This is a question with a few different moral and scientific angles, and it’s one that I need to act on, so I hope there can be some reasonable discussion.
There is a person I know who is in his mid-sixties, who is quite unwell. He has diabetes and a number of problems related to this, and recently he has had problems with his kidneys. His doctor told him that he will need to prepare for dialysis any week now.
He and his wife were at a party not long ago, and someone recommended a homeopath, who had apparently had miraculous results with different people she knew. So this man went to the homeopath, in the hope that there would be some way to stop him needing to go in for dialysis three times a week. His ‘treatment’ consists of the usual pills and drops in water, and so far (it’s been about six weeks), he seems to be at least staying steady, and he hasn’t needed dialysis.
I was talking to his wife, and commenting that I don’t hold much stock in homeopaths, naturopaths, etc (I kept getting an answer something like ‘oh, it’s naturopaths who are the charlatans, homeopaths know what they’re doing’). I’d just been reading an article linked to from this very message board about the problems with the theory behind heavily diluted medicine, so I had lots of material.
My question is, whether I should push the issue with him and his wife. I think they’re wasting money, time and energy by going to a homeopath, and although they’re keeping in touch with their real doctor and not throwing away other medication, I still feel scared about the effect this might have on him. On the other hand, if there is a placebo effect which is, at worst, making him feel better, am I being terrible by making them lose faith in what might help a little?
So what should I do - let ignorance reign and give him a chance to be happy for a while, or stamp out his hopes of a natural cure?