King Charles III of England was crowned this week. What’s that got to do with Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology? Well, the king is a big supporter of alternative medicine and one goal of IPMB is to highlight science-based medicine. If you believe in science, you don’t believe in alternative medicine. If science shows that some treatment works, it becomes part of medicine; there is nothing “alternative” about it. If science doesn’t show that some treatment works, then advocating for that treatment as “alternative medicine” is silly and foolish. In the realm of medicine, the king is a snake oil salesman.
Particularly worrisome is the king’s support for homeopathy. For those not familiar with homeopathic medicine, it works like this: a drug is repeatedly diluted, first by a 10:1 ratio of water to active ingredient (1X), then again a 10:1 dilution so the total dilution is by a factor of 100 (2X), then again a 10:1 dilution (3X), and so on. In Voodo Science, Bob Park described it this way:
The dilution limit is reached when a single molecule of the medicine remains. Beyond that point, there is nothing left to dilute. In over-the-counter homeopathic remedies, for example, a dilution of 30X is fairly standard. The notation 30X means the substance was diluted one part in ten and shaken, and then this was repeated sequentially thirty times. The final dilution would be one part medicine to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 parts of water. That would be far beyond the dilution limit. To be precise, at a dilution of 30X you would have to drink 7,874 gallons of the solution to expect to get just one molecule of the medicine.
The supporters of homeopathy would have us believe that the water “remembers” the presence of the active ingredient.
King Charles’s support of alternative medicine was discussed in a recent article in The Scientist by Sophie Fessl, titled “ The Unscientific King: Charles III’s History Promoting Homeopathy.” The first paragraph is reproduced below.
King Charles III has been conferred many new titles following the recent death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, but one existing title that remains is “Royal Patron of the Faculty of Homeopathy,” an organization of healthcare practitioners who also practice the pseudoscientific form of medicine. And the new king’s ties with alternative medicine go beyond this patronship and a dalliance with alternative medicine: In several instances, then-Prince Charles appears to have lobbied for homeopathy and other fields of alternative medicine. As King Charles ascends the throne, experts are reflecting on his influence on medical science in the UK as Prince of Wales, and how he might affect alternative medicine in the UK going forward as monarch.
One book I have not read yet but is on my to-read list is Charles, The Alternative King, by Edzard Ernst, an advocate for evidence-based medicine and one of my heroes. In his preface, Ernst writes
This book chronicles Charles’s track record in promoting pseudo- and anti-science in the realm of alternative medicine. The new edition includes an additional final chapter with a summary of some of the scientific evidence that has emerged since this biography [originally titled Charles, The Alternative Prince] was first published. It demonstrates that the concerns about the safety and efficacy of the treatments in question are becoming even more disquieting. Whether such data will tame the alternative bee under the royal bonnet seems, however, doubtful.
This is the man who now sits on the thrown of England. We Americans owe George Washington so much.