Victoria tries to dilute homoeopathy problem

A red-faced Victoria University is distancing itself from a homoeopathy course offered through its continuing education programme.

"Homoeopathy: increasing your health awareness" will teach participants about the "internationally recognised, scientific medical system" in a one-off lecture.

The two-hour lecture, which is listed in the university's online continuing education prospectus, is free but requires people to enrol before attending.

Homoeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine that treats patients with heavily diluted substances, often watered down to the point where no molecules of the active ingredient remain.

Medical practitioners and critics say homoeopathy has no basis in science, with multiple clinical trials showing its remedies are no more effective than placebos.

The lecture description claims "a substance which causes certain symptoms in a healthy person will cure these same symptoms in an unhealthy person if given in very small amounts".

Art Buehler, the senior religious studies lecturer giving the talk, said he had been told by the university's communications director not to comment.

However, Humanities Faculty pro-vice chancellor Professor Deborah Wills said the lecture was not an approved university course and Dr Buehler was offering it on a voluntary basis. "The university accepts that the lecture should have been advertised with more careful wording."

She did not explain who approved the lecture but said they were looking into the process and "reviewing whether the lecture will go ahead in its current form".

Professor David Bibby, the pro-vice chancellor and dean of Faculty of Science, said the lecture had "absolutely no support" from his department and he was aware of complaints about it.

Professor Wills confirmed the university had received "a small number of queries".

Lasy year, $13 million was cut from the country's adult and continuing education budget, with the tertiary education minister, Anne Tolley, claiming the Government could not justify spending millions on "twilight golf, radio singalong and pet homoeopathy".

CURE OR CON?

Homeopathy is based on a "like cures like" principle. Practitioners say substances that cause certain symptoms in a healthy person will cure a sick person with the same symptoms, if given in heavily diluted doses.

Homeopaths say the more diluted a remedy is, the more potent it is. Many homeopathic remedies are water that practitioners claim has retained a "memory" of the substances it once contained.

Isolated studies have shown homeopathic remedies may have minor benefits but the vast majority of clinical trials show they have no greater effect than placebos. Proponents have not been able to explain how the homeopathic mechanism works.

Earlier this year, Skeptics societies in Britain and Christchurch staged mass homeopathic "overdoses" to try to discredit homeopathy.

The Dominion Post