COVID and Classical Homeopathy
02 June 2020 (online)
‘So discuss them no further, just observe and pass by’
Dante (Inferno, canto III)
The different homeopathic schools can affirm that they all are based on the Hahnemannian principle of similarity. For this reason, totally different practices are classified under the same name. Kent warned that ‘to say that Homeopathy is based on the law of similars is only to delimit the base of a cone leaving its apex projected in space’. There is much more in Homeopathy than the principle of similarity. That is why it was necessary to call Classical Homeopathy the tradition that maintained the spirit of the doctrine. As I pointed out in this Journal in an article of 2016, among the foundations of the Classical Homeopathy tradition, the principle of individualisation stands out.
In the search for a single medicine, the peculiarities of each individual case are of great importance. Each patient is seen by the classical homeopath as an unrepeatable changed mode of being. It is common place, but never enough to say that we treat the patient and not the disease. If we are facing two patients with the same pathological diagnosis, each one will probably receive a different homeopathic remedy, depending on the characteristic totality of their symptoms. And symptoms in Homeopathy are not just the signs of the pathology, but everything that characterises mentally and physically that specific individual.
It is difficult for a conventional doctor (whom we usually call an allopath) to understand this homeopathic premise, because all his training leads him to look for what is common in several patients to classify them according to the same pathological diagnosis and institute the therapy that is based on that same diagnosis.
In science, as in almost everything, to change the way you think is painful, it is almost a conversion process. For those recently converted from allopathy to Classical Homeopathy, the principle of individualisation is the key point, it is the biggest source of errors, the biggest cause of failure. When we lose sight of the need to individualise, we forget the patient and focus on pathology, we automatically direct drugs to disease names. Hahnemann warned that when the homeopath assesses the symptomatic totality of a clinical case, he is ‘indifferent whether anything similar ever existed before in the world or not, under any name whatever’.
For Stuart Close, individualisation ‘has been the burden of the message of every great teacher’ of Homeopathy since Hahnemann. The importance of individualisation cannot be overemphasised. Each case is unique. This is the challenge that all of us homeopaths have to impose on us: to fight the temptation to see the patient as just another case among many that we have seen. As Kent confesses: ‘I have to fight that with every fresh case I come to’.
If individualisation is the key to success, what is the factor that makes it so difficult to put into practice? Professor Massimo Mangialavori replies: ‘To be fair, in some urgent situations, classical homeopaths may not have the time to employ their usual careful, complex approach. There may be too many patients in a particular day to individualize treatment as well as one would like; there may be an epidemic’.
I write this letter in 2020, a pandemic has been declared by the WHO and has been repeatedly disseminated by the media. The population freaks out, containment measures are taken, national borders are closed, quarantines are instituted. Faced with the chaos, we could think that as homeopaths we are facing a limit to our ‘usual careful, complex approach’, we will not be able to individualise, we will have to appeal to the Hahnemannian strategy of the epidemic genius, as often used in history with success in various epidemics—a specific medication that has the characteristics of the epidemic disease to be used at that time as treatment and prophylaxis.
But the question I ask myself is: am I stumbling over cases to the point where I can't individualise them? Am I faced with an endless line of sick patients without time to evaluate them one by one? The answer, at least for me and in my country, is a big ‘no!’.
The moment in Brazil is one of disinformation. The media broadcasts a scenario of panic 24 hours a day as if the coronavirus disease (COVID) was the only disease in the world. Each new death is reported exhaustively. They comment on national television the number of ventilators in the ICUs. They show scenes of open graves waiting for a large number of deaths. But when we turn off the TV and close the newspapers, the reality is different. Health services were prepared, hospitals were set up, all attention was directed to an explosion of cases that did not happen. What we see are empty hospitals in the majority of the cities and few medical appointments. Patients who must follow their treatments for other conditions cannot be treated, as they were forced to stay at home, frightened by the media and by some doctors, the clinics were closed and nothing is said about anything else: only the pandemic exists.
The data show us that the coronavirus is not more lethal than the common flu. From January to the day I write in mid-April 2020, the number of deaths from complications with the common flu (world data) is approximately 140,000, while the number for coronavirus is approximately 130,000. More than 600,000 people die every year in consequence of seasonal flu. Have these thousands of annual deaths ever been reported on TV and newspapers?
It seems that everyone forgot that every year a part of the patients presents severe conditions after a viral infection; they forgot that some people really die every year due to complications of viral conditions. Every year we deal with mutations of the influenza virus that are far more lethal than the coronavirus. In other words, the present health problem is not new or even bigger than the problems that we always face every year. We've had annual viral pandemics for centuries, but never have so many measures been taken as this year.
Who is interested in building an image of chaos this year? Panic can generate financial and political profit. It has nothing to do with health. We cannot ignore this dimension of the problem. The media, in Brazil, seems at all costs to show an epidemic much worse than it actually is. The consequence of all uproar and all measures taken this year is a crisis much worse than the virus: loss of liberties, unemployment, recession, misery, hunger. In Brazil, we had reports of doctors being forced to declare COVID as the cause of the death in cases with undetermined causes. Everything is done to inflate the numbers and to contribute to the panic. Who wins with that?
