Death by homeopathy: issues for civil, criminal and coronial law and for health service policy

J Law Med. 2012 Mar;19(3):454-78.


Homoeopathy has a significant clinical history, tracing its roots back to Hippocrates and more latterly to Dr Christian (Samuel) Hahnemann (1755-1843), a Saxon physician. In the last 30 years it has ridden a wave of resurgent interest and practice associated with disillusionment with orthodox medicine and the emergence of complementary therapies. However, recent years have seen a series of meta-analyses that have suggested that the therapeutic claims of homeopathy lack scientific justification. A 2010 report of the Science and Technology Committee of the United Kingdom House of Commons recommended that it cease to be a beneficiary of NHS funding because of its lack of scientific credibility. In Australia the National Health and Medical Research Council is expected to publish a statement on the ethics of health practitioners' use of homoeopathy in 2013. In India, England, New South Wales and Western Australia civil, criminal and coronial decisions have reached deeply troubling conclusions about homoeopaths and the risk that they pose for counter-therapeutic outcomes, including the causing of deaths. The legal decisions, in conjunction with the recent analyses of homoeopathy's claims, are such as to raise confronting health care and legal issues relating to matters as diverse as consumer protection and criminal liability. They suggest that the profession is not suitable for formal registration and regulation lest such a status lend to it a legitimacy that it does not warrant.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Homeopathy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom