and its provision in the National Health Service. And it is true. The therapeutic method of homeopathy consistently achieves excellent results in clinical outcome studies[ 2 ]; health gains that exceed conventional expectations to an extent that patients sometimes reasonably describe them as ‘miraculous’. But despite evidence of the activity of high dilutions in general[ 3–6 ] and homeopathic medicines in particular,[ 7–11 ] which only plausibility bias,[ 12 ] a degree of intellectual dishonesty, or wilful ignorance can deny, we have to admit that the homeopathic therapeutic process is a ‘black box’.[ 13 ] Which is true, of course, of all therapeutic methods.[ 14 ] That is to say, many factors contribute to the effectiveness of the whole process, of which the efficacy of the specific intervention, in this case the homeopathic medicine, is only one. And in clinical practice we can never know for sure how much each element of the black box contributes to the outcome in any individual patient.
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- 12 Rutten L., Mathie R.T., Fisher P., Goossens M., van Wassenhoven M. Plausibility and evidence: the case of homeopathy. Med Health Care Philos 2012 Epub ahead of print DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11019-012-9413-9.
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