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The questionable influence of HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, on the integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into the NHS.
"The Prince of Wales is pushing for an acceptance of complementary medicines and urging medical watchdogs to regulate their professions in order to better protect patients. Two years ago the Coalition pledged to bring in an official register of practitioners of herbal and Chinese medicines, which would see therapists regulated alongside other health care workers. It followed two public consultations which found overwhelming support for the proposals. But ministers have blocked the proposals, instead setting up a new committee – which has just secretly drawn up plans to spend a further 18 months re-examining the matter. Prince Charles is said to be increasingly frustrated about "delay tactics" which mean that the proposals may not be published until next year and then would be highly likely to be cast aside again as an election looms. Well-placed sources said that the Prince was passionate about integrated health policies and the proper regulation of complementary as well as mainstream medicines. He is understood to have raised his concerns with Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, during a meeting at Clarence House...A spokesman for the Department for Health said that its officials had been working with the UK's devolved administrations since 2011 in order to determine how best to "balance public protection with consumer choice" in herbal medicine and had set up the working group because the issues involved were complex." The Telegraph (19th January 2014)
He is one of the world's most tenacious, outspoken and influential proponent of alternative medicine and attacker of science - sufficient reason, I think, to join the birthday-celebrations by outlining a chronology of his love affair with quackery...The origins of Charles' passion for all things alternative are not difficult to trace...The young Prince Charles went on a journey of 'spiritual discovery' into the wilderness of northern Kenya. His guru and guide was Laurens van der Post (who was later discovered to be a fraud and compulsive fantasist and to have fathered a child with a 14-year old girl entrusted to him during a sea voyage). Van der Post wanted to awake Charles' young intuitive mind and attune it to the ideas of Carl Jung's 'collective unconscious' which allegedly unites us all through a common vital force. It is this belief in vitalism (long obsolete in medicine and science) that provides the crucial link to alternative medicine: virtually every form of the otherwise highly diverse range of alternative therapies is based on the assumption that some sort of vital force or energy exists. Charles was so taken by van der Post that, after his death, he established an annual lecture in his honour...In November 2013, Charles invited alternative medicine proponents from across the world, including Dean Michael Ornish, Sausalito, California, Michael Dixon, chair of College of Medicine, UK, and Issac Mathai of Soukya Foundation, Bangalore, to India for a 'brain storm' and a subsequent conference on alternative medicine. The prince wanted the experts to collaborate and explore the possibilities of integrating different systems of medicines and to better the healthcare delivery globally, one of the organisers said. I am sure that, in the future, we will hear much more about Charles' indulgence in quackery; and, of course, we will hear more criticism of it. But I doubt that anyone can put it better that the late Christopher Hitchens who repeatedly wrote about Charles' passion for anti-science:
"Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The "vacuum" will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labour of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it causally slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover."
And perhaps even better here:
We have known for a long time that Prince Charles' empty sails are so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant. He fell for the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post. He was bowled over by the charms of homeopathic medicine. He has been believably reported as saying that plants do better if you talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way. But this latest departure promotes him from an advocate of harmless nonsense to positively sinister nonsense....The heir to the throne seems to possess the ability to surround himself—perhaps by some mysterious ultramagnetic force?—with every moon-faced spoon-bender, shrub-flatterer, and water-diviner within range.
Professor Edzard Ernst (14th November 2013)
"His sceptics say it is 'witchcraft' and 'nonsense', but Prince Charles's faith in the alternative medicine is unwavering...Charles's public devotion to alternative medicine first became clear in an address to the British Medical Association in December 1982 on the 150th anniversary of its foundation...[his] faith in alternative medicine is grounded in the teachings of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and German philosopher Kurt Hahn, which adhere to ancient healing processes emphasising the treatment of the patient as a whole. His speech prompted the BMA to set up an inquiry (which found, in 1986, no scientific proof that any homeopathic treatments worked), and cleaved an ideological rift between Charles and much of the medical profession that endures to this day. Spurred on by letters from supporters, the Prince continued to promote his views, including the cause of homeopathy...Of course, for those who see alternative medicine - and particularly homeopathy - as bogus, Charles's passion for it only undermines his credibility." The Telegraph (12th November 2013)
"HRH, The Prince of Wales has supported quackery on uncounted occasions. Several years ago, Charles even began selling his very own line of snake-oil. Now he surprises the British public with a brand new product: the 'Baby Organic Hamper'. It is being sold for £195 under Prince Charles' Highgrove label...I would be inclined to file Charles' baby-hamper under the category of 'foolish nonsense'...[it] does, however, acquire a more sinister significance through the fact that the heir to the throne, who arguably should be an example to us all, yet again is responsible for unsubstantiated therapeutic claims. So, on balance, I think this is more than just foolish nonsense; in fact, it is yet another example of Charles misguiding the public through his passion for quackery." Professor Edzard Ernst (5th November 2013)
"As heir to the throne, Prince Charles enjoys privileged access to government ministers...The attorney general Dominic Grieve recently blocked the release of "particularly frank" letters from Charles to ministers, saying that their disclosure would "potentially have undermined his position of political neutrality", "damage the Prince of Wales's ability to perform his duties when he becomes king" and "would be seriously damaging to his role as a future monarch". But the attorney general won't have to take that decision again in the future. The royal family now enjoys a total exemption from the freedom of information act – an exemption introduced primarily to prevent the true extent of Charles's lobbying coming to light...Some of Charles's supporters have claimed that he will give up his political interference when he becomes king. But Charles himself has made clear that he intends to redefine the monarch's role to allow him to "speak out on matters of national and international importance in ways that at the moment would be unthinkable". And with politicians seemingly unwilling and unable to stand up to him, who's to stop him?
