A rare win for science: The FTC issues its enforcement policy on homeopathic remedies

Whenever I write about homeopathy, I almost always refer to it at least once as “The One Quackery To Rule Them All.” It’s a phrase I’ve used to describe homeopathy for several years now, and for good reason. Of all the quackery out there, with the possible exception of reiki, homeopathy is the one that is most obviously quackery. Its two main “Laws” are so clearly pseudoscience that you’d think it incredibly unlikely that anyone would fall for such nonsense, but fall for it they do.

I’ll briefly show you what I mean. That I can do so this briefly should show those unfamiliar with homeopathy how ridiculous it is. All I have to do is to describe the Two Laws of Homeopathy. The first is the Law of Similars, which states that to relieve a symptom you must use a substance that causes that symptom. Not only does this law make no sense on an intuitive level, but there is no biological or medical basis for it. Of course, the Law of Similars doesn't really matter, because the second law of homeopathy renders it completely irrelevant. The Second Law, the Law of Infinitesimals, states that diluting a remedy makes it stronger. That's not nearly enough pseudoscience, though. Because of this law, homeopaths often dilute remedies to, in essence, nonexistence. For example, a typical 30C dilution (where C=100) means thirty 100-fold dilutions, which, if you do the math, you'll find to be a 10-60 dilution. Avogadro's number is only on the order of 6 x 1023, which means that a 30C dilution is at least 1036-fold higher than a dilution where we'd expect to see a single molecule of the original substance; that is, if you start with what chemists call a mole of starting compound. No wonder homeopathy is considered the king of pseudoscience, and that's not even considering that some homeopathic remedies (like Oscillococcinum, the infamous homeopathic flu remedy) use starting ingredients like extract of duck liver and heart—and at 200C (10-400), yet!

That is why I greeted an enforcement policy statement from the FTC regarding regulation of health claims for homeopathic remedies. It’s more or less win for skeptics, but it’s not perfect. Even so, it’s definitely way better than the situation that existed before, because it provides clarity and states clearly that advertising claims for homeopathic remedies will be held to the same standards as advertising claims for any other over-the-counter (OTC) medicine.

By way of background, in January I asked the question: Will 2016 be the year when the FDA and FTC finally crack down on homeopathy?, a question that was asked in the New England Journal of Medicine as well. I based that question on hearings about homeopathy held by both the FDA and the FTC. First, the FDA announced that it was considering modernizing how it regulates homeopathic remedies and held a hearing for public input. Not surprisingly, there were few skeptics and plenty of industry representatives and homeopaths who testified. Ironically, the FTC submitted testimony to the FDA hearing that echoed the testimony of skeptics.

Basically, the FTC recommended that the FDA reconsider the framework that it uses to regulate homeopathic medication because that framework may appear to conflict with the FTC’s advertising substantiation doctrine, which requires that health-related efficacy claims be “supported by competent and reliable evidence,” in ways that could harm consumers and cause confusion for advertisers. The FTC also noted that supplement manufacturers could get around even the lax FDA regulations on dietary supplements by having their product classified as a homeopathic remedy by adding homeopathic remedies to it. Basically, the FTC told the FDA to do its job regulating homeopathy because lax FDA regulation of homeopathic remedies interferes with FTC regulation of advertising claims for them. Part of the problem comes from a quirk in the law authorizing the FDA, an amendment to which was passed in the 1930s that defined any remedy listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS) as a drug. Consequently, any magic pixie dust homeopaths want to call a remedy and put it into the HPUS gets a pass from the FDA, even though, as Jann Bellamy argues, just because the law defines anything in the HPUS as a drug doesn’t mean the FDA can abdicate its responsibility to regulate it. As I’ve pointed out before, one of the charges of the FDA is to require that drugs be safe and effective before they are marketed, and it doesn’t do that for homeopathy, even for homeopathic asthma remedies.

Even though the representatives of the homeopathic remedy industry who testified before the FDA workshop last year made a rather poor showing, relying a lot of special pleading and bad science, nothing much has happened at the FDA in terms of making actual policy changes or changing its regulations on homeopathic medicines in over a year. True, it recently did warn about homeopathic teething products but mainly because such products actually tend to contain actual belladonna in them, sometimes toxic amounts.

The FTC, in essence, has beaten the FDA to the punch, publishing its enforcement policy statement. The complete statement here. The FTC notes first:

The FTC’s authority over disease and other health-related claims comes from Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act. Section 5, which applies to both advertising and labeling, prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, such as the deceptive advertising or labeling of OTC drugs.3 Section 12 prohibits the dissemination of false advertisements in or affecting commerce of food, drugs, devices, services, or cosmetics. Under these provisions, companies must have a reasonable basis for making objective product claims, including claims that a product can treat specific conditions, before those claims are made.

Homeopathy, which dates back to the late-eighteenth century, is based on the view that disease symptoms can be treated by minute doses of substances that produce similar symptoms when provided in larger doses to healthy people. Many homeopathic products are diluted to such an extent that they no longer contain detectable levels of the initial substance. In general, homeopathic product claims are not based on modern scientific methods and are not accepted by modern medical experts, but homeopathy nevertheless has many adherents.

This is, in a nutshell, the whole basis of the FTC’s decision boils down to the contrast between the FTC’s mission and the lack of science behind homeopathy. A major part of the FTC’s mission is to protect the public against false advertising claims and false marketing. When it comes to OTC medications, in order to do that it has traditionally relied on its advertising substantiation doctrine. However, it notes:

The FTC Act does not exempt homeopathic products from the general requirement that objective product claims be truthful and substantiated. Nevertheless, in the decades since the Commission announced in 1972 that objective product claims must be substantiated the FTC has rarely challenged misleading claims for products that were homeopathic or purportedly homeopathic.

Personally, I wondered why this might be. Why, over 46 years, has the FTC rarely challenged claims for homeopathic remedies that are not infrequently overblown and virtually never based on science. (It is, after all, homeopathy.) Perhaps it wasn’t a priority. Perhaps the FTC used to defer more to the FDA, whose authority overlaps that of the FTC. Remember what skeptics like to call the “Quack Miranda Warning”? That’s a statement that sellers of dubious medical therapies frequently append to their advertising or their claims saying roughly, that the claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and that the product is not intended to treat, diagnose, or prevent any medical disease. The words are supposed to inoculate the company selling such products from legal action by the FDA because, whatever load of nonsense the company has laid down before about its wonder supplement or product, it just denied that it was making any health claims. Let the buyer beware!

As a result, as the FTC notes, consumers are confused by these advertising claim. They do not know what homeopathy is, which is not surprising because my experience with medical students and residents tells me that even they do not know what homeopathy is or about how many homeopathic remedies are diluted to the point where no starting material remains. They also assume that because these products are permitted to be sold in pharmacies. This is a telling passage from the workshop:

Focus group participants in both groups were likely to group or categorize products in a number of ways including conventional versus non-conventional. They tended to group all non- conventional products, including homeopathic products, into a single category, using the terms “natural,” “herbal,” and “homeopathic” interchangeably. Most adults and parents struggled when asked to distinguish between herbal and homeopathic products. They did not understand what “homeopathic” means. Most participants associated homeopathic products with natural or “non-chemical” products.

Many adults and parents did not readily differentiate between different product types in terms of the evidentiary requirements for product claims or regulatory oversight. While they generally believed that manufacturers of conventional non-prescription products were required to support their claims with scientific evidence, they had varying opinions regarding the evidentiary requirements and federal oversight for herbal and homeopathic products. Some participants indicated there were no requirements, others insisted there must be some governmental oversight, and still others were unsure but hopeful that there were requirements.

Whatever the reason for the FTC’s laissez-faire attitude in the past towards claims made for homeopathic remedies, those days appear to be over. In this statement, the FTC clearly states that advertising claims for homeopathic remedies used for self-limited conditions must meet the same standards as advertising claims for other OTC drugs used for self-limited conditions:

The policy statement explains that the FTC will hold efficacy and safety claims for OTC homeopathic drugs to the same standard as other products making similar claims. That is, companies must have competent and reliable scientific evidence for health-related claims, including claims that a product can treat specific conditions.

That’s pretty clear, as is this:

For health, safety, or efficacy claims, the FTC has generally required that advertisers possess “competent and reliable scientific evidence,” defined as “tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and [that] are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.”12 In general, for health benefit claims, particularly claims that a product can treat or prevent a disease or its symptoms, the substantiation required has been well-designed human clinical testing

This is not what homeopathic remedies have to support them, of course. The FTC notes that homeopathic remedies are “based solely on traditional homeopathic theories and there are no valid studies using current scientific methods showing the product’s efficacy” and that marketing claims therefore “lack a reasonable basis and are likely misleading in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.”

There is a caveat, though, a way for the manufacturers of homeopathic remedies not to be considered to be misleading by the FTC. Those manufacturers aren’t going to like it much though. Behold, the one way that the FTC says that claims for a homeopathic remedy won’t be considered misleading, barring strong clinical trial evidence for efficacy and safety (which none of them have):

Accordingly, the promotion of an OTC homeopathic product for an indication that is not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence may not be deceptive if that promotion effectively communicates to consumers that: (1) there is no scientific evidence that the product works and (2) the product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts. To be non-misleading, the product and the claims must also comply with requirements for homeopathic products and traditional homeopathic principles. Of course, adequately substantiated claims for homeopathic products would not require additional explanation.

Ouch. That one’s going to leave a mark. So will these additional observations. Here are the first two:

  • Any disclosure should stand out and be in close proximity to the efficacy message; to be effective, it may actually need to be incorporated into the efficacy message.
  • Marketers should not undercut such qualifications with additional positive statements or consumer endorsements reinforcing a product’s efficacy.

These are, of course, time-dishonored advertising techniques. Basically, the Quack Miranda Warning is an example of this. Supplement manufacturers make claims based on little or no evidence and push the limit of what is permitted (i.e., “structure-function claims” such as “supports the immune system”) and then say in fine print at the bottom of the page or web page that the FDA hasn’t examined these claims.

Then there’s this:

  • In light of the inherent contradiction in asserting that a product is effective and also disclosing that there is no scientific evidence for such an assertion, it is possible that depending on how they are presented many of these disclosures will be insufficient to prevent consumer deception. Marketers are advised to develop extrinsic evidence, such as consumer surveys, to determine the net impressions communicated by their marketing materials.
  • The Commission will carefully scrutinize the net impression of OTC homeopathic advertising or other marketing employing disclosures to ensure that it adequately conveys the extremely limited nature of the health claim being asserted. If, despite a marketer’s disclosures, an ad conveys more substantiation than the marketer has, the marketer will be in violation of the FTC Act.

So, it’s not enough for marketers of homeopathic remedies just to say there’s no evidence that their products work or that they’re based on 18th century ideas and not accepted by science. Marketers will also be expected to show that their positive messages aren’t preventing the disclaimers from etting true, that its customers understand that there’s no scientific evidence to support their assertions.

I was happy to see the FTC statement, because in it the FTC does what should have been done long ago and what the FDA should have done by now. I was not happy to see close to zero news coverage on this, which struck me as distinctly weird. All I could find was a law review article and an article in a website on regulatory affairs. This is in marked contrast to when the FDA and FTC both held their workshops to consider more rigorously regulating homeopathic products, when there were lots of news articles and coverage. It’s almost as though the FTC’s decision was anticlimactic. Or maybe the news coverage was drowned out by the continuing news coverage of the 2016 election. Whatever the reason, people need to know: The FTC will now regulate advertising claims for homeopathic remedies the same way it treats advertising claims for OTC medications.

Now if only the FDA would follow suit and do its job with respect to homeopathic remedies.


