By Beth Landau-Halpern
In May of this year I received a call from a young mother expressing concerns about the safety of vaccines for her baby and asking if she and her husband could come in and talk to me about homeopathic alternatives (which, in the simplest terms include homeoprophylaxis for those choosing not to vaccinate, or immune support for those who choose to vaccinate). This is a common request from (especially educated) parents, aware of media stories of vaccine damage as well as the myopic perspective of mainstream medicine for whom there are no alternatives, no accommodations, and no individualizing of vaccination schedules.
Vaccination is perhaps the most fraught decision a family makes in the first years of their child’s life. I do not believe that there is one right answer for every child and every family. People who come to talk to me about vaccination concerns and seeking information about alternatives are presented with a nuanced discussion. The primary goals of this discussion are to encourage families to do their research, understand the choices, and make a decision that is most suitable to their child, their family’s lifestyle (e.g. daycare or home care), their family’s health history and susceptibility to disease, and the risks and concerns they are most able to live with.
I point out that this is not a risk-free choice, no matter which way they choose to go. I end these discussions with the advice that the parents go home, think, read, research, talk, and then let me know the ways that I can best support their child’s health and well-being, no matter what decision they make in the end: full vaccination, no vaccination, or partial vaccination.
This was exactly the sort of conversation I had with “Emma”. “Emma” was actually not a concerned mother, but a reporter for CBC Marketplace who came into my office (without baby or husband) under false pretenses, and then proceeded to clandestinely tape and film our meeting for the purpose of “undercover” journalism in preparation for an upcoming episode on CBC Marketplace on vaccination alternatives.
The ethical issues involved in this approach are extraordinary, and I think it important that all Canadians know the sordid activities of their public broadcaster. The extraordinary thing is that the CBC’s own regulations on clandestine reporting suggest that it is allowed only in situations in which there is “antisocial” behaviour, “abuse of trust”, or there is no other way to get the information needed. I am not sure which of these descriptors cover the visit to my office, but certainly, the homeopathic community has been fully forthcoming in offering Marketplace information on homeoprophylaxis without any secret high jinx involved.
The bully tactics of my patient-in-disguise did not end there. Upon leaving, “Emma” asked me for a nosode remedy to protect her son against measles while she and her husband were making their decision about vaccination; she told me they would be travelling to an area where there had recently been a measles outbreak and they were concerned about exposure.
Of course I helped her—this is what homeopaths do. It turns out that Marketplace then made a formal complaint to Health Canada about my labelling of the remedy I had dispensed. Unfortunately, “Emma” and her team didn’t do their research and were unaware of the regulations that cover homeopathic practitioners. Needless to say, Health Canada found the complaint spurious and dismissed it, assuring me that I was practising well within regulatory norms. I might add, that Health Canada has conferred a DIN-HM number on many nosodes, giving them a “seal of approval” as it were. There is no salacious story here, no matter how Marketplace frames it.
So it turns out that the Marketplace episode on vaccines will be aired tonight on CBC. If you watch the program, please know the producers have a strong bias against homeopathy—and are likely to present homeopaths as luring parents away from vaccination. The illicitly filmed segments of myself and the other homeopaths similarly witch-hunted are most assuredly small excerpts of much more complex conversations, taken out of context and presented without any of the other information offered.
Perhaps this offers a good opportunity for people to speak up for homeopathy and to speak up for free choice in making decisions about the health decisions we make. If you are invested in the vaccine issue you can go online to CBC Marketplace's site, for the episode entitled "Vaccines: Shot of Confusion" and post about your experiences, and share your decision-making process around this issue. It is important that homeopaths do not allow themselves to be pushed into the closet because of the bully pulpit of media shows such as CBC Marketplace. Speak up—let them know what you think.
Beth Landau-Halpern is a Toronto homeopath.