Homeopathy could have cured Ebola if the World Health Organisation had not stepped in to prevent a trial, according to members of a group who travelled to Liberia hoping to try out remedies including rattle snake venom and the aphrodisiac Spanish Fly. The four doctors were the subject of widespread ridicule online after MailOnline revealed that they travelled to the West African country intent on using Ebola victims to put their controversial theories to the test.
But today the homeopaths dismissed their critics as ‘armchair intellectuals’ and insisted they made the ‘dramatic and traumatic trip’ to Liberia because they had a duty to try to help. Organisers of the trip are still inviting donations from supporters of homeopathy – whose ranks include Prince Charles – to fund a second attempt to run an Ebola trial in Liberia.
Homeopathy’s critics claim patients receive nothing more than sugar pills and water because the active ingredients are so diluted that no molecules remain. Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, the homeopaths – who are all qualified medical doctors – revealed that they intended to use their time at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital to try to find a homeopathic cure for Ebola.
From her office in Mumbai, India, Dr Medha Durge said they had been keen to try out their own medicines on Ebola victims alongside more conventional treatments. ‘Is it possible that four doctors with over 25 years practice will go all the way to Liberia and harm/exploit Ebola victims? We wanted to help and that too because nothing was helping them,’ she said. ‘Also we wanted to give homeopathy along with the drips.’
She confirmed that they had used homeopathic treatments on patients, despite the instructions from health officials in the capital Monrovia not to do so. She said she had not felt the need to quarantine herself after returning to India but was monitoring her own condition for any signs of the disease. She said she had read about the outbreak online and when people started dying in large numbers she decided that homeopathy could hold the key to a cure.
‘As the momentum for homeopaths to do something built up I got the opportunity and took it,’ she said. ‘We treated all types of cases in the hospital with homeopathic medicines. The response was good to the extent that we have a request from them to promote and teach homeopathy there.’ She said it was unfair to suggest that they were exploiting victims – as some commentators have done – for their own ends. ‘None of the people thought that in Liberia. We helped, they accepted. These critics are armchair intellectuals.’
Her colleague Dr Ortrud Lindemann, who runs a clinic in Barcelona, insisted that homeopathy could prove useful in fighting the Ebola virus. ‘As doctors we have the duty to do everything we can to alleviate the suffering of those poor people stricken with Ebola and we hoped that homeopathic remedies might be able to help in that,’ she told MailOnline.
‘We have natural medicines that can treat sudden high fever, diarrhoea, chronic headaches, all of which are symptoms of Ebola and therefore could be used to help patients.’
MailOnline tracked Dr Lindemann, who qualified as a doctor in 1986 in Germany, to the Marenostrum private clinic on Calle Fontanella in an upmarket shopping district of central Barcelona off Plaza Cataluña, which specialises in natural therapies.
‘There is not yet one specific medicine widely available for the treatment of Ebola but there are homeopathic remedies that have been proven successful in treating other epidemics such as cholera.’
There she claimed that their efforts had torpedoed by an official from the World Health Organisation, who had objected to their methods.
‘We were disappointed not to be allowed to treat the Ebola patients as we had intended after we were stopped by the Ministry of Health. It seems that a WHO official objected to what we had planned so we were not allowed to carry out our project,’ she said.
‘We presented our project several months ago and had been invited to the hospital to help in the treatment of Ebola patients but then when we arrived we were told not to go near them.
‘Instead we spent our time treating other patients in the Ganta hospital which is in crisis because there are not enough doctors to deal with normal medical complaints. So we helped in the hospital under the supervision of the medical director.’
She dismissed criticism of their methods as unfair.
‘To say we offer false hope is ridiculous,’ she said. ‘We were four qualified doctors who answered a call for volunteers and put our own lives in danger to try and help. If there is something to be done on top of the conventional treatment to help a patient, then we have a duty to try.’
Back in Mumbai, Dr Durge claimed that the Liberian government had been ‘very helpful, kind and accepting of homeopathy. They appreciated us arriving there under the circumstances.’
However, senior health officials involved in the fight against Ebola in Liberia told MailOnline they had not realised the doctors were homeopaths and that when they found out, they gave strict instructions that they were not to use their techniques on patients.