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This is really good. I wonder, though, how the transition to Trumpistan will change things? He's already talked about pressuring the FDA to release backlogs of approval (Trump's new reality show: finding the next Thalidomide), and has also made worrying comments about the CDC. Doubly worrying since he has been pictured with perennial winner of Most Punchable Face, Andy Wakefield. Trump seems to favour big business special interests every time, and there is no big business more adept at manipulating politics than Big Herba.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 15 Nov 2016 #permalink

I predict that there will be a lot of money to make by testing the efficiency of sugar pills in RCT.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 15 Nov 2016 #permalink

This is awesome news. Finally step forward in ensuring that people are truly informed that they are using magic fairy shit to treat their problems and not actual medication. I'm sure the usual suspects in Congress will raise a shit-storm about how unfair this is, but with luck it will stand.

By Anonymous Pseudonym (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

I agree that this is good news, but Guy is right. It's not just Trump, it's that he will have a Republican Congress that is eager to get rid of "burdensome" regulations like this. It would be easy for them to slip in a measure preventing the FTC from enforcing this rule, and if the FTC doesn't take the hint Congress can resort to more drastic measures.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

Call me a pessimist, but how many folks can be expected to read the fine print on the package or ad? Probably about as many as read the legalese before clicking "accept" on computer apps.

By machintelligence (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

Ah, but that's the beauty of this policy. The FTC says that the disclaimers that homeopathy doesn't work and that it's based on 200+ year old idea not accepted by modern science must be presented with the same prominence as the positive claims and in such a way that the positive claims don't distract from them.

One might think that while labeling was on the table, they might have gotten around to the "ingredients" list too.

I am not familiar with FDA/FTC regulations, but would any ingredients listed under a new policy be required by either agency to actually be detectable at some level? I don't know the current limits of detection, but at a 6X dilution, it would be parts-per-million and at 12X dilution it would be parts-per-trillion. Not even getting into the C dilutions, would this put the manufacturers into Catch-22 territory: lying about ingredients if they aren't detectable or not being homeopathy if they are? Am I hoping for too much reason and logic?

Am I hoping for too much reason and logic?

Forget it, Jake, it's homeopathy.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink


In principle, the levels don't have to be detectable if you can verify the purity and quality of the starting materials (substance and water) and have a verified and consistent production line. That way you are verifying the production claims made by homeopathy (starting material and number of dilutions) which is more important to homeopaths than the final product. However, checks of the final product could determine the levels of any contaminant.

By tonylurker (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

@tonylurker, #12
even a "consistent production line" may be hard to have.
On 7/26/12 FDA issued a warning to A nelson & Co (UK) for many violations of Good Manufacturing Practice. For example, a FDA inspection found that
"...one out of every six bottles did not receive the dose of active homeopathic drug solution due to the wobbling and vibration of the bottle assembly during filling of the active ingredient. The active ingredient was instead seen dripping down the outside of the vial assembly. Your firm lacked controls to ensure that the active ingredient is delivered to every bottle".
But then, probably, users couldn't tell the difference.

By perodatrent (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

Good news indeed! Just this week I taught my in-laws about the Quack Miranda warning (although I didn't call it that) and how to use the search-in-page function to find it.

Now what they need is to set a minimum font size for the warning. One time I was helping my MIL find some UTI treatment at a drug store and it took us 3 tries to find the thing she wanted that *wasn't* homeopathic, and if I hadn't been there with my young (skeptical) eyes she would have simply grabbed the first box and never noticed the 8-point-font "homeopathic".

Or all drug stores need reading glasses chained to every shelf.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink









Statistically, anything over (21.78)C is pure water.

Jessika@15: Your math isn't quite right. nC means (10^2)^n, or 10^(2n). So you pass Avogadro's number in going from 11C to 12C.

It gets worse. There are about 10^80 atoms in the observable Universe. So a dilution of 40C will get you one atom out of the entire Universe: (10^2)^40 = 10^80. There are homeopathic remedies out there that have 40C or higher dilutions.

These calculations, of course, assume that your distilled water really is pure water. But there are practical limits on how pure you can make distilled water. By the time you get to 6C, it's likely that other impurities in the water will swamp the alleged active ingredient.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

I thought we were at 'anger' over the election, but it seems we've regressed to 'denial', as Guy Chapman presents the obvious outcome in question form, and no one answers or even addresses the change in Washington.

Yes, Guy, this policy will be Trumped.

The only thing Boiron has to worry about from the Trumpers is competition from Ivankakokkkinum which will be available for order on the FDA website, as well as at the Trump boutique shops in all federal buildings.

@Eric Lund

Sorry. How about this!










Anything over (11.8899)C is statistically pure water.

What marvelous news! Reminds me of that Mitchell and Webb sketch about the homeopathic hospital, which really lays out the obvious quackery of homeopathy in a hilarious way.


By Alex James Rudinski (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

To those of you pointing out how insanely diluted homeopathic remedies are:

Water has memory of the molecules it once bumped Van der Waals radii with. Even statistically pure water still has memories of oscillococcinum and rhododendrons and whatever else they put in there.

Ben, you obviously have a computer. You can increase its memory by simply pouring a bottle of water over the memory chips; works just like water in any homeopathic potion.

Ben @21: So that means that all water is full of sewage, industrial waste, and everything else since the beginning of the water cycle? Then how are we all not dead of cholera?

By JustaTech (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

There are about 10^80 atoms in the observable Universe. So a dilution of 40C will get you one atom out of the entire Universe: (10^2)^40 = 10^80. There are homeopathic remedies out there that have 40C or higher dilutions.

Well, sure, but they're mostly "Rx only."

I think Ben was being funny.

@ sadmar 17

I thought we were at ‘anger’ over the election

In your flippancy, you forget a little detail. This thread is about a federal agency cracking on homeopathy, it's not about Trump (yet).

Mentioning the president-elect en passant, as Guy did, is OK. But further talking about Trump, at the risk of derailing this thread into yet another fruitless exchange about whose fault it is, would be just rude to our host.
I was tempted to put a comment mentioning Ben Carson, but no matter how I wrote it, it was out of topic (and Narad already mentioned it in another more appropriate thread).

Now that we are a little further down the thread, I will give you an answer.

You want anger? Try me.
Denial, pleading, I went through it in 2 min the morning after election day, when I learned of the results. Now I'm just simmering.

I have spent during these last days an unhealthy amount of time perusing blogs and news, both French and English.
I am lurking at various places over at Freethoughtblogs, reading the opinions full of mistrust and despair of the PoC, LGBT bloggers and regulars over there. A number of them are rape victims; can you imagine their anguish at having to watch full-frontal a smug, self-professed, unrepentant groper everywhere in the media, now and for the next four years? As a victim of bullying, I can start to imagine.
I am catching some new reasons to be angry at your president-elect over at the Wankette website. The websites which keep track of the recorded cases of racist/bigoted events or outright assaults in the past days are also very good at keeping me awake at night.

As a blogger at Freethoughtblogs said, the Normalization has begun, I can personally attest to it. Smug deplorables are prancing around online (and IRL in the US), and ordinary citizens, usually of the white, male, hetero persuasion are babbling about how Trump may Not Be That Bad - completely blind (or selfishly fully aware) to the fact that, with the future POTUS, his VP and the rest of the gang, hetero white males are precisely the ones who have the less to be afraid of.

I would be reading some news, and have memory flashes of stuff I have read or witnessed, sometimes a long time ago.
- fellow students trying to convince me I should vote LePen (the previous one) to "flush the socialist sh!t". And no, absolutely no racism whatsoever.
- a former French president, also a populist (and maybe running for a 2nd term, we will know this week), who during his mandate put his 20-ish, law-school drop-out son in charge of a very posh business center. At least he waited to be in office, and it was that only one son; Trump has started last week to get all of his offspring White House security clearances.
- the same French president also strongly disrupted our gouvernemental agencies by redirecting their resources toward catching and kicking away illegal immigrants. Work safety? Who cares, focus on asking them their carte de séjour. No place in jail for a murderer? Eh, we have a busload of brown people to process, he will have to wait.
- more on-topic: this French president also targeted French science agencies with his wrath. Apparently, we eggheads are just incompetent parasites. He also wrecked the public news media. Oh, and those nasty judges are "red" (commies). Why do I have this feeling of déjà vu?
- a US Black veteran was denied a free meal at Chilly's during Veteran day last week. A white guy decided he must be a fraud with a false ID. Where did I read similar stories of racists denying that a non-Caucasian may have well served their nation? Oh, Vercors, Le Silence de la Mer et autres histoires
- Let's nail the Godwin point down with Au bon beurre (Jean Dutourd), a story about French collaborators. Eh, the nazi soldiers are very korrect, nothing to worry about. Trump may turn out to be a good leader, and his more ardent followers are totally peachy guys, if a bit enthusiastics.
- French Renaissance philosophers are also quite present to my mind right now, starting with Montaigne and some of his assays about humanism, empathy, and personal responsibility.

Of course Trump may interfere with and reverse the FTC policies.
But didn't you get the memo? We are not supposed to concern ourselves with little issues, like gender or race equity, we should focus on serious issues, and on the Big Picture.
I'm afraid homeopathy, or more generally access to proper medicine, is an even smaller issue. And frankly, pray that's the only "small" issue you Americans will have in the coming years.
Some dude once talked about hanging together vs hanging separately. Please, Yankees, remember him.

**deep breath**

OK, I'm leaving the thread now, I have nothing of substance to say about the actual current topic .

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

@Jessika #15

Well, there will be plenty of room on the label for said ingredients. After all there's only one:


All that's going to happen is the FTC will pass on directives from the FDA and force homeopathic remedies to be adulterated with folic f@cking acid.

But further talking about Trump, at the risk of derailing this thread into yet another fruitless exchange about whose fault it is, would be just rude to our host.
I was tempted to put a comment mentioning Ben Carson, but no matter how I wrote it, it was out of topic (and Narad already mentioned it in another more appropriate thread).

Since its still pretty early in the thread, and Trump is even more off-topic here, and since there's already a thread devoted to the Orange One at this point, I've replied here.

(Couldn't help but reply, I'm still heavily in the anger/venting/disgust mode, and I don't want to do it on social media, since I have multiple "friends" (relatives) who are Trump supporters and I get tired of deleting all their gross, gloating comments on things I post/say.)

"I was not happy to see close to zero news coverage on this, which struck me as distinctly weird. All I could find was a law review article and an article in a website on regulatory affairs."

The American Herbal Products Association alerted its readers to the FTC policy on homeopathic products only yesterday, as did the Consumerist. I devoured the policy over breakfast. Not only delicious, it was one of the most satisfying 'meals' I've had in years.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

@Ben, #21

Even statistically pure water still has memories of oscillococcinum and rhododendrons and whatever else they put in there.

If you are serious, you are arguing facts not in evidence.

P.S. @ Eric Lund, #11,

If that is a reference to The Student Who Shall Not Be Named, I don't seem to get it. But I am known for my idiosyncratic sense of humor and obliviousness.

sirhcton@30: It's a riff off a famous movie line: "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." I had forgotten that said student shared a given name with the character to whom that line was addressed.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

These calculations, of course, assume that your distilled water really is pure water.

Now, now, as Dullman never tires of pointing out, it's double (secret) distilled water.

The only good thing I can say about Homeopathy is that it is very unlikely to cause harm.

(I do have an entire gallon of 50C unicorn hooves if anyone wants to buy some.)

So, I ran into an old friend from high school the other day who'd become a surgeon. Over a beer we discussed homeopathy and he was adamant that it was actually working medicine, offering this reasoning:

1) He said, studies with animals had shown efficacy above the Placebo effect (still waiting on link on that)

2) Even if the science doesn't make sense (dilution/cure like with like), there might be some yet uncovered mechanisms like back when people did not know X-Rays existed

3) his killer argument: health insurance companies (in Germany) would not cover it, if it weren't effective.

So how would you respond to that?

So how would you respond to that?

By asking why laparoscopic cholecystectomy hasn't been eliminated by "Cheledonium," perhaps.

@ Moon
It would be safer if he worked as an homeopath rather than a surgeon.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink


1: the animal studies I've seen quoted all depended on reports from humans, e.g. owners of pets, and did not have any hard measures, e.g. broken bones mending quicker 'cos of magic water. So no objective evidence.

