Ms. Willott responds…

19 Aug

So, Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central has very promptly replied to my email regarding her signing of the two EDM’s. While I commend her quick response, I’m not sure I agree with everything she says in the letter.

Dear Mr Morgan,

Thank you for your email about homeopathy and the EDMs which I have signed on the issue.

Both of the EDMs you mention discuss specific issues surrounding the treatment of homeopathy by bodies charged with assessing and analysing them. For instance, EDM 908 deals specifically with how the Science and Technology Select Committee’s report into homeopathy was conducted. I believe that in this case there were real concerns about the committee’s methodology which undermine the credibility of it’s report, for example, refusing to take evidence from the Society of Homeopaths.

I agree with you that it is very important that ay decision taken on medical treatments is made in a scientific way. However, this often means talking to people you disagree with. By not doing so, I am concerned that the Science and Technology Committee failed to carry out their investigation properly.

The other part of the EDM which I support is the Government maintain the policy of allowing individual NHS trust to determine whether to fund a particular course of treatment, As a Lib Dem I believe that people have a right to choose to be treated in a particular way providing it is safe, and, that if the treatment is cost-effective, they should be available to get treatment on the NHS. However, it must be left up to NICE and individual NHS trusts to determine whether something is cost-effective and shouldn’t be the role of the Government. That is why I was so concerned by some of the Select Committee’s recommendations because they suggested taking away the opportunity of NHS trusts to respond to their patients needs.

On the overall issue of homeopathy I again believe that we need to continue to research this area. Whilst I agree that many of the trials have suggested that this type of treatment has no medical effects, some other studies have suggested a link and therefore this is an area which requires further study before a definitive decision is reached.

I hope that this helps explain why I signed the EDMs you mentioned and reassures you that I understand the importance of scientific evidence, especially in decisions as important as medical treatments.

Thank you again for your email and if you have any more questions about this or any other matter please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Jenny Willott MP

Cardiff Central

I am currently considering a response and will write another blogpost when I have worked out exactly what I want to say. I just wanted to get this out there.

– Rhys

11 Responses to “Ms. Willott responds…”

  1. jdc325 August 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    I believe that in this case there were real concerns about the committee’s methodology which undermine the credibility of it’s report, for example, refusing to take evidence from the Society of Homeopaths.

    There were lots of people who didn’t get to give evidence to the committee. Among those who were asked to give evidence were Robert Wilson (Chairman, British Association of Homeopathic Manufacturers), Dr Peter Fisher (Director of Research, Royal London Homeopathic Hospital), and Dr Robert Mathie (Research Development Adviser, British Homeopathic Association) – so the committee heard from one of the British associations anyway. I’m not quite sure what useful insights the Society of Homeopaths could have provided that the BHA could not.

    Whilst I agree that many of the trials have suggested that this type of treatment has no medical effects, some other studies have suggested a link and therefore this is an area which requires further study before a definitive decision is reached.

    This gives you an opportunity to educate your MP. You can explain systematic reviews, and follow up by linking to some good examples. Like Shang et al, maybe?

    • Rhys Morgan August 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

      Thank you for this!
      I’d like to point out whoever told her that the Society of Homeopaths didn’t provide evidence was wrong – they provided two pieces of written evidence.
      I’ve already attempted to explain systematic reviews. You can read my attempt in the last blogpost referring to Ms. Willott. I will refer her to my previous email too.

  2. Evan Harris August 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    I have discussed this with Jenny at length and we agreed to disagree. She seems to support the option of homeopathy.

    The suggestion that the S&T Ctte did not take evidence properly is ridiculous. We looked at all the written submissions and the panels were balanced between proponents and opponents plus the minister (proponent). Phil (now Lord) Willis wrote to her setting this out.

    The report itself deals very clearly with how to consider evidence systematically and how to assess systematic reviews.

    Perhaps you should invite her to speak to SiTP?

  3. ElGrandeMelon August 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    So the patient choice thing again, then. Ms. Willot believes further research is needed but is happy to let homeopathy remain available on the NHS. She seems to have this “science” thing backward. Show it works, THEN use it on the NHS.

    Maybe you should ask her if she would be happy for MMS to be prescribed on the NHS? After all some people will choose to use it (patient choice right?) and though many people have suggested MMS has no (positive) medical effects some (Bergy et al) have suggested there is. Preventing MMS from being used by the NHS would take away the opportunity of NHS trusts to respond to their patients needs.

    MMS has more severe risks but the nonscience behind it is the same as homeopathy – unsubstantiated magical thinking. If science is good enough to show the woo behind MMS is bunk what makes her think that it isn’t good enough to do the same with homeopathy? Other than the safety aspect (of water) what makes homeopathy different from MMS? There are proponents for both. There are people for both that claim it helped them. There is no evidence for efficacy for both. Why is she wanting to give homeopathy a free ride? I suspect her only (non)answer will be “patient choice”.

    Great work by the way, Rhys. Keep it up!

  4. Dr*T August 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Hey Rhys,

    Why do you ask her if she’d like to do an interview for the Pod Delusion?

    T

    • Rhys Morgan August 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

      Thanks for the idea.
      I think I will ask her at the end of the next email.

  5. Dr*T August 19, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    I mean “don’t” not “do”. Gah.

  6. Steve August 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Great job boyo. Just occurred to me and am wondering how come Homeopathic “medicines” seem to be treated as a testable whole, rather than individually like drugs and other actual medicines that need to be tested individually. Imagine the chaos if just because aspirin is shown to be effective pain relief, we could use Botox to cure pneumonia! Without further testing. Homeopathy and it’s proponents like to use this argument. A LOT.

    • Rhys Morgan August 19, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

      Agreed. But then homeopaths think that if one thing “works” then they must all do, because they all follow the same principles.

  7. Nathan Briggs August 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    I’m starting to think its time for legislation introducing mandatory intelligence and basic knowledge tests before someone can stand for Parliament.

    Being a Lib Dem means standing for rational analysis and thought over knee-jerk response (something that most of the party seems to forget when it comes to power policy, BTW). Apparently Jenny Willott MP has forgotten this.

  8. madcymru October 19, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    Jenny hails from a family with a strong belief in homeopathic treatments and regular use of homeopathy. Almost as alarming is that her dad is Chair of Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust (a post that doesn’t require medical knowledge). Like most folks who support homeopathic quackery, she has skin in the game.

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