Viral epidemics have always existed and will always exist. They follow a known curve: rise, peak and decline. It is an inexorable phenomenon of nature. It is a wave that cannot be stopped. COVID's data does not allow us to classify it as a pest that decimates populations. On the contrary, the majority of patients (96%) present with a mild flu condition and a minority, mainly in a risk group (elderly with comorbidities) will present with severe respiratory failure ([Fig 1]).
Therefore, it is obvious that we are faced with two possibilities: either the patient will come to us with a flu-like condition and we have time to evaluate him and make a normal appointment or the patient is in a serious condition and needs advanced life support and must be hospitalised.
I see frightened allopathic medical colleagues. There are reports from doctors who delay the intubation process for fear of contracting the virus in the procedure. An affront to the oath we took when we became doctors. A nonsense situation, as we always live with epidemics and with many pathologies even more serious than the current one. Some doctors have forgotten something called immunity, the equilibrium relationship we have with germs. Some doctors have forgotten that coming into contact with a virus does not necessarily mean falling ill. They are doctors infected by the panic of the media; they left aside the knowledge and the evidence and just accepted the propaganda.
But I also see frightened homeopaths colleagues. The homeopath should not forget that the acute condition appears with an intentionality—to solve much deeper problems of the sick individual. The homeopath should not forget that the most important is the susceptibility to illness; that the acute condition is an explosion of the underlying chronic disease and that it usually lasts for about 2 weeks and improves even when we do nothing. The homeopath should not forget that ‘le microbe n'est rien, le terrain est tout’ (the germ is nothing and the terrain is everything). But they forgot it and are frightened. Many of these homeopaths have also accepted the propaganda without questioning it.
In Brazil and in other countries, I see several groups of homeopaths mobilising to respond to the epidemic. The solutions were, as always, the most varied. Every week a new epidemic genius arrives: Arsenicum, Bryonia, China, Antimonium tartaricum, Camphora etc ...
But at least in my reality and in that of many Brazilian colleagues the cases do not arrive or do not accumulate. I work in a city with more than 1 million inhabitants; the number of confirmed cases is 138 and the number of deaths is 5, after 3 months of epidemic. [a] The thousands of cases that should have arrived a month ago have not appeared. The predictions were all wrong. Do I need an epidemic genius in this reality? Do I need to limit myself to some specific remedies or can I individualise the few cases (if they arrive) by taking the opportunity to make the homeopathic consultation and seek the characteristic totality and the patient's single remedy?
We cannot forget that in the 19th century, the success of the homeopathic approach to epidemics caused many conversions of allopathic doctors who, dazzled by the simplicity of the epidemic genius, came to Homeopathy looking for a specific remedy for each condition. Result: failures and frustration. Many of them slipped back into allopathy. Epidemic genius is like a knife that only has a blade and has no handle. It fulfils the immediate objective, but it also can cut the hand that uses it.
Experts in the various areas related to epidemics are lost. They interpret numbers in totally different ways. Some reassure the people, while others collaborate with the panic; some advocate a strict isolation, while others attest that closing people at home is of no use; some point to graphics showing that the worse is yet to come, while others show that the peak has passed. It reminds me of that painting in which Alexandre Egorovich Beyderman portrays Hahnemann watching the horrors of allopathy ([Fig 2]).
Other questions I asked myself: does Homeopathy need to answer all public health problems? Why do we, classic homeopaths, need to join the confusion? Can't we do like Dante, guided by Virgil, going through the Hell and just looking without taking part of it? Why don't we stick to our fundamentals as we have always done, caring for every type of patient, with any type of problem, helping in many cases, but always within our program, always with our ‘usual careful and complex approach’?
- 1 Kent JT. Homeopatia - escritos menores, aforismos y preceptos. Buenos Aires: Ed. Albatros; 1987
- 2 Madsen R. The Scientific Research Program of Classic Homeopathy. S. Links 2016; 29 (01) 67-72
- 3 Hahnemann S. Organon. São Paulo: Gehsp; 2013
- 4 Close S. The genius of Homeopathy. India: B Jain Pub; 2005
- 5 Kent JT. The art and science of homeopathic medicine (Lectures on homeopathic philosophy). New York: Dover Publishers; 2002
- 6 Mangialavori M. Praxis: Method of Complexity, the Search for Coherence in Clinical Phenomena. Vols. 1. Modena, Italy: Matrix; 2010
- 7 Available from https://www.worldometers.info (15 Apr 2020)
- 8 Available from https://covid-19.campinas.sp.gov.br (15 Apr 2020)
- 9 Repasz C. . “On the Cutting Edge of Extinction: How the Quest for Modernity Led to the Erosion of Identity in American Homeopathy from 1865-1900” in The American Homeopath, the Journal of the North American Society of Homeopaths Vol. 7, 2001