2: So? Then they need to get out there and do some science and find it. As things stand, no feasible mechanism and IF one is found then science will change its view accordingly.

3: Oh goody. Insurance company loss adjusters are the new arbiters of scientific evidence? What an insurance company will or won't pay for is not evidence of anything other than what a commercial entity thinks the market will bear.

Homeopathy... should be more properly spelled Home0pathy

1. You're better off staying home than spending your hard-earned money on it.
2. When all is said and done, there's nothing to it, zero, insubstantial in efficacy.
3. (please forgive my atrocious spelling) It's utterly pathytic the way homeopathy companies flog their pseudoscience - water retains memory.

If water retained memory, it'd taste like dinosaur piss.

By Dave Burke (not verified) on 17 Nov 2016 #permalink

@Moon #35
I get the "animals can't have placebo effects so there!" a lot from defenders of the faith. Fake cures "work" for more reasons than placebo though. Go to this link: http://www.dcscience.net/2015/12/11/placebo-effects-are-weak-regression…
Number 2 is covered by number 1 answer, there is no effect so no cause needs to be found.
Search german cancer clinics here and at Science Based Medicine for some insight into the odd world of German health care.

If it is just water and does not work, has no effect....why do you people care??? Why waste all this energy if it is bunk? With bunk/ fad diet pills and gimmicks, people realize real quick it does not work and they fade out quickly. Yet, you guys seem to be keeping homeopathy alive with all this worrying and trying to waste the FDA's time on this...for what, water? ???? News flash, NO ONE is dying from homeopathy, lol

Gilbert @28:
1) Facts not in evidence.
2) Why are you so against preventing some of the most horrifying birth defects?
3) If you just buy organic you don't have to worry about it, because a large proportion of organic processed food is not enriched with folic acid.
4) But if you really hate folic acid that much don't forget that it's in tortillas and tortilla chips now! (And naturally occurs in tons of other foods.)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 17 Nov 2016 #permalink

Robin @42: Except that it also has terrible manufacturing controls, which means that more than once homeopathic "teething tablets" have actually contained enough belladonna (deadly nightshade) to make kids sick.

Because not even the craziest herbalist would give *deadly* nightshade to a baby.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 17 Nov 2016 #permalink

why laparoscopic cholecystectomy hasn’t been eliminated by “Cheledonium,”

Chelidonium majus! I remember that from the 'Ukrain' cancer-cure scam.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Nov 2016 #permalink

(And naturally occurs in tons of other foods.)

No it does not. 'folic acid' is made from petroleum and not known until 1943-- The natural stuff is methyltetrahydrofolic acid; A build up of unmetabolized 'folic acid' is detrimental and downregulates absorption and metabolism of the real stuff.

@David Burke

If water retained memory, it’d taste like dinosaur piss.

Maybe you do?

...we will never know....unless we find a mosquito frozen in amber...

Reading about folic acid, you will quickly realize that MTHFR does not mean what you want it to mean.

It stands for MethyleneTetraHydroFolate Reductase.

BTW, Samuel L Jackson has very high MTHFR levels.

But if you really hate folic acid that much don’t forget that it’s in tortillas and tortilla chips now!

I take it that you either are or are not familiar with the episode in which Joe Harris's lips fell off as a result of GMO corn Triffids.


In which case it should be marketed as water, not with spurious health claims. If that happened I, for one, would not have a problem with it.

As pointed out it is part of a tendency to persuade folk to avoid stuff which works (y'know, actual medicines) with inevitable deleterious effects. See also "homeopathic remedies" for malaria and the like.

No Jessika, I meant 5-MTHF.

Levomefolic acid (INN) (also known as L-5-MTHF, L-methylfolate and L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate and (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, and (6S)-5-MTHF) is the primary biologically active form of folate used at the cellular level


There are people with genetic mutations such that they are not able to fully utilize MTHFR -- excess folic acid is poisonous to them.

The use of folic acid in general populations without MTHFR or DHFR mutation is most likely of limited concern; but even for them, it is considered safe only when the dose is 100 – 200 mcg. For those people having fortified flour or cereal, energy drinks, protein bars and supplement, the dose of folic acid is exceeding the limit easily and considerably.

Beside efficacy differences, when comparing folic acid and 5-MTHF, folic acid is a synthetic compound with no biological function until reduced to its subsequence formats, unmetabolised folic acid starts appearing at dose > 200 mcg, and individuals show wide variations in folic acid reduction ability in vivo. On the other hand, 5-MTHF is a better alternative especially in those countries without folic acid fortification of foods, because it is a natural form of folate readily available in vivo for transport and metabolism, and it has no upper intake limit.


I'm pretty sure that pregnant women are no longer given supplements of raw folic acid but rather the prescription folate, Deplin ( (6S)-5-MTHF).

Narad @50: Nope! I did a project for school recently on the new regulation that permits the addition of folic acid to products made with corn masa to prevent neural tube defects.

There was a scary cluster of NTDs in central Washington State that was eventually tied to low folate among a lot of the farm workers there because the staple of their diet was corn masa rather than enriched wheat flour or rice.

And Gilbert of course cares nothing for the major public health triumph of fortification. Hey Gilbert, did you know that folate is essential for fetal development in the first 20-28 days, well before most women know they are pregnant? So prescription folate is only useful if you already know that you have low folate. Which for poor women comes from losing a pregnancy.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

What a stupid waste of mice. And what a stupid study! I mean, I could show that saline causes all kinds of bad reactions if I gave it with huge doses of LPS too.

The amazing thing is that they manipulated their "experimental system" that much and *still* didn't get any kind of meaningful difference. If you're going to fake that much you might as well go all the way. (No, don't, but still.)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

Whoa, wrong post, sorry.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

Yes, JustaTech. The fact remains that fortification gives better quality of life to those with poor nutrition. But that life is derated in people with otherwise good nutrition -- A great equalizer.

concerns have been raised about the potentially untoward effects of unmetabolized synthetic folic acid with regard to cancer, depression, and cognitive impairment. With all these concerns, early data suggest supplementation with l-methylfolate rather than folic acid may mitigate these risks.


Mothers that take excessive amounts of folic acid during pregnancy may predispose their daughters to diabetes and obesity later in life, according to a new study. With high dose supplements [and fortification] being widely available, the study calls for a need to establish a safe upper limit of folic acid intake for pregnant women.


‘folic acid’ is made from petroleum

You're really not familiar with this whole O-chem thingamabob, are you, Gildo?

I am not sure how Folic Acid is usually produced, but I found a patent called Method for producing folic acid US 5968788 A.

This is a biosynthetic process that involves yeast, bacteria, and sugar.

I would assume that Folic Acid, Like Ascorbic Acid, is exclusively produced biosynthetically.

But Gilbert should be thanked for bringing this to our attention; I had no idea that oxidized monoglutyl folate could present challenges for human metabolism.

The government would not have had to do this if everyone ate plants. The entire Atkins fiasco probably created many folate deficiencies.

Folate comes from the latin word folium, which means leaf.

To be defoliated means to be without leaves. When a human is on Atkins they become defoliated.


But Folic Acid may be synthesized chemically as well. Here is a quote from the patent:

At present, PteGlu of folic acids is industrially produced through chemical synthesis. Briefly, three components of 2,4,5-triamino-6-hydroxypyrimidine, 1,1,3-trichloroacetone and p-aminobenzoylglutamic acid are condensed in the presence of sodium nitrite in a solution of sodium acetate to give a crude product of folic acid, PteGlu, and the product is purified through recrystallization.

I would avoid fortified flour for the ferrous iron and the bromine content anyway. This Folic Acid stuff just gives me another reason to avoid it.

@ Helianthus

My #17 was just a reaction to the celebration of a policy decision establishing a limited check on a relatively harmless health scam, since it is sure never to take effect, and we do indeed face "general access to proper medicine" going into the toilet, as well as, oh, rampant racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia... not just unchecked by government but practiced by the federal law enforcement apparatus. [Not to mention even greater abandonment of the alienated white blue-collar economic cast-offs who drank the kool-aid.] Trump may only be president elect, but he is already making policy. Today we learned the next Attorney General will be Jeff Sessions. If you don't know who he is, save yourself the angst and stay off the Google.

But, 'rude' or 'kind', I did not want to derail the tread into "another fruitless exchange about whose fault it is." or even 'talk about Trump.' If ya'all want to talk about homeopathy while Rome burns America turns into Germany circa 1933 (great infrastructure initiatives there to, fahren on die Autobahn), go for it. Seriously, I'm still watching basketball and my new 'find' Four Nations Rugby Union on the tube, so far be it from me to be self-righteous about how anyone spends their time NOT-talking Trump.

The thing is, I think it's bad form for folks who want others to approach science issues within the strictures of 'reality' to ignore or be cavalier about not-science sectors of 'reality', like, in this case, the political realities surrounding the regulation of 'health products'. So, if we're going to talk about the FTC recommendations, at a minimum I think that ought to be framed by an acknowledgement that they're almost certainly DOA, and the discussion should look forward by addressing, 'OK, where do we go from here?' in some realistic way.

Whatever the reason, people need to know: The FTC will now regulate advertising claims for homeopathic remedies the same way it treats advertising claims for OTC medications.

If it's rude to our host to observe how rude that quote is to reality, to note that the only sense I can make of it is an unconsciously generated endorsement of See-No-Evil, Hear-No-Evil denial, then pull out those old Clash records, and put the old VHS of The Harder They Come in the VCR, cause a rude boy I amma be.

OK, since federal regulation of homeopathy will almost surely get trumped in the US, lets talk about sharpening arguments against it to present elsewhere in hopes of curtailing folks from wasting money on nothing and emboldening scammers.

Toward this end, I'll suggest we prepare for 'the best cases' for homeopathy and in defense of critiques against it, even when the actual arguments of actual homeopathy advocates are lame in one way or another.

Playing 'devil's advocate' and looking for weaknesses in the FTC recommendation, I see one (I'll amp up the language a bit for greater accuracy) ' the claims are based only on theories from the 1700s that have been flatly rejected by modern medical science,'

Well, that's just false. The basis for the claims has now expanded to 'water memory', "nanomedicine", and, of course, Quantum!

Since 'water memory' is obviously a figure-of-speech, if that can be explicated literally in any way that's even remotely plausible, then poof! goes the fundamental skeptic complaint about the infinitesimal or absent 'active ingredients' --> total implausibility. And if we define 'plausibile mechanism of action' as 'incapable of exclusion by existing science' it doesn't take a genius to make a case for that in regards to homeopathy, since we've shifted the focus from the no-longer-there to the water, which IS there. For example, what would a wily homeopath say in response to "If water retained memory, it’d taste like dinosaur piss"? Or, to remove the figurative again, how is a finished homeopathic potion different from the water the homeopath started with, if all the molecules of that water water had in fact been mixed with dog piss before it was distilled? [Hint, as we've established, it ain't because it actually has any of the source HPUS listed ingredients in it. We're just talking about the water...]

Where we wind up then, sans further argument, is the basic principle of sbm: it shouldn't be offered unless you can prove it works. Unfortunately, that's not the existing standard for OTC health products. Homeopathy just gets re-categorized with the 'natural and/or 'herbal' supplements the public thinks it is anyway, and the health claims just need to be reworked with the minor hedges already in use for supplements that haven't been totally proven as 'no way this works at all'.

So, as futile as the FTC recommendation may be, it does present a variety of other concerns about homeopathic products beyond "it's just water', and some of these seem to me to have good, and not easily assailable, persuasive potential.. What I'm suggesting here is a 'be prepared' strategy that looks to identify the most useful of these tacks for different situations/audiences, and looks too for ways to fine tune them and bolster their effectiveness.

