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Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

A real death by homeopathy

For those who argue that homeopathy is harmless, here’s a story that shows what can happen when faith in quackery results in parents eschewing effective evdience-based medicine:

NINE-MONTH-OLD Gloria Thomas was in such distress that her crying alarmed some passengers on a plane trip from India to Sydney.

She had been overseas for two months receiving medical treatment, and homeopathic medication from an uncle for severe eczema.

But in that time she missed two appointments which separate doctors had made for her at specialist dermatologists.

In May 2002, less than 10 days after her return, she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Randwick severely malnourished and with infections to the skin and eyes.

She had died within three days of sepsis (bacterial infections) which had caused bleeding in her lungs and airways.

The reason for the baby’s death:

Her father, Thomas Sam, who practised and taught homeopathy, had applied homeopathic remedies to try to cure Gloria’s eczema since she was diagnosed with it when aged about four months, he said.

The inquest, which will examine the role of nutrition in her death, will also examine the actions of her father and mother, Manju Samuel, and advice they received from doctors and homeopaths. Mr Hoy said the inquest would reveal if homeopathy should be better regulated or scrutinised.

A forensic pathologist, Ella Sugo, told the court a micro-organism which was commonly found in broken skin, was isolated in Gloria’s blood, urine, skin and eyes. She had abnormally pale skin and hair. Dr Sugo found her immune system was weakened. Her thymus gland, a part of the immune system, had shrunk after originally being in good condition.

So much for homeopathy “strengthening the immune system.”

Although it’s possible that modern medicine might have been able to prevent this death, one thing’s for sure: Treating the baby with water, which is all that homeopathic remedies really are, rather than effective medicine certainly didn’t make it more likely that this baby would survive. Worse, the baby almost certainly suffered far more than she should have.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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