[Some] key examples of Charles's political interference:
- In 2006 Charles used a speech at the World Health Assembly in Geneva to call on governments to fund complementary medicines such as homeopathy – at a time when the issues was the subject of intense political and professional debate.
- In 2007 Charles personally lobbied the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to include complementary and alternative medicines within its remit, despite opposition from scientists. Shortly after, the MHRA relaxed its rules of herbal medicines.
- In October 2009 Charles met with Andy Burnham, then health secretary, at Clarence House to lobby for complementary and alternative medicines to be available on the NHS. The pair met at Clarence House.
- In March 2010 Republic reported the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health to the charity commission, accusing the foundation's staff of pursuing a public vendetta against Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine.
- Draft NHS guidance warning that there is no evidence that homeopathy works was suppressed following lobbying by the Foundation for Integrated Health, Charles's alternative medicine charity.
First published by Republic during November 2013.
"Prince Charles certainly has done more than anyone else I know to let unproven treatments infiltrate real medicine. To honour his unique achievements, I am here presenting a fictitious interview with him. It never did take place, of course, and the questions I put to him are pure imagination. However, the 'answers' are in a way quite real: they have been taken unaltered from various speeches he made and articles he wrote. To avoid being accused of using dodgy sources which might have quoted him inaccurately or sympathetically, I have exclusively used HRH's very own official website as a source for his comments." Professor Edzard Ernst (7th October 2013)
The disclosure that three members of his staff had been seconded to Whitehall followed last week's revelation that the heir to throne has had 36 private meetings with Cabinet members since the 2010 general election. Demands for 27 letters written by the Prince to ministers in the previous government to be released have also been blocked by the Attorney General. MPs are preparing to challenge ministers over the secondments when Parliament returns next month and will attempt to trigger a Commons inquiry into the Prince's influence over the Government machine...Ministers have previously expressed private fears that Prince Charles may interfere too readily in government decisions when he becomes king." The Independent (18th August 2013)
"MPs will next month examine the heir to the throne's little-known royal veto over any new laws that affect his private interests. The move follows a Guardian investigation in 2011 into the secretive constitutional loophole that revealed how ministers have been forced to seek permission from Prince Charles to pass at least a dozen government bills. The House of Commons political and constitutional reform committee, chaired by the Labour MP Graham Allen, will ask whether there is a risk that the requirement of royal consent, which is also granted by the Queen depending on the nature of the law being passed, "could be seen as politicising the monarchy"." The Guardian (12th August 2013)
"The office of the Prince of Wales has said he had a right and a duty to communicate privately with the government "on any matter he chooses", after the extent of his private meetings with ministers came under renewed questioning...The high court ruled last month that the public has no right to read documents that would reveal how Charles has sought to alter government policies. Three judges rejected a legal attempt by the Guardian to force the publication of private letters written by the prince to government ministers. However, Lord Judge, the lord chief justice of England and Wales, and two other judges have given the Guardian permission to appeal against the decision. The appeal, which is due to be heard in the court of appeal this year, will be the latest stage in an eight-year battle by the newspaper to view a set of letters written by the prince to ministers in seven government departments over a nine-month period. The cabinet decided that the letters must remain hidden after concluding that they could undermine the public's perception of the prince's political neutrality. Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, has said that if the letters were published there was a risk that the heir to the throne would be "viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy"." The Guardian (12th August 2013)
Campaign group Republic has accused Prince Charles of dishonesty and today demanded MPs call him as a witness in their 'royal veto' inquiry...MPs are legally required to seek Charles's consent on a whole raft of new laws thanks to the "Queen's and Prince's consent" rule. The effective veto is conducted in secret and allows Charles to insist on changes to laws that affect his private interests...Republic's chief executive officer Graham Smith said today: "We welcome the Commons inquiry into the royal veto and will be giving evidence ourselves in due course. If Charles believes he has a right to secretly lobby ministers and exercise a veto over new laws then he should be called to the Commons to give evidence himself. It's no good Charles sending his PR men to give evidence, he needs to turn up and explain himself in public. He seems keen to meet MPs in private, now is the time to hear what he has to say out in the open. Charles's claim that his meetings with ministers are part of his preparation for being king are simply untrue. Charles is abusing his position to promote his own interests and his pet issues. Such dishonesty needs to be directly challenged by MPs and in public. It is telling that while claiming to be meeting MPs in preparation for being king Charles has not once met with Treasury or Justice Department ministers. He is only meeting ministers relevant to his political interests." Republic (12th August 2013)