@ Sadmar

Since ‘water memory’ is obviously a figure-of-speech

Careful, this started with a paper from Jacques Benveniste which showed activation of immune cells by a hyper-diluted solution of an antibody.
This study was never successfully replicated and there are a number of ways for the initial experience to have led to spurious results. The scientists knew which tubes were the diluted antibodies and which ones were "plain" water, to start with.
There have been since articles trying to show that water can form multi-dimensional structures - and thus "remember" the shape of molecules which were in solution. Except that none of these studies managed to prove that these structures could survive even one millisecond. Now, if we add the shaken violence* of a good homeopathic succussion in the mix...

So, not fully a figure of speech, but also a case of science which turned badly, and now veering toward Cargo cult science.
IOW, for homeopathic proponents, water memory has been proved. Our counter-arguments have to take this into account.

* maybe homeopathic solutions should be stirred, not shaken.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

So, not fully a figure of speech, but also a case of science which turned badly, and now veering toward Cargo cult science.

Indeed. sadmar is woefully ignorant about some basic history of homeopathy, isn't he? When homeopaths say "memory of water," these days, they mean "memory of water." On a strictly linguistic basis, you can say it's a figure of speech, but it's a figure of speech that conveys a concept that homeopaths not only believe, but have made central to their defense of homeopathy against the rather obvious observation that many homeopathic remedies are diluted far beyond a level where a single molecule of the starting remedy could reasonably be expected to remain.

My own knowledge or lack thereof of the history of homeopathy is irrelevant to the thought experiment, because homeopathy advocates (who are, after all, quacks) are not beholden to that history in making claims, and some have already gone beyond not just Hahnemann, but Benveniste as well.. The question is what arguments might be made, and how those who the debate is intended to influence will evaluate them.

'The rather obvious observation that homeopathic remedies are diluted far beyond a level where a sufficient number of molecules of the starting remedy remain to reasonably expect any effect beyond placebo' is indeed a neat, tidy, simple case for a total rejection of homeopathy -- not just truth in labeling, but far more serious restrictions if not chucking it out altogether. However, those conclusions rest on the premise that it's only the remaining 'stuff' that could have any effect on whatever physiology is ailing the patient. Put that premise in dispute, and the case isn't neat, tidy and simple any more. Helianthus's reply bears that out.

I checked the Wikipedia article on 'water memory' linked by Helianthus, which explained that the term was coined by a journalist (I couldn't find who, and whether the coinage accompanied credulity or skepticism). The closest to a pithy literal summary of Benveniste's idea I located: "Water could act as a 'template' for the [antibody] molecule, for example by an infinite hydrogen-bonded network, or electric and magnetic fields." I'm not sure if the electro-magnetic fields are different way of explaining the same proposed mechanism as the hydrogen bonds, or a different mechanism. Anyway , the discussion seems to have focused on the idea that those hydrogen bonds "could somehow cluster into long-lived mimics of the antibody."

Now, if actual proponents of homeopathy are indeed using 'water memory' only as a reference to Benveniste's hydrogen-bond-antibody-template thesis, they do have a challenge to the "it has to be stuff" premise, but not a good one, since that trhesis seems quite concrete and testable, and to have failed all subsequent tests it has undergone.

However, I don't think the pro-homeos are just bonded to bonding, and I referenced 'nano-' because it was used in this passage from a paper on an RCT of 'Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ‘n Cough' sponsored by... Hyland's, [quoted in a critique by Clay at SBM]:

There is presently no definitive explanation for the possible biological activity of such highly diluted homeopathic preparations. Current speculation about a mechanism of action centers on the field of nanomedicine with the possibility of immune system modulation.

In the SBM, Science Monkey offered another mechanism explanation attributed to a "Board Certified Homeopath":

The specific herbs and poisons used in the first dilution determine the velocity and direction of the negative quantum spin of the electrons of the water molecules. This is why we strike the dilutions in such a specific manner. Each successive succussion and dilution transfers these same spin directions and velocities to more and more of the water molecules. When the homeopathic water molecules are ingested, the negative quantum spins of the water molecules interact with the negative energy of whatever is making the patient sick and cancels out the negative energy.

Whether this is real or a Poe, is of course, per Poe, irrelevant. it sounds pretty damn silly.to me. However, as far as our hypothetical debate goes, it's bad argument because it's trying to hard. Since homeopathy is a socially established practice, protected by existing statutes/regulations, it's on 'defense'. The burden of proof is on the 'prosecution'. Faced with the claim of 'it can't work' it's advocates don't have to establish a provable account of how it does work. They merely have to present a plausible case that it might work, one that its opponents cannot disprove. Now, we here might all agree that this state of affairs is wrong. We might all agree that the sbm principle of 'only what good science prove works' should be the standard, but it isn't.

I'm still not going to do the pro-homeos work for them by detailing how to present an effective argument within these conditions .But Helianthus misses the mark with "For homeopathic proponents, water memory has been proved. Our counter-arguments have to take this into account." That's to easy. Our counter-arguments have to take into account any theory of 'potentized' water, incl\uding especially ones that have some plausiblity-to-non-scietists, and are not subject to DIS-proof with existing science. IOW, what's the response to "Current speculation about a mechanism of action centers on the field of nanomedicine with the possibility of immune system modulation" if that's based on the water, not the phantom source ingredient?

Again, IANAS, so there might be a response any reasonable physicist would consider strong. I just have the feeling it wouldn't be as neat, and defintiive and potentially persuasive to non-scientists as the 'it's just water' argument.

At this point I'll ask the reader to recall that this thought experiment relates only to the 'no plausible mechanism' aspect of the case, and the FTC recommendation includes a number of other tacks against homeopathy that aren't dependent on this at all, and I advocated a "strategy that looks to identify the most useful of these tacks for different situations/audiences, and looks too for ways to fine tune them and bolster their effectiveness."

Also, going back to the mechanism issue... While the FTC recommendations address homeopathy generally, the commission bases its brief on it's responsibility in relation to OTC 'homeopathic' products. One of the reasons I repeatedly point out that these are NOT 'just water' is that this points to the fact homeopathy is not a unified and univocal field with interests shared up and down the line. These divisions yield vulnerabilities, and the potential of 'divide and weaken' by exploiting methods that may set one faction against another. Case in point: it's one thing to argue, 'it doesn't matter the stuff isn't there anymore because it transformed the water while it was in there' if that water is actually in the remedy. But it's another if the remedy is a just 0.85g sucrose, 0.15g lactose and less than a proton of muscovy duck liver.

I checked the Wikipedia article on ‘water memory’ linked by Helianthus


which explained that the term was coined by a journalist

That's an excellent reason to check the references. I'm just not going to root around in G—le Books for invocations of the same concept.*

Whether this is real or a Poe, is of course, per Poe, irrelevant.

Unless, of course, it's neither.

One of the reasons I repeatedly point out that these are NOT ‘just water’ is that this points to the fact homeopathy is not a unified and univocal field with interests shared up and down the line.

There are three sets, not necessarily disjoint: True Beliveroonies, scammers, and marks. That's it. If you think the union of these sets constitutes "socially established," we have different definitions when it comes to niche crankery.

There is no point to rambling about "vulnerabilities" when the main issue is deceptive labeling.

* But see here, from 1977.

I did check the references, and I tried about 10 links chasing the source of the quote, getting only references to an anonymous journalist. including articles by Beauvais. I did not, for some reason, hit that Google book link that IDs the two reporters from Le Monde who created the headline.

What I mean by 'socially established' is "About 3.3 million Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic treatments in 2007, according to CDC," What I mean by 'vulnerabilities" (among other things) are means to get convince people who presently don't see a problem that the advertising is, in fact, deceptive.

You do not get to decide how many sets there are, that always being arbitrary anyway. 'There are only two kinds of people, those who separate everyone into two kinds of people, and those who don't.'

"Computer memory" is just a figure of speech, but people have a fairly concrete idea of what they mean by it.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 19 Nov 2016 #permalink

You do not get to decide how many sets there are, that always being arbitrary anyway.

Tell it to Zermelo & Fraenkel.

sadmar, have you ever tried to rip you old CDs into the memory of water? I don't think the ions will hold much.

“About 3.3 million Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic treatments in 2007, according to CDC,”

Argument from popularity does not mean much... especially when it is just about 10% of the total population.

"What I mean by ‘socially established’ is “About 3.3 million Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic treatments in 2007, according to CDC,”"

Out of a population of over 300 million, that is 1%. Very much a fringe activity/belief.

There are probably more people who believe in bigfoot.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 20 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Our counter-arguments have to take into account any theory of ‘potentized’ water, incl\uding especially ones that have some plausiblity-to-non-scietists, and are not subject to DIS-proof with existing science."

I don't see how immunity to disproof is possible:
give a homeopath some unlabelled magic "memory" water and get them to read it.
If the water has something imprinted on it, then it is obviously readable.

I suspect a success rate of close to "0" would apply.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 20 Nov 2016 #permalink

Well, L.O. f***ing L.

Orac has written countless posts over the years about The One Quackery to Rule Them – excuse me, "niche crankery" very much a fringe activity/belief less important than belief in Bigfoot – excuse me, "soft targets", and I don't remember any of you guys ooh-poohing their significance. The replies to the OP make the topic sound kinda important. “A rare win… This is really good… This is awesome news… ”

Oh, there was at least one killjoy upthread who seemed to agree with your suggestion that homeopathy is no big deal:

If ya’all want to talk about homeopathy while Rome burns America turns into Germany circa 1933 (great infrastructure initiatives there to, fahren on die Autobahn), go for it. Seriously, I’m still watching basketball and my new ‘find’ Four Nations Rugby Union on the tube, so far be it from me to be self-righteous about how anyone spends their time NOT-talking Trump.

Oh, wait! That was me! I'm sure sorry I confused you all by deciding – just for the heck of it – to imagine homeopathy is a serious enough business to give a tiddly-damn about how many folks might be sucked into wasting money on 'homeopathic' products, such that what the FDA might do about regulating them in response to the FTC recommendations could be worth 2,500 words. I also apologize for not realizing the concept of a 'thought experiment' is so alien commenters think _I_ don't understand that 'water memory' won't hold water no matter how you define it. And I shall don another layer of hairshirt for suggesting that the level of popularity demonstrated by the behavior of 3.3 million Americans constitutes 'socially established'. Dictionaries: can't trust 'em, I guess.*

Anyway, as odd as it seems that my role-playing as a modestly clever homeopathy advocates drew out the jabs, I thank you, thank you, thank you!! <3 <3

I knew homeopathy was soft target, fringe belief, niche crankery of sub-Bigfoot-level concern all along. [/sarcasm]

Now I can go back to the replay of the Australia/NZ Four Nations final.

* 'existing for some time, widely recognized and accepted within a group of people broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, and participation in characteristic relationships'.

Out of a population of over 300 million, that is 1%. Very much a fringe activity/belief.

There are probably more people who believe in bigfoot.

Well, you need to adjust for age, but . . .&nbsp.

But the Banach–Tarski paradox* has been invoked, or something.

* Not a true member of the insolubilia, but Lebesgue is irrelevant to the purported thought experiment.

Oh, wait! That was me!

Congratulations, you've reached the level of the guy who came after the dental student and bitched that the posts should have been about something else.

Craig Thomas: "Out of a population of over 300 million, that is 1%. Very much a fringe activity/belief."

Well I mucked up that decimal point!

My favorite part about Benveniste was his claim he could digitally transmit the remedy. From this obituary:

Which says:

At DigiBio, the Paris-based company he set up in the wake of the controversy, he devised another explanation for his strange results. Biomolecules, he said, communicate with their receptor molecules by sending out low-frequency electromagnetic signals, which the receptors pick up like radios tuned to a specific wavelength.

Here's a little exercise in explaining something to people with little relevant knowledge.

Explain the term "phosphate buffer", which is found in insert sheets for some vaccines. That's it - just two words.

@ Sadmar #75

I'm afraid the conversation went in at least five separate directions, and you were unfortunate enough to be at the epicenter.

