Medical Ethics

Methods To Avoid In Homeopathic Practice: Ethics

The American veterinarian Dr. Pitcairn describes in this document which he prepared for the homoeopathic education of licensed veterinarians the guidelines for ethical practice in homoeopathy.

This script Ethics was originally writen by Richard Pitcairn for the instruction of veterinary homeopaths, and has kindly been made available to us by the author.

The publication here is with kind permission of the author.


The American veterinarian Dr. Pitcairn describes in this document which he prepared for the homoeopathic education of licensed veterinarians the guidelines for ethical practice in homoeopathy. He presents different approaches falsely called homoeopathy and explains why they are wrong. These concepts include the use of so-called complex remedies, potency chords and sarcodes, the treatment for diagnostic categories, the favoured description of unproved or so-called small remedies, dream and meditation provings as well as the prescription on the basis of psychological aspects, grouping of remedies or through use of psychic methods like kinesiology.


Richard Pitcairn

Samuel Hahnemann developed and perfected homeopathic practice for over 50 years. As a science it was founded on some very important principles which are both a guide to clinical work and a basis for ethical practice.

In a simplified way, these principles are:

1. Medicines can stimulate a healing reaction from the body if they are able to disturb the health of the individual in a way that is very similar to that person’s natural disease, e.g., by establishing an artificial medicinal disease that is much like the natural disease.

2. Medicines, if similar in their effects, have the ability to do this because the patient is abnormally sensitive to their influence. That is, the susceptibility to the similar medicine is equal to the susceptibility to the illness.

3. It follows then that medicines which are not similar to the patient will have effects that are other than curative. These are:

– Palliative – temporary relief of symptoms as long as the drug is continued.

– Suppressive – long term disappearance of a symptom even though the drug is not continued. Surgery is suppressive in a similar way. Usually these patients will worsen emotionally.

These non-curative methods, harmful to the patient, are always to be avoided.

4. Medicines, if highly diluted and succussed, act on an energetic level and not physiologically.

5. Only one medicine is to be used at a time, this medicine to be most similar to the totality of symptoms of the patient. Remedies are never combined or mixed together or given alternately, back and forth between two or more.

6. In treatment of chronic disease, there are certain remedies, primarily the antipsorics, but also the antisycotics and antisyphilitics, which are necessary for eradication of the underlying miasm. If remedies other than these are used in treatment, at best psora will be returned to a latent state but not eliminated. The patient remains uncured and will manifest more severe disease at some later time.

7. Mental and emotional diseases are extensions of a physical condition that has become distorted into a primary one major symptom or condition. Disease does not start out on the emotional level but moves there from a physical manifestation.

8. Localized lesions are expressions of a disturbance of the whole patient and are never to be treated as local isolated events. They are in actuality expressions of defense by the life force of the patient and, as such, are never to be removed artificially but only by curing the patient from within.

9. Only medicines which have been previously studied as to their effects in healthy persons are to be used in treatment of the sick. It is unethical and careless to give medicines for which the practitioner has no knowledge of their effects.

10. Obstacles to the desired counteraction from the patient (subsequent to the initial effect of the medicine) are always to be avoided. For this reason, other modalities, such as use of drugs, acupuncture, herbal mixtures, etc. are to be avoided as these will block or modify the curative response.

11. Selection of the remedy for a patient is determined by careful observation, examination, elucidation of history and comparison of the patient’s symptoms to a materia medica in which the pure action of medicines is described. Psychic methods have no place in homeopathy.

These days there are many practitioners that deviate from these principles in one way or another. Usually, most often, this is because they have not had proper training in homeopathy and still think “allopathically’. Many use homeopathic remedies as if they were drugs.

Unfortunately, there is a modern trend to “be individual” in practice. That is, rather than learn the method of Hahnemann and mastering it, many early on in their careers develop their own idiosyncratic method and this method leaves off some part of what is basic to homeopathy. For example, not recognizing how remedies act and having a different idea “They act by energizing the body”, or ignoring the importance of the miasms and antipsoric remedies “Any remedy is suitable for the treatment of chronic disease”.

It seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon to act from hubris, to discount the past, publish a book, and begin to teach one’s limited experience to others. It is difficult to understand how one can begin homeopathic study and after just a very few years, begin to modify historical practice and introduce new and even contradictory practices into homeopathy. I don’t think this would happen in allopathic medicine. For example, if a doctor decided that antibiotics acted better if applied as a wash to the feet, very few would be caught up in such a strange idea. Yet, in homeopathy the equivalent happens all the time. In my opinion this comes about by a deep belief that homeopathy is not a science but something more subjective and flexible. In other words, the discovered rules of homeopathy are not universally applicable but depend on the practitioner.

The idea of subjectivism is very strong in these times and will be heard in statements like “Well it is true for me” implying that results vary with expectation or perceptual context. Yet, one would never say about gravity “It might be true for you, but I don’ t have to accept it”. Again, one would never want to go over a bridge built by an engineer that felt like engineering guidelines were to be interpreted subjectively.

The mood of the times is in this direction and much experimentation is being published in the contemporary homeopathic journals. It is very easy for the beginner to become confused by the many and contradictory ideas presented at conferences or in the literature and to help you sort out these ideas, the following information is provided.

Improper PracticeWhy It Is Not Correct
Using more than one remedy at the same time in a patient.

Some will refer to this as using “Complex Remedies”.

Examples are the brands “Dr. Goodpet”, “HomeoPet”, “Heel/BHI”1, and “Dr. Reckeweg”.2

Hahnemann specifically teaches that only one remedy is to be used at a time.

Par. 273 – “In no case of cure is it necessary to employ more than a single simple substance at one time with a patient. For this reason alone, it is inadmissible to do so.”

This is referred to as polypharmacy in homeopathy and is not ethical practice.3

Prescribing remedies in multiple potencies to solve the problem of deciding what potency is best for a patient.4In homeopathic practice a higher or lower potency of the same remedy can be used to antidote, e.g., neutralize the effect, of the remedy given before. There is no logical reason to give more than one potency at one time except to avoid the issue of deciding potencies in cases
Treatment of diagnostic categories or named diseases like for example, “flea allergy dermatitis”, with homeopathic remedies against that one part of the patients condition.5The patient is treated on an allopathic basis and is not treated as a whole but according to the named disease condition.

Basic to homeopathy is the use of the totality of symptoms to decide on the single remedy to be used. Treatment is never determined by a diagnostic category or on the basis of pathological classification.

Drainage remedies. The idea is to use one or more “main” remedies and then other, low potency (usually 2X or 3X), “smaller” remedies that act on certain organs to improve their function.6More than one remedy is used at the same time in a patient and often the remedies that are used interfere with each other (e.g., antidotes or inimical remedies).

The basic idea behind the approach is lack of confidence that one remedy can initiate a reaction that will be sufficient, e.g., a rejection of Hahnemann’s teaching of the effect of the similar remedy.

Often, sarcodes (remedies made from normal organ tissue like kidney or heart) are included in formulas with the assumption that the normal tissue will “harmonize with the disease organ” and make it function properly.7Use of sarcodes is the use of unproven medicines in the treatment of disease.

The idea of “harmonizing, resonance” etc., is not in agreement with Hahnemann’s teachings about the action of homeopathic remedies – that they act as an artificial medicinal disease which causes a health disturbance similar to the natural disease.

About the author

Richard H. Pitcairn

Richard H. Pitcairn

Dr. Richard Pitcairn graduated from veterinary school in 1965, from the University of California at Davis, California, and worked on a PhD degree emphasizing the study of viruses, immunology and biochemistry. Working in a mixed practice he saw a wide variety of health problems, but to his disappointment, did not see the results that he expected using the treatments learned in veterinary school. He became interested in alternative medicine, nutrition and homeopathy. He found homeopathy to be intellectually complete and satisfying, and after studying and using it for some 20 plus years, has had remarkable success. Since 1992 he has taught a yearly course, The Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy, to train animal doctors in homeopathy. Dr. Pitcairn was a founding member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and also served as its president. With Susan Pitcairn he wrote two editions of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, a classic in the field, which sold over 350,000 copies.

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