The organisation that organised the expedition, the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis, is still inviting donations to fund what it describes as ‘international homeopathic projects’.
Its website states that all donations are tax deductible and that ‘the purposes of these … are the promotion and the support of research and of education in the field of medical homeopathy worldwide.’
Another of the homeopaths, Dr Richard Hiltner, spoke to MailOnline at his office in Ojai, California. The office is decorated with dream-catchers and there are glass sculpted butterflies scattered around a brick fireplace, with tranquil music echoing quietly around the cosy home. There are numerous medical qualification certificates on the walls.
‘The trip was dramatic and traumatic,’ he said.
‘It was a rough trip. There was no running water for five days, the roads were incredible bumpy and we’d be doing journeys back and forth every day. The electricity was on and off the whole time.’
He said they all underwent WHO training in using personal protective equipment – the ‘space suits’ that medical staff in close contact with Ebola sufferers have to wear – and felt safe.
‘I wasn’t afraid to catch Ebola when I was there. There’s always a risk but we were well prepared and knew what was going on,’ he said.
He revealed that they had consulted other leading homeopaths in the hope of coming up with a potential cure that could be tested on Ebola patients.
‘I’ve used homeopathy for 40 years and there’s a lot of research various epidemics including Yellow Fever, which is similar to Ebola in symptoms,’ he said.
‘When we went to do this we had some of the very best international homeopathy physicians who we consulted and worked with for many months before hand.
‘And again we looked at which remedies would fit the pattern to cure, we had some good ideas about what medicine works and what would be beneficial. Again, we needed the experience so that was our preparation.’
He confirmed that rattlesnake venom and Spanish Fly were among the possible cures that they wanted to test out. And he said he was disappointed that conventional medicine had closed its mind to homeopathy.
‘This method could have and should have been used a lot earlier but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out like that. There are various things that could have been done right away while they were trying to develop immunisations.
‘What needs to be done is to end the feud, stop calling people names, and start working together. See what we have in common and what we can work with. All doctors need to work together.’
Dr Hiltner is a member of the executive committee of group that organised the trip and is hoping to recoup some of his costs from them.
‘I paid for everything. They are trying to get donations to make up for it but I paid for everything initially. All I’m asking for in return of the fundraising is my airfare.’
The fourth member of the team, Dr Edouard Broussalian, 52, from Geneva, did not respond to requests to be interviewed.
But in a post on his own website, now deleted, he insisted that the mission offered ‘a unique opportunity to demonstrate the value of homeopathy. Of course they [their critics] will challenge us as to whether the ‘cured patients’ were really ill in the first place, but we hope to treat such large numbers that no challenge will be possible. The manufacturers of experimental vaccines will then have to change their opinions.’
Staff at the Ganta hospital and health officials in Monrovia have confirmed that the trip’s organisers are attempting to get approval to mount a second mission, this time with permission to treat Ebola victims with homeopathy.
Dr Lindemann said all they were doing was responding to a request from the WHO for assistance in fighting Ebola.
‘We answered a call from the WHO, which earlier this year in one of the crisis meetings asked for CAM practitioners – Complimentary and Alternative Medicine – to work alongside conventional medicine to tackle the deadly virus.’
‘But then we were prevented from doing so. We have now asked for details as to what exactly they want from us,’ she said.
The possibility that homeopaths may yet get to treat Ebola patients has alarmed many people working to tackle the spread of the disease, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the latest outbreak and which continues to resurface in new hotspots despite some successes in bringing it under control.
Mike Noyes, the head of humanitarian response at UK charity ActionAid, which has teams who support clinics in Sierra Leone and Liberia, told Mail Online: ‘With this crisis, you can’t be offering false hope.
‘There is no scientific evidence that homeopathy has any impact on dealing with viral disease like Ebola.
‘Coming in from the outside with these unproven approaches is damaging to the response and bringing the disease under control.’
There is no suggestion that Prince Charles has donated any money to fund the Ebola mission, but his interest in homeopathy is well-documented. In 2006 he told the World Health Assembly that homeopathy was ‘rooted in ancient traditions that intuitively understood the need to maintain balance and harmony with our minds, bodies and the natural world’.
Provided by: By Gethin Chamberlain In Monrovia, James Robertson In California And Sanjay Jha In Mumbai For Mailonline