Re: the 1% argument
I'm siding with you on this. 1% of the population is starting to be a big number.
About 2% of people catch the flu each year; if measles was allowed to run around without vaccine, everybody will get it, but only 0.1-1% of people will suffer lasting (or lethal) consequences. And so on. And yet we find ourselves concerned about these topics.
So I find it a bit difficult to dismiss homeopathy as a fringe fashion of no consequence*.
I also think that the number of homeopathy users is an incomplete metric for measuring if it is "socially established". Measuring cultural awareness and acceptance seems a better approach. And in this aspect, in my country homeopathy is deeply established - we hardly heard of ear candling or coffee enema, but everybody know about homeopathy. We have TV ads, prominent places in our pharmacy shops, and at least one sitcom (in the 90's) where the heroes were a veterinarian and his glamorous, successful, smart homeopath wife.

Back to my 1st answer, I realized there are cultural biases in the way of our conversation: in France, "water memory" has a lot of traction among laypeople because French scientists who publish in Nature get a lot of good media coverage back home. Hence my immediate reaction to your post.
However, for all I know, Benveniste didn't even made a blip in the US culture.

commenters think _I_ don’t understand that ‘water memory’ won’t hold water no matter how you define it.

Ah, that could be here that we have a disconnect. My point was that "water memory" does hold water for a non-zero number of homeopathy proponents.
Actually, all of this is a bit ridiculous. For scientists, about zero aspect of homeopathy hold scrutiny. Even if water memory was a real thing, we are still longing for an explanation on how "like cures like". If anything, a water-shaped ghost of a harmful molecule should have similar (toxic) effects - in molecular biology, the form defines the function. And even then, the way a remedy is chosen, by homeopathic proving (a.k.a. oniromancy), doesn't make sense.

We are trying to discuss rationally about irrational beliefs. As you found out, this is a recipe for frustration.
Please note that I do not say it's doomed to failure (and if anything, I missed your context, the FTC regulation). Your approach, and how your implement it, should be heavily dependent on which audience you are targeting.
Figuring out the likely retorts/arguments from the other side is why Todd, Chris and others have these handy lists and tables about vaccines.

* argument ad Trumpio - as a birther, your new president-elect started as a part of the fringe. He is also part of another famous 1%...

By Helianthus (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink


Thank you. I will certainly cop to not understanding how 'water memory' stands for a fairly precise mechanism theory for homeopathy homies. I went into the thought experiment in an attempt to contribute something useful to a discussion of curtailing homeopathy now that FDA regulation is but a pipe dream. This attempt was probably more about my wanting to be mentally active in a historical moment in which the idea of action feels emotionally futile than it was about homeopathy. The experiment only focused in on one aspect of the case against homeopathy, and as you note, there are plenty of others. And yes, absolutely any argumentation should be framed to appeal to the target audience in question.

But it true that "It's only water" is the skeptic go-to against homeopathy, the argument they are likely to make first and loudest, and it's not hard to at all to undermine that to any non-commited lay audience. You just need a not-totally implausible to them argument that the water might be doing the work. The more or less obvious path to uncertainty is contemporary theoretical physics. And there's evidence that the Hyland's sponsored homeopathy shill-scientists are going exactly that route. I'll offer as metonymy my college-professor-friend Bob who left Interstellar completely baffled and incredulous at how Matthew McConaughey went thousands of years into the future and wound up behind his daughter's bookcase back when she was a child. He asked me 'what the h*** was that!', and I said, 'Beats me, but I know Nolan had actual big-time physicists as advisors on the script, so it's all in there with string theory, quantum, multiverses like in Reamde... so all I say say is some very smart people seem to take this stuff seriously." Bob's brain hurt only accelerated into shut-down, and that was the end of the discussion. IOW, if Matthew McConaughey can exist everywhere at once in time bouncing between multiple realities, 'like cures like' isn't that much of a stretch anymore, or at least the politicians and the polis will start to feel the brain-hurt and say, 'OK, table that. Next issue, please!'

Which just puts the issue back on the research designs of the homeopathy RTCs, and especially " terrible manufacturing controls...enough belladonna to make kids sick... not even the craziest herbalist would give *deadly* nightshade to a baby." Every lay person understands that argument. And every policy maker understands the politics of poisoned babies, even if the occurrences are rare.

Again, this is why I've repeatedly tried to draw attention here back to the OTC homeopathic products that both have measurable amounts of stuff in them, and account for the vast majority of 'homeopathic remedy' sales in retail pharmacies, which is, after all, where the concerns and possible actions of the FTC/FDA are centered.

On your side of the pond, if a significant number of homeopathy consumers take like-cures-like and Benvenistean water memory to hold water, you may well have an 'irrational belief' problem. It's not that way over here. If we take Narad's division of consumers into 'true Beliveroonies' and 'marks', there's probably >100,000 of the former, with the rest of the 3.3 mil being the latter. And the scam they're falling for, as the FTC focus groups clearly revealed, is a vague appeal to 'herbals' as 'natural is better'. The confirmation biases engaged are less 'irrational' per se, as just not-thought-through. Americans are well known for a sort of frontier, rough-hewn, pragmatic 'common sense'. They start sniffling, they go to CVS, they see something promising 'natural relief for colds', they buy it, take it, are pleased that it doesn't taste icky-mediciny, feel better thanks to placebo and self-limiting symptoms, and the next week when their co-worker starts sniffling, helpfully chirp in "Yah. I had that last week. I got some [X] at CVS. Seemed to help. You should try it.'

This is, in short, our national habit. We try it, and if we think it works, that's all we care to know. Got too much other stuff to do to waste time asking why. Sure, that may fit one or more formal definitions of 'irrationality', but that term comes with so much baggage, it tends to send the discussion off in the wrong direction much more than illuminating the situation. From what I know of the French, your culture has very different habits of mind...

@ Sadmar

But it true that “It’s only water” is the skeptic go-to against homeopathy

I'm tempted to say "it's only water" is a figure of speech.
Sarcasm aside, it's a summary of the conclusions a scientist versed in physics, chemistry and biology will draw after studying homeopathy tenets.

if Matthew McConaughey can exist everywhere at once in time

Narad’s division of consumers into ‘true Beliveroonies’ and ‘marks’,

I think you are putting the cart before the horse in both these cases.

About Matthew, your friend gave up and accepted whatever explanation at hand because, from the point of view of a spectator of the movie, Matthew's tribulations are really happening. You don't have a choice, if you want to follow the story, you have to accept the premise. And thus, it follows that you have to accept whatever explanation is being offered.
In real life, nothing of this is true for homeopathy. Its proponents still have to show scientific evidence that something is happening - that Matthew was behind the bookcase, that there is a horse to pull the cart. So regulators have no excuse for shutting down their brain and moving homeopathy in a "special case" section.

About Benvenist (and other "scientific explanation" of homeopathy), it's nothing more than a convenient rationalization for ordinary consumers, a vindication of their choice of medication. I highly doubt that many homeopathy consumers or sympathizers started as quantum physicists fan of Benvenists. People try homeopathy and like the results, or hear about someone who liked it, and then they hear some maverick egghead proposing an explanation, and they fill it under 'good to know, mystery solved'. (and in the cases of French people, the fact that the scientist is French and is putting one on these know-it-all yankees is definitively a factor)
But I will accept that many of these people are confused and think that homeopathy is just some fancy herbalism. A confusion carefully maintained by the nostrum sellers, I would add.

It’s not that way over here.

Umph. I resemble this remark.

I would not be so sure.
As I said, this water memory stick is just a convenient rationalization, and it happens to have originated in my country, so we French may be more likely to know of it and adopt it.
On your side, the most common rationalization for homeopathy seems to be an appeal to Nature (herbal remedies and such), with a bit of white magic thrown in. Actually, for all I know, it may also be the case here. I just know (from discussion with fellow French compatriots and so on) that an appeal to Benvenist is very likely to be among our defense tactics.

Ah, I got it. You think I meant irrational in the religious or crazy sense. No, it was just in the rational vs emotional (or scientific vs anecdotal) sense. It's difficult to reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves in.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink

and in the cases of French people, the fact that the scientist is French and is putting one on these know-it-all yankees is definitively a factor

French homeopaths who prescribe for a sore throat are putting Descartes before the hoarse.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink

Herr Doktor,
Wasn't that the chap who wrote; 'I'm pink, therefore I'm spam'?

By Peebs (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by herr doktor bimler (not verified)

@ herr doktor bimler

excutite ergo sum?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink

The trial of a woman charged for killing her seven year old son by relying on "holistic medicine" (not clear if she used homeopathic or other) instead of real medicine is about to start in Calgary. Annoyingly, I can't find a single report that says exactly when or in which court.
CBC report .

Annoyingly, I can’t find a single report that says exactly when or in which court.

Does this help? I don't have time to do too much digging at the moment.

Narad, thanks for the link with trial starting date.
I kind of assumed it would be heard at Queen's Bench, but there are rather a lot of court rooms. There seems to be no publicly accessible on-line docket info, so unless I can get something by phone in the morning I guess I just show up at the courts before 10 AM & ask for directions. Since the trial is scheduled for two weeks, I assume it will get underway promptly at ten.

@ doug:

Thanks for noting the case.It will be interesting to see how it goes, in part because of it's similarities and differences from the Stephan case. I did a bit more digging:

Tamara Lovett was estranged from Ryan's father, Brian Jerome. Lovett's only affiliation listed on LinkedIn is a marketing business run by Jerome, which I'm guessing is long defunct. She was living in a basement apartment with her son at the time of his death. No occupation is listed for her in the news reports. She may have been living off support from her businessman father, Donn Lovett. It seems Donn Lovett is spearheading his daughter's defense, and paying for her attorney(s?)..

The news accounts of Tamara Lovett's arrest, eight months after Ryan's death, quote the police as sating she treated him with "holistic remedies". The current stories now cite the police as referring to "homeopathic herbal remedies". I found nothing to indicate what these remedies were, or where she obtained them. I suspect Lovett may have had no knowledge of homeopathy per se, and neither do the police. That is, my guess is -- that like the folks in the FTC focus groups -- for all the key players here "homeopathic', 'herbal', 'holistic' and 'natural' are funcyionally eqiivalent and interchangeable terms.

The remarks Donn Lovett have to the press at the time of his daughter's arrest will sound familiar to anyone who followed the Stephan case:

The facts don’t line up. Ryan had flu-like symptoms and seemed to be getting better even the day before he died. You wouldn’t rush your child to the hospital for flu-like symptoms. Tamara would never, ever, ever do anything to put him in harm’s way. Ever. He was the most loved and respected child you could ever possibly imagine. She devoted her life to that child and what they’re alleging is lunacy/ His health and well-being would not have been something my daughter would’ve taken lightly. Ryan ate all foods, drank all water. He wasn’t allowed to have Coke, he wasn’t allowed to have candy — you can hardly call that a bad thing. I had seen Ryan the week before he got sick. I was supposed to pick him up on Monday and she said he had the flu. But then she sent a message he was looking good on Wednesday or Thursday and might be in school the next day.

But the press reported, "Detectives believe Ryan was bedridden for 10 days before suffering a seizure," and "Police say the woman’s friends were worried for the ailing child’s health and urged her to take him to the doctor," quoting a police spokesman: “According to people that saw the child prior to the death (he) looked very ill.” Could be, since, "the Medical Examiner’s report determined Ryan’s death was caused by Streptococcus Pyogenes, a bacteria which can cause flesh eating disease." The ME also urged the surviving members of the family who had come into contact with Ryan to "take powerful antibiotics to avoid contracting the infection."

The news stories of Tamara Lovett's arrest did not mention Brian Jerome by name and appeared to have been written without the reporters contacting him at all. In the interim, however, he has left posts in a couple of old comments threads under these stories. .In February of 3015 he wrote:

Actually his real name is Ryan Alexander JEROME....and she didn't treat him with homeopathy.....she didn't do anything. Ryan is my son and she kept him hidden from me since he was 3 years old. I found out a week after it happened that he died and I knew in that instant she let him die. On purpose. This women is pure evil. Its bad enough that he died for no reason, but it also pisses me off his death is being used as propaganda to bad mouth natural remedies. This has ZERO to do with anything natural and everything to do with a murderer.

