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Is It Malpractice if a Doctor Recommends a Homeopathic Treatment?

January 15, 2024

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Doctors are supposed to do whatever they can within reason and within the confines of patient safety to ensure that the people they're treating have the best possible chance of recovering from their illnesses or injuries. For most doctors, that means prescribing medications and utilizing treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA).

However, some doctors recommend treatments that fall outside those governing bodies. Although many people believe in the healing power of alternative medicine, there's little, if any, evidence that it works. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says "there's little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific health condition."

Because of this, it's possible for people whose doctors recommended homeopathy in place of other forms of treatment to notice their health problems worsening due to homeopathy's lack of efficacy. To determine if their doctors can be held liable for medical malpractice, it's important first to define homeopathy, learn what it's used for, and how it can fail to treat patients' symptoms.

What Is a Homeopathic Treatment?

Homeopathic treatment is a form of alternative medicine based on the principle that "like cures like." It operates on the belief that highly diluted substances, which in larger doses would cause symptoms similar to those a person is experiencing, can help the body heal itself.

Homeopathy uses natural substances—plant, mineral, or animal-based—that are diluted in water or alcohol to extreme levels, often to the point where there might not be a single molecule of the original substance remaining. This process is called potentization.

Homeopathy practitioners believe that diluting the substance in this way increases its healing power while minimizing any potential side effects. They suggest that these highly diluted substances stimulate the body's vital force or innate healing ability, helping to restore balance and health.

Homeopathic remedies come in various forms: pellets, tablets, liquid solutions, or topical applications. The selection of a remedy is based on the individual's specific symptoms, personality, emotions, and overall health rather than solely focusing on the disease or condition itself.

What Health Conditions Are Homeopathic Treatments Used For?

Homeopathic remedies are often suggested for various conditions, including:

  • Respiratory Issues: Some homeopaths suggest remedies for asthma, allergies, sinusitis, and coughs.
  • Digestive Problems: Homeopathy might be recommended for digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, or gastritis.
  • Skin Conditions: Eczema, acne, psoriasis, and other skin ailments might be addressed using homeopathic treatments according to some practitioners.
  • Mental Health: Anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress-related conditions might be approached with homeopathy in some cases.
  • Chronic Conditions: Homeopathy is sometimes considered for chronic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Women's Health: Menstrual issues, menopause symptoms, and some pregnancy-related concerns might also be addressed using homeopathic remedies.

It's important to note that doctors' use of homeopathic treatments varies significantly. Some medical practitioners might consider homeopathy as an aide to conventional medicine that should be used alongside it rather than completely replacing it, or for conditions where traditional therapies have limitations. However, most medical professionals stick to evidence-based treatments supported by scientific research and clinical trials.

Why Does Homeopathy Fail to Treat Illnesses and Health Problems?

Homeopathy's limitations in treating a patient's symptoms or illness stem from its reliance on extreme dilution, lack of scientific evidence, and potential reliance on the placebo effect. The highly diluted nature of homeopathic remedies might render them pharmacologically inert, while the absence of strong empirical support challenges its credibility as an effective medical treatment.

In addition, its personalized approach based on individual symptoms and beliefs may not consistently address the underlying cause or provide tangible relief, especially in conditions requiring evidence-based interventions or timely conventional medical care.

If a Homeopathic Treatment Harms a Patient, a Doctor Can Be Held Liable

In Ohio, doctors recommending homeopathic treatments can potentially be held liable if their recommendation deviates from the accepted standard of care, leading to harm or injury to the patient. Ohio law requires physicians to provide care consistent with the prevailing medical standards, which may include informing patients about evidence-based treatments and potential risks associated with homeopathy. If a doctor fails to meet this standard and the patient suffers harm, they could be legally accountable.

However, doctors may not be held liable for patients whose health worsens if they recommend homeopathic treatments in addition to treatments approved by the FDA or AMA. Because homeopathic treatments are so heavily diluted, they typically don't cause health problems on their own. That means that if doctors prescribe or recommend effective treatments alongside homeopathic treatments, they usually aren't held liable for their patients' worsening health.

Contact Our Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Although homeopathy is generally regarded as ineffective at treating illnesses and health problems, it's typically not harmful. However, it can become dangerous when it is recommended in place of medications and treatments with proven efficacy through clinical trials and scientific studies.

If you or someone you love was harmed by a doctor who recommended homeopathic treatments above or in place of traditional medicine, you may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim. That's because the doctor who treated you violated their duty to care for you. Contact the Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy today for a free case review and to learn your options.

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