But is it art?

For many people in the natural healthcare field professor Edzard Ernst is sadly best known for his criticism of complementary medicine. So much so that I usually feel the need to preface any mention of him with the word ‘controversial’ (as in “the controversial professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University …”).It’s against this background that we report briefly this week on some interesting comments made by Ernst to the Daily Express on the subject of homeopathy.

Ernst’s comments form part of a long article in the Express prompted by the recent call by MPs for an end to NHS funding of homeopathic treatments and hospitals.

Ernst makes the point that good medicine needs “good art as well as good science”. It wasn’t a great surprise to hear him declare that homeopathy “may be deficient on the science side of medicine” (a point strongly contested by the homeopathic community, which is staging a seminar on the subject in March*). But it was a very interesting to hear him describe homeopathy as being very good at the art of medicine — something that has a much stronger bearing on treatment and recovery outcomes than it is given credit for.

The art of good medicine — which at a simple level might just mean a sympathetic consultation that makes a patient feel “more warmly understood” — is something that conventional medicine has “much to learn” says Ernst. A point with which few of us would probably disagree.

• Scientific Research in Homeopathy will take place March 27. For details visit http://bit.ly/bgrJGo

By Jim Manson

Natural Products editor and environment journalist
Jim Manson is editor of Natural Products magazine. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian and Time Out.