Then in July of this year her replied to a comment that had been posted in March of the previous year:

Shawn Ginn:
It is baffling how many parents go with their "instincts" over medical advice. Join any number of Calgary Parent groups on Facebook and see how many go to the doctor, are told what to do and then go to the group asking for advice.

Brian Jerome
I don't have any issue with people taking charge of their health using natural substances. Of course those substances should be something that actually works. You have to know what you are doing when dealing with serious illness. Having said that I know Tamara didn't do anything to really deal with this. She just sluffed it off as not a big deal and carried on as usual until it was too late. There is no excuse because she DID know what to give him and just refused to do so. To me that is murder straight up. His death is on the people who helped keep Ryan hidden from me. Her friends and family are just as responsible.

It's not clear, to me anyway, that Jerome is suggesting homeopathy would cure Streptococcus Pyogenes. He may think Ryan had some other affliction, and who knows what "natural substances" he might think could have "actually worked". His assessment of Lovett as a murderer who let her son die on purpose without lifting a finger may be far from 'objective'. But I wonder if there's some truth to it. That is, I wonder if there might have been a LOT more amiss with Tamara Lovett than merely a belief in 'natural remedies'.

I don't know from kids, so maybe a parent or pediatrician could address this question: Would Ryan at 7 years old likely have been aware of how sick he was, and pleaded for some kind of assistance from his mother? At that age, even though he'd never been to see any kind of medical professional, I'd imagine he'd know what doctors are and what they do from other kids at his school, if not from lessons in the curriculum. Also, wouldn't the effects of a serious bacterial infection be more apparent in a 7 year old than they would have been with a 2 year old like Ezekiel Stephan?

Reading the quotes from Donn Lovett, I found myself wondering if he'd cribbed this line of defense from David Stephan, as the coverage of Ezekiel's death had been big news In Alberta the year before. In that thought I imagined him as so desperate to save his daughter from the consequences of actions he himself could not in any way justify, he could only look to the newspaper for something to parrot that some people seemed to be buying.

I wouldn't doubt that after an eight month investigation, the Calgary police and Crown prosecutors may know more about Teresa Lovett than either her father or the long estranged father of her child. Maybe they have plenty of evidence she was giving Ryan 'natural remedies' and truly believed they would bring him around. But I also wonder if this is a kind of prosecutorial strategy, perhaps taken in fear they simply can't get a jury to believe she 'did nothing at all, on purpose' and/or to wrest some positive public attention, legal precedent, or government action against 'natural remedies' out of Ryan's otherwise tragic and senseless death.

Anyway, doug, if you can follow the trial, do keep us posted.

Sat through the whole day of the trial, almost all of which was one witness.
If dirty looks could kill, I've have splattered her in a layer half a molecule thick across the country. She was with Ryan shortly before he died, believed he was going to die, told him that angels would be with him and did not call 911.

More later.

Now that I've had a bowl of kibble, some chocolate, and some tea:
Today's report at CBC
I put the coefficient of correlation between that report and what I saw and heard at about 0.7.

First, the only time I saw Lovett sobbing was in the corridor outside the courtroom during the morning break. For almost all of La Pointe's testimony, Lovett sat staring into a corner of the court, the hair-obscured side of her face to the witness box & lawyers.

LaPointe's testimony was a tedious string of little speeches that were long on opinion and short on fact. On the sole occasion when Hepner, the defense lawyer, raised an objection, he gave the impression he was growing impatient, but tolerated the babble because the trial is by judge alone. It didn't help that Hepner rehashed a fair bit of the testimony on cross examination. He alone mentioned homeopathy, naturopathy and "western medicine", trying to get La Pointe and two other witnesses to talk about Lovett's preference therefor. None had much to say, though La Pointe said she used them, too.

The only thing that came out with regard to remedies given to Ryan was that the last time La Pointe saw him she wanted to give him some food but his mother insisted he have only dandelion tea because she wanted him to defecate. My impression is that the objective was "cleansing" (what harm can it do?). There was no clear evidence that he was given oil of oregano, though Lovett asked La Pointe to get some while on a grocery run.

I suspect the actual reason that La Pointe didn't call 911 was because she was afraid Lovett would be angry with her if she did. She claimed she was "in shock" at Ryan's terrible condition (he could speak, but complained of leg pains and she described him as emaciated) - this late in the afternoon of the day before he died - but even after phoning her husband couldn't manage to get it together to do something to save Ryan's life. Previously, she had recognized the need be failed to act to get Ryan some dental care. Three other people at least got him a checkup and all three independently called social services. La Pointe sat on her hands.

I frankly couldn't see much value in most of her testimony, either for the prosecution or the defense.

Nothing I heard suggested actual use of homeopathy, just run-of-the-mill "natural" (non)remedies, and very little thereof.

Tomorrow's testimony will start with, in my impression from their descriptions by La Pointe, three idiots who were scheduled for today.

I rode the elevator with a bunch of reporters. If I go back and that happens again, I think I'll suggest they do some sidebars on what homeopathy is, why it doesn't apply in this case, and on how much damage belief in natural so-called remedies and "cleanses" can do when used as "alternative medicine".

Alain Hepner has a substantial reputation as a defense lawyer. I wasn't much (favorably) impressed with his performance.

Does Canada not have a defense of mental incompetence? Withholding food is not the sanest approach to inducing defecation.

Thanks for the reports. I'm surprised, though, that you "couldn’t see much value in most of her testimony" for the prosecution. Unless, by that you mean their case rests on 'negligent death by pseudo-science' rather than just plain old 'death by total neglect and abuse'. I have condensed the CBC story to just the points I found damning against Lovett:

La Pointe described Ryan as "a beautiful endurer of abuse" who lived in the "darkest realms of poverty”. "It was unimaginable that Ryan could be living in such a state of unsupportedness and suffering. He was a very unhappy child."

Two weeks before Ryan died, La Pointe had him at her house for the weekend but said he wasn't himself and slept a lot. When it came time to take Ryan back to his mother, La Pointe said the boy was "distraught”, "adamant that he did not want to go home that night."

On March 1, about 12 hours before Ryan was found dead, La Pointe brought groceries over. Lovett wasn't home at the time and a neighbour was babysitting. The boy was emaciated and in a lot of pain. La Pointe said Ryan told her he wanted to go to her house but she had to tell him he couldn't because his mother had already said no. At one point Ryan's eyes rolled back in his head. Soon after that exchange, Lovett arrived home and was "agitated" and couldn't be reasoned with, said La Pointe. She offered to take the mother and son to a hospital or doctor, but Lovett refused.

Ryan sometimes attended school, but La Pointe said the boy had no routine. He would stay up with his mother even if it was until the wee hours of the morning. "He was very sad not to go to school because it was like he was even more lost in this invisible world where no one cared about him," said La Pointe. "Ryan was completely isolated. I have never seen a little boy endure [such] isolation."

Thus, it seems to me, La Pointe's testimony:
1. Speaks to a thorough pattern of neglect and psychological abuse,
2. Indicates Ryan knew he was in trouble, and was trying to get away from his mother and be with someone who might care for his illness properly.
3. Impeaches any testimony from Lovett that Ryan merely had "flu-like symptoms and seemed to be getting better even the day before he died".
4. Establishes grounds for framing Don Lovett's statement: "I was supposed to pick him up on Monday and she said he had the flu. But then she sent a message he was looking good on Wednesday or Thursday and might be in school the next day." as indicating an attempt by Lovett to conceal her criminal mistreatment of her son.
5. Establishes a direct refusal by Lovett to seek medical opinion and care for a boy who was visibly emaciated, in great pain, with his eyes roilling back into his head.

As for the newsfolk: I have seen several related articles tying the case to "how much damage belief in natural so-called remedies and 'cleanses' can do when used as 'alternative medicine'." I would suggest to the reporters that this peg is distorting the facts of the case, and playing to the hands of the defense in that it will likely strike a jury as somehow at least somewhat exculpatory That is, along the lines of "she loved the child and was just trying to do what she thought was right" – which resulted in the Stephan case with the parents receiving no more than a judicial slap on the wrist.

Thanks for pointing me this way, Narad. And Doug, thanks for sitting through the trial. Deity-of-your-choice-speed.

Tamara's father's blog. Apparently written by Tamara, 3 months after Ryan passed. me me me me me me I I I I I me me me and Strep A has a 50% mortality rate. And a bunch of additional blather. http://donntodusk.blogspot.ca/2013/06/ryan-alexander-lovett-by-his-moth…

Brian Jerome is a loser who didn't even see his Ryan for years prior to Ryan's death. here, in the comments: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalNews/posts/1196405730407190

Brian is also quoted as being upset that folks are using this case to get riled up about nacheral remedies, when, per Brian, they can actually be effective.

Dude, maybe you should be upset about the fact that two grown adults brought a perfect little boy into the world and then neglected him to death.

Also, LaPointe blew it. Groceries and weekends at her house are nice. She should have alerted Children's Aid long beforehand, though. Failing that (and she did indeed fail) she had ONE JOB that day and it was to call 911.

I don’t know from kids, so maybe a parent or pediatrician could address this question: Would Ryan at 7 years old likely have been aware of how sick he was, and pleaded for some kind of assistance from his mother?

Yes, likely. Pleaded for some kind of assistance? He pleaded with LaPointe to get him out of there. Hard to say if he feared the succubus otherwise known as his mother.

My question for the physicians - which came first, the parainfluenza virus, or the strep infection? Can someone please explain the chain of medical events here?

sadmar @90: Re: would he have known how sick he was and asked for help?
I think it is likely, although at that age (at most ages) he wouldn't have known what to ask for. I distinctly remember begging my mother to make me feel better when I had the chickenpox (age 4) and how horrible it felt when she said there was nothing else she could do (I'd already taken as much medicine as was safe, she wasn't being cruel).

And frankly, almost any child will turn to a trusted adult when they feel sick.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 01 Dec 2016 #permalink

I'm just going to say this and then I'll shut up for a bit and eat dinner. But sadmar, we can go on about what Brian Jerome thinks, doesn't think, said, didn't say, and what his ex-partner did or didn't do, but the fact remains that this piece of crap didn't even see his own kid for over three years. He has some weak-ass defense about how he contacted a lawyer, emailed Tamara, created a fake FB account so he could stalk her, but then he says that he only learned of Ryan's death via FB after having "not logged in for a few months."

He was Ryan's other parent and he is equally a piece of unrepentant garbage in this horrific story.

Brian Jerome If you don't really know about actual natural remedies and only know about the 90% of the garbage in health food stores, you might think that. But there are many treatments that you can use that will help the body heal itself and there are natural treatments that kill parasites that cause many diseases. No one thing is a complete solution and you have to know what to take, how much to take and in what combinations. Herbal remedies can be just as dangerous as chemicals. Eating high grade indica cannabis oil or using it as a suppository will help cure many serious often fatal diseases, proven many times. These things have been used for a very long time, but the knowledge of it has been suppressed over time because they don't create huge profits. So many people don't know what works and what doesn't. But to say nothing natural works is pure misinformation. And I do NOT want Ryan's death to become a lightning rod for people who are against anything natural to attach themselves too. Not going to happen.
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 1:07am

Go sterilize yourself with a fork, asshole.

Delphine @100: Yeah, he's not doing much to endear himself to anyone. Nor is he making any point that he would have been a better parent.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 01 Dec 2016 #permalink


Does Canada not have a defense of mental incompetence? Withholding food is not the sanest approach to inducing defecation.

She may have been trying to ensure he was completely empty as part of the detoxification.

Sadmar - the trial is before judge alone - no jury.

Doug - I expect Hepner doesn't know what homeopathy is and conflates it with herbal "remedies".

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 01 Dec 2016 #permalink

This is a trial by judge. There is no jury. This is something elected by the defendant. I think this was probably a wise choice, avoiding the chance of jurors who would think "if this was my kid I'd have taken him to the doctor" and weighing that more heavily than witness testimony.