Charles, Prince of Wales, has been unusually public in expressing his views. He told a conference at St James's Palace "I was accused once of being the enemy of the Enlightenment" "I felt proud of that." That's a remarkable point of view for someone who, if he succeeds, will become the patron of that product of the age of enlightenment, the Royal Society...In July 2013, the Minister of Health, Jeremy Hunt, visited the prince at Clarence House. The visit was reported to be to persuade the minister to defend homeopathy, though it was more likely to have been to press the case to confer a government stamp of approval on herbalists and traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners by giving them statutory regulation. This is a matter that was recently raised again in parliament by Charles' greatest ally, David Tredinnick MP (Con, Bosworth) who got into trouble for charging astrology software to expenses. We shall never know what pressure was applied. A ruling of the Information Commissioner judged, reasonably enough, that there was public interest in knowing what influences were being brought to bear on public policy. But the Attorney General overruled the judgement on the grounds that "Disclosure of the correspondence could damage The Prince of Wales' ability to perform his duties when he becomes King." That, of course, is exactly what we are worried about. The attorney general, while trying to justify the secrecy of Charles' letters, said "It is a matter of the highest importance within our constitutional framework that the Monarch is a politically neutral figure". Questions about health policy are undoubtedly political, and the highly partisan interventions of the prince in the political process make his behaviour unconstitutional. They endanger the monarchy itself." Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (30th July 2013)
"Prince Charles was last night urged to stay out of the debate over homeopathy on the NHS, amid claims that he had lobbied the Health Secretary in favour of the controversial alternative treatment...Birmingham Labour MP Steve McCabe said it was "strange" that the heir to the throne should be able to lobby the Health Secretary on such a controversial issue. "It is even more extraordinary that he should be allowed to do this in secret ... I can't see how it isn't in the public interest for the rest of us to know," he said. His colleague, Paul Flynn, claimed the Prince had a duty to remain neutral, particularly over a hugely controversial issue involving public spending and the health of the nation...The Tory MP David Tredinnick, a supporter of homeopathy who also sits on the Health Select Committee, said he was not concerned about Prince Charles's intervention, as "he is probably as well placed as anybody in the country to comment on this". Speaking on the BBC, Mr Tredinnick said: "We should do what they do in the rest of the world, which is to take [homeopathy] seriously." But David Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College London, said homeopathy was "utter nonsense". "Homeopathic remedies contain nothing whatsoever. The Americans have spent $2bn investigating these things ...they haven't found a single one that works," he said. Clarence House confirmed the Prince had met Mr Hunt last week, but neither they nor the Department of Health would give details of the discussions." The Independent (21st July 2013)
"Homoeopathy on the NHS was described as "mad" by the Government's outgoing scientific adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, earlier this year, but the Prince of Wales remains convinced of its benefits...the heir to the throne held a private meeting at Clarence House with Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, last week at which he argued for continued NHS funding for alternative treatments, which were called "witchcraft" by the British Medical Association." The Telegraph (14th July 2013)
"The way in which lobby groups and powerful people can influence government has come to light after an article on homeopathy on the public information website NHS Choices was stripped of all evidence questioning its effectiveness as a result of intervention by a charity set up by the Prince of Wales...evidence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by David Colquhoun, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at University College London and a fellow of the Royal Society, indicates that the health department can edit the content if it contradicts its own policies, even if that content is based on evidence. Emails obtained from NHS Choices by Colquhoun show that even before the article on homeopathy was written the department invited the writer to a meeting with the Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council to discuss the content "so we could start to piece this particular jigsaw together"...After the meeting, a representative of the Foundation wrote to the health department saying that the proposed content was "a bit horrifying" and "anti-complementary medicine"...David Mattin, who was the editor of the homeopathy article and who has now left NHS Choices, said in an email to Colquhoun, "My strong impression was of DH [Department of Health] civil servants who lacked the courage and, frankly, the energy to stand up to the criticism from special interest groups that they anticipated would arise because of the article; and that did indeed arise when a draft of the article and other draft content on complementary and alternative medicines fell into the hands of the Prince's Foundation and other CAM [complementary and alternative medicines] groups". He added, "They [the department] seemed to have no interest in making an appraisal of the evidence on homeopathy themselves to see if what we were saying was actually true or not. "The whole episode is an insight into the way special interest groups can influence the workings of government and the public sector, simply by making a lot of noise and having a few powerful friends"." Ingrid Torjesen, British Medical Journal (18th February 2013) [Full text pdf]
