Zofia Dymitr has been involved with homeopathy as a practitioner for over 30 years, as the Chair of the Society of Homeopaths (SOH) and in her ongoing role as Vice Chair of the European Central Council of Homeopaths (ECCH).
AS: Could you tell us something about the purpose of the European Central Council for Homeopathy (ECCH) and how it was founded?
ZD: The European Central Council for Homeopathy was the vision of five homeopathy associations from Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and the UK. Representatives from each of these associations met in the Netherlands in 1990 and agreed to form a common platform for the homeopathy profession in Europe.
From its beginnings in 1990 with five member associations, ECCH has grown to 19 member associations in nineteen countries in 2021. Over its thirty years, ECCH continues to support homeopathy associations at national level as well as advocating for homeopathy at EU level. ECCH’s Mission is to represent and support national member organisations of homeopaths to further the growth and development of the homeopathy profession in Europe.
AS: Who runs the EECH?
ZD: ECCH is run by a small Executive Group of elected Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, appointed General Secretary, and a Policy Officer. Until his sad death in June 2017, Stephen Gordon was both General Secretary and Advocacy Officer for ECCH. Stephen played a central role in ECCH from its beginnings, seeing ECCH through from those early meetings in 1990 right through to 2017. ECCH owes a huge debt of gratitude to Stephen for his work and dedication to the homeopathy profession.
AS: What is ECCH’s main focus?
ZD: ECCH’s focus is on representing the homeopathy profession at EU level, and has attended many meetings over the years, including a Complementary and Alternative Medicine group set up for European Members of Parliament. In 2013, ECCH’s then General Secretary, Stephen Gordon gave a presentation on ‘CAM: the Provider’s Perspective” to a Joint Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Groups MEPs Against Cancer and MEPs for CAM. Recognizing that homeopathy is one of several CAM modalities, ECCH is an active member of EUROCAM, a foundation for CAM patient groups, and professional organizations including CAM health professionals, doctors and veterinarians who practise CAM.
A consistent presence at EU level has been influential, a continuing voice for the profession. ECCH member associations were pleased to see that EU passed a recital in February 2017 which states that patients throughout the EU “should have access to the healthcare and treatment options of their choice, including complementary and alternative therapies and medicines.” Although every state within the EU can legislate for health at national level, and legislation for the practise of homeopathy remains heterogeneous, it is encouraging to see patient choice confirmed in this way.
AS: We have seen homeopathy attacked in the UK and the closing of homeopathic hospitals. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) recently stated that “Homeopathy exists without a recognised body of evidence.” Recently the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), called homeopathy “nonsense”. What can homeopathy organizations and the homeopathic community do to fight these coordinated attacks?
ZD: ECCH is well aware of the apparently relentless attacks on homeopathy. Late 2018 saw moves by the Spanish government to open a ‘consulation” on the use of CAM therapies by doctors and that included homeopathy. What we are also aware of is the growing number of patients who are prepared to be vocal about their right to the healthcare of their choice, including homeopathy and other CAM therapies. This is in line with the World Health Organisation’s Strategic Plan for Traditional and Complementary Medicines:
“As the uptake of traditional and complementary medicine increases, there is a need for its closer integration into health systems. Policy makers and consumers should consider how traditional and complementary medicine may improve patient experience and population health. Important questions of access as well as population and public health issues must be addressed. Given that Traditional and Complementary Medicine has the potential to improve individual health, its proper integration into national health systems will enable consumers to have a wider choice when they wish to use such services.”
Prolonged work with supportive Members of the European Parliament came to fruition with a Recital agreed by the European Parliament in February 2017 “whereas patients should have access to the healthcare and treatment options of their choice and preference, including to complementary and alternative therapies and medicines
We are also looking at a global antimicrobial resistance crisis and homeopathy has a role to play in providing an alternative and safe treatment option. ECCH is focusing on this by attending relevant conferences and workshops at the European Union level organised by our partner organisation, EUROCAM on the role of CAM in AMR. An important research project is currently looking at the role complementary therapies, including homeopathy, have in treating upper respiratory tract infections
We are aware of EASAC’s statement and believe that positive research in homeopathy will in time be recognised. ECCH supports the “Your Health, Your Choice” campaign in Australia and, with the rest of our colleagues around the world, await the outcome of the Ombusdman’s report on the Australian Homeopathy Association’s appeal against the unreasonable finding of the NMRC’s report. EASAC’s statement was very lazy, with a reliance on a previously de-bunked report in the UK that there is ‘no evidence “for homeopathy. The Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI)) has posted a great video on its Facebook page “Inaccurate research is everyone’s problem: https://www.facebook.com/homeopathyresearchinstitute/
AS: Is ECCH involved with maintaining standards in practice?
ZD: Working with its member associations, ECCH also encourages and sets high standards for member associations, and in 2015 several guideline documents were drawn together in ECCH’s Professional Portfolio, including Education Guidelines (in conjunction with the International Council for Homeopathy). The portfolio also includes the European Occupational Standards for Homeopaths and other important guideline documents e.g. Codes of Ethics and Bounds of Competence. The Portfolio is used by member associations in their advocacy work at national level, particularly when associations are working to convince governments to enact positive legislation to recognise the right of homeopaths to practise.
ECCH also liaises with the equivalent forum for doctors in Europe, the European Committee for Homeopathy with an additional qualification in homeopathy, and contributed to the working group for the CEN standards for doctors with an additional qualification in homeopathy.
AS: Does ECCH play a role in establishing rules for homeopathic remedies?
ZD: One very important area where the EU has a direct impact on homeopathy is the area of homeopathic medicines. ECCH engaged in advocacy on the first EU directive that specifically focused on homeopathic medicines and was introduced in 1992. When the EU medicines legislation was reviewed in 1997, ECCH contributed to the consultation and lobbied MEPs in the European Parliament regarding our concerns. Similarly, when all EU pharmaceutical legislation was reviewed and integrated into one overarching piece of legislation in 2004 ECCH met with MEPs and the EU Commission. To clearly put forward our views, ECCH created a policy document entitled ‘The Availability and Quality of Homeopathic Medicines in Europe’.
The European Directive 2001/83/EC concerning medicines for human use has been opened for revision , and ECCH is working with other stakeholders to ensure that homeopathic medicinal products are not adversely affected.
The availability of homeopathic medicines varies from country to country. Nosodes have been particularly affected. This has meant that practitioners in the countries concerned must now buy some of their remedies from other countries.
ECCH focuses on this area and regularly attends meetings with representatives of the manufacturers in ECHAMP, as well as attending relevant meetings hosted by national medicines agencies to try to address the issues of availability. Additionally, in 2007, ECCH was consulted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on a policy document on the safety and quality of homeopathic medicines, first responding to a draft of their document, then attending a three day workshop in Milan, Italy. The report was published in 2009.
AS: What is the future work of ECCH?
ZD: ECCH will continue to support member associations to achieve their goals and represent its members at relevant meetings at national and EU level. Ultimately, patients benefit from consulting a homeopath who practices to high standards, consistent with ECCH’s Vision: “To ensure the availability of high quality homeopathic treatment to all members of the European public.”
AS: Thank you for sharing this information with our readers. It’s good to know that there are long established forces at work for homeopathy in the E
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