When I say "most of" with regard to La Point's testimony being of dubious value, that's what I mean. What has been reported in the press are the significant points. Her testimony ran from 10 AM to about 3:40 PM, with a 15 minute break and about an hour and a half around noon. The prosecutor let her ramble. The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to believe that she was being careful to paint herself in a flattering light as someone who intervened in the lives of Ryan and his mother to their benefit, and that this was more important to her than testimony for or against Lovett. I think the core of the evidence useful to the prosecution probably could have been delivered in well under two hours, had the prosecutor kept her more tightly controlled (as I think the defense would have liked). I would interpret none of her testimony as establishing that Ryan's mother was abusive. The only real neglect, as opposed to failure to provide what is typically provided to most kids, alluded to in La Pointe's testimony was lack of dental care for Ryan and lack of professional medical care in his final days. I strongly suspect that neither Tamara nor Ryan were registered for Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.

During La Pointe's testimony for the prosecution, there was very little with regard to "alternative" medicine - it was the defense that kept raising it. That was also the case with two subsequent witnesses, with Hepner stumbling with words, including "homeopathic", "naturaopathic" and "western medicine" - he really didn't seem to be able to string the words together very well. I do not believe the prosecution is trying to make this about "alternative" medicine, but instead about the core of the charges - failure to provide the necessaries of life and negligence causing death. Why Hepner hammers on it is not apparent to me, but my suspicion is that he intends to sum up saying that Lovett sincerely believed her remedies were valid, and therefore she shouldn't be found guilty. (Once again, I did not hear La Pointe testify that Ryan was given oil of oregano - this seems to be repeated by the press based on something either in evidence from the first two days of the trial or not yet in evidence at all.) His intentions will probably become clearer if and when he calls Lovett. Though it may have been a ploy, he seemed to have some intention of obfuscating the fact that it was a week and 4 or 5 days instead of just 4 or 5 days between the time La Pointe took Ryan home on the occasion when he put up the big fuss and when she saw him again hours before he died. It took me seconds to relate the two dates with a web search for "2013 family day alberta". He did try very hard, with only moderate success, to get La Pointe to agree than Ryan learned how to be a nice likable kid from his mother.

Under cross examination, La Pointe was resolutely maintained she did not know why Ryan didn't want to go home after the Family Day weekend, or what was troubling him over the course of the weekend. I don't think I believe her. She maintained he was not apparently sick and definitely did not have a fever. Hepner belabored the matter. La Pointe took Ryan and her kids bowling the afternoon of the Monday, and Ryan participated and asked if they could stay for another game.

I didn't attend the trial today. CBC report

La Pointe had repeatedly described Keller, the Tarot card reader, as cruel (not really very specific about how, in spite of her lengthy babble) to Ryan and his mom and said he disliked Ryan and kids in general. Pendergast sat in the living room of Lovett's apartment while La Pointe was visiting Ryan for the last time, delivering the groceries and trying to get Tamara to allow her to give Ryan some food, according to La Pointe.

I'm planning on going again Friday. Some of the testimony will be from a forensic expert regarding text messages.

Narad, yes, there is a defense of mental incompetence in Canada (for example, as case a few years ago of someone killing and cutting up someone on a Greyhound bus & the case of the murder of my former sister-in-law's brother).

However, I doubt if it can be claimed after the initial plea to the original charges.

On a lighter(?) note: Wikipedia just informed me that Dr. Crippen was a homeopath. (looked him up because a a movie I'm watching).

@ Delphine

My question for the physicians – which came first, the parainfluenza virus, or the strep infection?

Not a doctor here, just a student in microbiology a long time ago. From that I remember:

The influenza and para-influenza viruses have a reputation for facilitating secondary infections by bacteria, like the Steptococcus. A mix of the virus weakening the immune system, creating wounds in the airway's tissues, and the production of mucus which could be used as food by the bacteria.
That's the rationale behind the (over-) prescription of antibiotics to people having a flu (or the rationalisation, anyway).
So there is some basis to say, it's very likely first the virus, then the bacteria.
That being said, I suppose it's far from impossible to have been the other way round. Strep infections may happen without any help.

Re: Brian Jerome's ranting about natural remedies

So, he is admitting that there is "90% garbage in health food stores," but people wanting to fight that are just being scientifically dogmatic or something.
And there is no profit in selling cannabis. Yeah, sure.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 01 Dec 2016 #permalink


Thanks again for your reports. Useful to know it's trial by judge and the defense's choice.

The press is repeating the oregano and dandelion tea business because the prosecutor [Jonathan Hak]t featured it in his opening statement. Hepner [defense attorney] also asked the ME [Dr. Brooks-Lim], “In your medical training did you ever learn or hear of dandelion tea, oil of oregano, those types of things that are generally dispensed by naturopathic doctors?” Brooks-Lim replied “I know of them but not in my capacity as a professional...It’s not something I know enough about.” So, yes, Hepner is setting up a defense of "Lovett sincerely believed her remedies were valid, and therefore she shouldn’t be found guilty". IANAL, etc., but I'd guess he's hoping for acquittal no the neglect-to-death charge, and a light sentence on the necessities charge.

Which is to say, I think he's going for a replay of the Stephan case, in which a similar defense yielded a conviction but only a slap-on-the-wrist penalty. I do think the prosecution "is trying to make this about 'alternative' medicine,' in the sense that this is at the core of their argument for the charges, as the press took it to be from Hak's opening statement. and since Hepner is certainly trying to set up a counter to that.

I have been doing more digging, and this does seem like a Stephan case sequel. The pediatric emergency specialist to whom Ryan was taken at Alberta Children was the same doctor who attempted to treat Ezekiel Stephan and wrote up the hospital report on his death. More ominously, like David Stephan, it appears Tamara Lovett's father not only has means, but friends in high places -- and the prosecution may be treading lightly and leaving things out as a result. Your report that Hak let La Pointe wander, muddling the significant points of her testimony amidst the rambling, and the fact your takeaway was 'Lovett was not abusive' and 'the only real neglect' prior to the fatal illness was 'lack of dental care' are not reassuring in the least.

I do not have time this evening to write up everything I've found, which comes mostly from Brian Jerome's FB page. So please check back tomorrow. However, I will note one thing now. Some time after Ryan's death, Brian Jerome was contacted by three people who had been friends with Tamara and Ryan. One of these, a woman named Janice Yildiz, seems to had a role similar to La Pointe as a sort of surrogate mom at an earlier point in Ryan's life. She has spoken to the prosecution, and was subpoenaed for the trail, but that subpoena has been withdrawn, and she is not scheduled to testify. This is a slightly condensed version of what she wrote on Jerome's FB page:

Your f***ing lucky Tamara that the Crown Prosecutor took back the subpoena for me to testify..I was waiting to tell everyone what a pathetic excuse of a person you are and how you waited till Ryan was 99.9% dead before you ever got him any medical attention..you took away every Human Right he ever had..as for your piece of f***ing sh*t Father..too bad he never spent the money on Ryan..you know, when you were homeless and wondering around in minus 30 weather with a starving child that had no socks or coat on..but hey I'm sure your STRONG lawyer will put the money to good use on his children..you and your f***ing clueless father can run around and tell people what a outstanding piece of sh*t you are but I know...that you would never even think to buy Ryan anything except a package of Mr Noodles for dinner..Your stupid as f*** father can claim that you respected your child but what else can he say?? Does he know that you would ditch your kid at Beanos, hand him off to complete strangers, leave him alone at home, that he was going door to door for food in your building, does he know your child was sick at 4 years old and when I begged you to take him to the doctor, you shut me down by saying his body will become immune to his pain..I'm so glad I reported your sorry ass to Social Services..but you seemed to have a problem with that..you cut me out of his life..I pray you get what's coming to you..in this trial and for the rest of your waste of skin life.

So, he is admitting that there is “90% garbage in health food stores,” but people wanting to fight that are just being scientifically dogmatic or something?

Maybe he thinks that, but that's not what's really upsetting him. His claim is that even from the perspective of a sincere belief in natural remedies, Tamara acted in total disregard for Ryan's life. You can read the stuff on his FB for yourself, or check back here for my organized and annotated key points.

@ Sadmar #90

In February of 3015 he wrote

Ryan's dad was about a thousand years too late, indeed :-(

(not his fault, or not fully his; just Typo bringing dark irony)

Re: #108

His claim is that even from the perspective of a sincere belief in natural remedies, Tamara acted in total disregard for Ryan’s life.

Yes, I can see the nuance now.

What a mess.
If the prosecution goes with the abuse/lack of care angle, it will give all the Stephens of the world a pass - as long as you did something and claim afterward it was your sincere belief it should have been enough, oh, well, that's OK. Never mind that it was quite obviously not working, or that a strep infection is not a case of the sniffles.
If the prosecution goes after the use of non-proven remedies, the alt-med will circle the wagons and fall back on the "she did not follow the protocol correctly" defense. And of course, they are technically right.

And in the middle of all this is the corpse of a little boy.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 02 Dec 2016 #permalink

Janice Yildiz was one of the three people responsible for taking Ryan to a dentist because he was suffering from tooth pain. I don't remember the name of the man, also involved in this, who testified. I wonder if the decision not to call Yildiz was made because the Crown concluded she would not be credible.

Don Lovett certainly isn't any sort of well known big-shot and I very much doubt if he could exert the slightest influence on the Crown. He is apparently paying for Hepner, who is probably one of the most expensive criminal defense lawyers in Calgary. I don't have any idea how much the defense can influence the Crown with regard to witnesses called. There was a brief bit between the prosecutor and the judge just at the end of the Wednesday session. Hak told the judge that some witnesses on the list would no longer be required and said something about Hepner being in agreement, but I didn't hear clearly exactly what was said. I think Yildiz was mentioned in this exchange, but I'm really not at all sure.

To be clear on the "sincere belief" bit - it is my speculation that this is something Hepner has in mind. I have no idea if it carries any weight in law. I'm just having a hard time trying to discern any generality regarding his approach.

In my opinion, from what I've seen and read, the alternative medicine angle is quite trivial in this case. My impression is that anything that was given to Ryan was done "casually" and in a manner consistent which what I perceive as Tamara's general incompetence at life. Again, I suspect (ONLY suspect) that Ryan was not registered for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, which is necessary for him to receive "normal" "free" health care. He certainly would never have been refused emergency care, but his mom would likely have had to pay for a visit to an ordinary doctor (a few tens of dollars, at most). Questions about why Ryan wasn't registered would be raised. I think the Crown will focus on Tamara's failure to seek proper medical care and what she did give him will be regarded as "chicken soup instead of medical care."

I will note that on Wednesday, apart from myself there were only about three or four other people in the gallery, if you don't count reporters and a bunch of paralegals in training who stayed for a couple of hours. I certainly saw no one give the slightest hint of being there in support of Tamara. Nothing like what went on with the Stephan case is happening here.

Again, I suspect (ONLY suspect) that Ryan was not registered for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, which is necessary for him to receive “normal” “free” health care.

The prosecution seems to agree:

"The Crown says Lovett, who never registered Ryan's birth and didn't acquire an Alberta Health Care card for the boy, didn't believe in conventional medicine."

The Crown wrapped up its case this morning.

Today started with finishing play of an AV recording that was started yesterday. During the first several minutes, Tamara was in the interview room by herself. She fiddled with her hair, then cried out about Ryan, in a way that left me with some impression of a performance piece, though that may be quite unfair. Once the investigating cop returned to the room, she was completely calm. He asked a few vague questions, mostly about Ryan's clothing and her clothing.

Most of the time this morning was taken up by an expert witness being lead through his report resulting from examination of Ms. Lovett's computer. In the two or three days before Ryan's death, she (presumptive!) did several web searches for things like swollen groin lymph nodes (several occasions for this), swollen neck lymph nodes, jaundice (Ryan's eyes were yellow), ear ache, natural cures for the latter, potato poultice, dandelion tea, etc. Some visits were to alt sites, but several were to WebMD, Wikipedia and the like. In my mind, what this clearly established/supported was part of the time line for Ryan's symptoms in the days before he died. I believe at least some of the sources would have advised prompt medical care. Presumably the Crown will speak to this in final speeches.