"NHS Choices is usually a good source of information for the public. But there is one exception: the information they provide about alternative medicine is poor. A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that the attempt of NHS Choices to rewrite their pages more accurately was censored by the Department of Health in conjunction with the late Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health. The Department of Health (DH) has misled the public...The fact of the matter is that regulation of magic medicine by the government has been a total disaster, because, it seems, DH regards the Prince of Wales as a reliable source...I find it fascinating to see just how venomous quacks become when the evidence contradicts their views. The cuddly "holistic" veneer quickly vanishes...And it's pretty shocking that the DH has preferred advice from the Prince's Foundation and its handful of acolytes (in particular Michael Dixon and George Lewith) to the findings of the Science and Technology Select Committee and the views of the Chief Scientific Advisor." Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (13th February 2013)
"His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales has today published in the Journal of The Royal Society his vision of what he now calls "post-modern medicine" and previously named integrated health care...MY RESPONSE: 1) Integrated medicine is a smoke screen behind which any conceivable form of quackery is being promoted and administered; 2) The fact that patients are human beings who consist of mind, body and spirit is a core concept of all good health care and not a monopoly of integrated medicine; 3) The notion of 'ancient wisdom' is a classical fallacy; 4) The assumption that conventional medicine only treats symptoms displays a remarkable ignorance about modern health care; 5) The patient is at the heart of any good health care; 6) The application of unproven or disproved treatments to patients would make modern health care not more human but less effective; 7) The value of the notion of the "best of all worlds" crucially depends on what we mean by "best". In medicine, this must describe interventions which demonstrably generate more good than harm – not 'preferred by the future king of England'; 8) Some might find the point about inequalities affecting health offensive when it is made by an individual who profits millions without paying tax for the benefit of society. I don't think anyone doubts that medicine needs improving. However, I do doubt that Charles' vision of a "post-modern medicine" is the way to achieve improvement – in fact, I fear that is would lead us straight back to the dark ages." (22nd January 2013)
"Prince Charles' recent editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine is worth reading – because it explains how a little knowledge paired with unwavering beliefs can result in vastly mistaken conclusions...Let us examine the subliminal references to complementary therapies and the way in which pick-and-mix evidence selection can undermine what we know about health. HRH is right when he says that we should do more to 'enhance the length of contact and continuity' between doctors and patients – but if that time is spent doling out alternative medicine, we may as well not bother. Where Prince Charles has it wrong, in my view, is in assuming that complementary therapies have a role in modern medicine. Relying on things we know don't work means we don't pay attention to what does work. Sticking to alternative medicine because it is sometimes good at delivering placebo effects creates massive problems, not least in effectively misleading patients...It's time for hard-nosed, evidence-based medicine to take back the word 'holistic'. For too long, the advocates of alternatives have allowed themselves to think that it is only them who really 'care'. In fact, it is impossible to truly care for patients whom we think so little of that we give them placebos. This kind of thinking is endarkening. Our NHS deserves better." Dr Margaret McCartney, Pulse (9th January 2013)
"...it seems the Prince has inspired a new generation of 'cosmic' farmers, who grow fruit and vegetables according to signs of the zodiac and encourage their cows and sheep to develop a personality. The Prince first learnt about biodynamics during a trip to Australia in 2005. The theory, developed almost a century ago by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, bases its planting schedule on the astrological calendar and the positions of the Sun, Moon and Saturn. Prince Charles later organised workshops for farmers and gardeners who work his land in the Duchy of Cornwall and at his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire....Biodynamic farming involves the use of homeopathic potions sprayed on to leaves and soil fertilisers developed using horn manure – prepared by rotting down dung by stuffing it into cow horns which are then buried. The potions are said to generate harmony between the land and the cattle....Prince Charles's influence is being credited with doubling the membership of the Biodynamic Association (BDA), which in five years has grown from 500 to 1,000." Daily Mail (9th December 2012)
This overview by the Vice President of the British Chiropractic Association, Matthew Bennett, reveals that, in the UK, "much of the early work" on the statutory regulation of chiropractors was done at dinner parties attended by HRH Prince Charles, among others. (20th December 2012)