The defense begins Monday.

Thanks for the link, Narad. I tend to give the Sun a pass on most things, since it is in general a grubby little right wing moaning rag.

I tend to give the Sun a pass on most things, since it is in general a grubby little right wing moaning rag.

Yah, that's what the "seems" was for; I know that I don't know what the instantiations of the Canadian press are like.

I't's not that I have any even partly confident guesses about what might be going on with the prosecutors, just that I'm not confident there isn't some sort of politics in play. Part of that is the coverage suggesting this is take two of the Stephan trial, and I worry that if the prosecution follows the path of that case, we'll get another wrist-slap outcome.

I'm dividing my report-for-the-day into two parts. Part 2 will get back to the question of the role of 'natural medicine' in the case. This first part goes further into Brian Jerome's take on Tamara Lovett and his perspective on the trial, as contrast (and implicit comment) on the prosecution case. Of course, he's got his biases and his remarks should be taken with a grain of salt (or, maybe oil of oregano...). But then so is it as well with all the eye-witnesses who have appeared in court.

Jerome is hard to peg. He comes off as a not-very-bright old stoner, with a stoner's combo of being devil-may-care forthright and transparently bs-ing at the same time. For example, in his radio interview he says 'I was experiencing financial difficulties at the time' in a way I immediately process as "unemployed, broke, and being dogged by collection agencies over a pile of unpaid bills". On reflection, I wouldn't be surprised if he had borrowed cash from sources prone to seek payments with methods... shall we say a little more direct that mail notice and phone calls. Anyway, while I certainly don't trust all his comments represent the truth-as-he-really-sees-it, I suspect a lot of them do, if only because he seems too feckless to be a convincing fake.

One thing worth noting, I think, is that the comment that set Delphine off:

"This has nothing to do with natural remedies and everything to do with Tamara doing NOTHING and letting him die.

was entered under a FB post of the Global News story that reported Hepner's questioning of the ME about dandelion tea and oil of oregano, and the ME's reply that the "types of things that are generally dispensed by naturopathic doctors” are “not something I know enough about.” Later that day, Jerome wrote on his own FB page:

This is NOT about chemicals vs natural. This is about a sick woman that didn't do ANYTHING while her child died, In fact she didn't even call the ambulance until he was cold and stiff. Her excuse of using "holistic" remedies is just that, an excuse. Its her ONLY defense and if she didn't have that she would have been charged at the very least with manslaughter if not murder.*

He had been pessimistic about the outcome of the trial before it began.

She will be getting away with murder this week and she knows it. All I can hope is she will rot in prison for the next few years, but I already know that won't be happening. The fix is in. F*** you Tamara! All of my anger is now, once again directed at YOU! RIP Ryan Alexander JEROME......you can't even use his real name you piece of sh*t. (11/27)

Well the trial starts today. I know not much will come of it, maybe a light prison sentence, but I doubt it... What Janice says is just the tip of the iceberg. Ryan was neglected like no kid should be and although I knew it would happen and that she would kill him eventually, it still rips my heart out hearing that I was right and NOBODY listened to me. So f*** you Tamara Lovett and f*** you to all her friends and family that helped her hide him from me and wouldn't help. And a big f*** you to child services for not doing anything either. (11/28)

Then there was this exchange regarding Yildiz and Mike DeVries, Lovett's former friends who had tried to help Ryan (they hadn't known Jerome at the time, but had contacted him before the trial).

CLAUDIA CORTIZO: Will they be testifying? sounds like they and the neighbours are a credible witness.
JEROME: They were supposed to, but for some reason they were not needed. Nobody has ever contacted me either.
CORTIZO: Well then, seems like this is a classic coverup. Due to the entire system run by Child Abusers who support each other, another one will go with a slap on the wrist. Who is prosecuting? The State? Something isn't right.
JEROME: Well her father is friends with Jean Chretian, Paul Martin etc so there very well may be. And yes its the state.

Jerome also told a radio interviewer (apparently the only journalist who has yet contacted him):

At the time I was in severe financial difficulties and I had no way to go after him in the court system. Plus she had her family and all her family connections and it’s just…there wasn’t anything I could do at that time.*

...but the interviewer let him ramble on through his narrative from there, never asking him to elaborate on how Lovett's family is 'connected' and how this impeded his efforts to locate her and his son.

Yesterday (12/1), Jerome sounded 'I told you so' again in a FB post "addresed to Tamara":

I told you all of this would happen 7 years ago. Remember? I told all of your "friends" this would happen and I would imagine they would have talked about it, unless they didn't really give a shit....which is possible. I told your ex husband Geoff this would happen and begged him to take Ryan until I could get back on my feet and take him. He told me I was paranoid and he could't do it.....his own son's brother....who I helped him get custody of by convincing you to allow Josh to go stay with him. Best thing that ever happened to that kid. You were trying to hide Josh from Geoff and I stopped you. Josh is alive and well right now having the time of his life with his multi million dollar dad and mine is where? Exactly....where did you dump him after he was turned into ash?

In sum, Jerome paints a picture of a careless, neglectful-to-the-point-of-abuse mother, which has nothing whatsoever to do with a belief in 'natural cures'. This is not only seconded by Janice Yildiz, but seems to fit with Barbara La Pointe's testimony that Ryan was “a beautiful endurer of abuse” who lived in the “darkest realms of poverty”, and the testimony of the first paramedic who arrived at the scene finding Ryan's vomit-covered dead in the hallway, describing "a 'very, very difficult' environment to work in because of the darkness and clutter."

But that was two days ago, and this is now....

* "Jerome said he moved back to his home town in Ontario to start a small business with the intention of 'getting (his) life together (to) go for full custody.' He described those years after they separated as being very difficult emotionally, and said he had no way to contact Ryan." He moved back to Calgary shortly before the trial, with intent to attend and, he said, to be available if anyone needed him. However, he said he then decided to stay away from the court, lest he lose his cool "as soon as I see these people" and cause problems.

“The Crown says Lovett, who never registered Ryan’s birth and didn’t acquire an Alberta Health Care card for the boy, didn’t believe in conventional medicine.”

Yeah...like pathogens give a fuck about your "beliefs."

By shay simmons (not verified) on 03 Dec 2016 #permalink

Jerome and his ranting are as instructive as the opinions of the cow that jumped over the moon. If he had the slightest shred of credibility, the Crown would have called him as a witness. The notion of a coverup or outside influence is something from a US tin foil haberdashery. Don Lovett is only slightly more of a nobody than his daughter.

Unless Hepner pushes it, this case is not about alternative medicine but failure to seek care.
It is clear that Tamara was observing symptoms of serious illness. The web searches that she did would have confirmed this if she read what she found. I believe she was looking for home remedies in large part so she could avoid taking Ryan to a doctor whom she would have to pay out of pocket. The naturopathic clinic to which she used to take him, but hadn't for a long time, as revealed in recorded police interview, is quite a long way from where she lived (I know right were it is because I've cycled by it several times).

^ should be "slightly less of a nobody"

I believe [Tamara Lovett] was looking for home remedies in large part so she could avoid taking Ryan to a doctor whom she would have to pay out of pocket.

Excuse me if this sounds flippant, but I think we have a Bingo there...

And isn't that, in essence, exactly what Brian Jerome has been saying? 'She didn't do ANYTHING!'

So why did Hak emphasize 'belief in natural remedies' in his opening argument? Why did the Crown feed this peg to the press? With the press running editorials and interviews with Tim Caulfield and other sbm with headlines like "Health law expert warns of 'pseudo-science' after Alberta child deaths" in conjunction with the Lovett trial, why doesn't the prosecution make some statement of "no, that's not it..."

Why is the prosecution playing right into the only defense Tamara Lovett has? Yes, I wouldn't guess Donn Lovett has that kind of pull, either. I can't think of any rationale here other than that the Crown is trying to re-litigate the Stephan case and get a precedent to use against relegating kids to worthless natural remedies in the future. If you've got a better explanation, please tell. Because, if Ryan's death is being spun to attack DIY quackery, that's just morally wrong (ends don't justify means) on its own, besides the fact it's likely to help Tamana Lovett get out of this with the least possible consequences.

It's not that the Crown didn't call Jerome. It's that they never contacted him at all, and had no clue what he might say. That's partly on him, as he was off in Hamilton Ontario, and didn't present himself back in Calgary until shortly before the trial began. There's also probably good cause for the prosecutors not to call Jerome or Yildiz, for the simple reason neither had seen Tamara Lovett for years before Ryan's death, so their testimony would have quite limited relevance to 'where she was at' at the time of Ryan's death. I don't see a big credibility differential between Jerome on one hand and La Pointe, Keller, and Pendergast on the other.

Really, doug, how is it "ranting" to issue distraught pleas if your adorable 7 year old son dies because his wackaloon mom was too cheap to take him to a walk-in clinic?

Anyway, to be fair, Jerome hasn't been highlight his thoughts on "outside influence" as a true tinfoil mad hatter would. They were brief references, and I had to dig to find them...

But then, maybe that's what you meant by US tin foil hat, since between the cast of characters in this case and the Stephan case, it seems that for Alberta, Jerome's tin foil cover is smaller than most.

@ shay #115

"“The Crown says Lovett didn’t believe in conventional medicine.” Well, sayin' don't make it so, either. The press barely noticed, but her friends testified "Lovett had taken antibiotics for a spider bite and had let someone give Ryan antibiotics for a gum ailment." So the question is 'why not for Ryan again?', and no, I don't think some advancement in fervent woo-ism is the answer. Check doug's second paragraph of #116 above.

@ doug and Narad:

All the stories on the Lovett trial are generated by a handful of reporters submitting copy to syndication services that distribute it to a variety of papers of different ideological bent. For example, the Calgary Sun is owned by the 'Postmedia' group, which also owns the Calgary Herald, as well as a bunch of other papers across Canada. Their reporters are Valerie Fortnoy and Kevin Martin. Fortnoy seems to run more in the Herald, and Martin in the Sun, but they also cross over since their stuff is going out on the same Postmedia Feed. The byline you'll see most often is Bill Graveland who is with The Canadian Press wire service, so his pieces get picked up all over (unlike Fortney and Martin who are 'exclusive' to the Postmedia papers). Other bylines show up once and only once, mainly for print pieces on the sites of broadcast sources.

Nevertheless, Narad's use of "seems" in framing a link to a news report with "the prosecution seems to agree" is spot on, for any newspaper anywhere, on anything reported as 'fact' in any story. It's just the nature of the way all daily journalism is done to yield a high degree of errors.... I could say a lot more about that, but that would be too OT, so I won't.


So I left off my account of the trial with the end of Barbara La Pointe's testimony as reported in the press, noting that along with the reports of the testimony from the paramedic and ME, the picture of Tamara Lovett was looking less like a loving mom seduced by 'natural health' woo, and more like the sort of all-around nightmare parent described by Janice Yildiz: a volatile, self-absorbed, frazzled low-life, who so neglected Ryan he would have been bereft of care except for surrogate moms who put up with Tamara's BS out of affection for him and concern for his welfare.

I was puzzled then, that the prosecutor had emphasized the 'natural remedy' angle in his opening argument, and the authorities had continued to focus on this peg in their statements to the press.

The next two days of testimony for the Crown, though, flipped the picture considerably. That only left me more puzzled at the prosecution's approach... At first. But after re-reading the coverage a few times, I think I have it figured out.

On 12/1, the prosecution called three of Lovett's friends as witnesses: a gallery director named Robert Dodds and two residents of her apartment building, Frank Keller and Harold Pendergast. All three were quoted directly in the stories by Bill Graveland (The Canadian Press) and Valerie Fortney (Calgary Herald) with testimony that they had seen Ryan shortly before his death and not seen any signs of serious illness. Then, down the column, the stories mention, almost in passing, "testimony by the men that... Lovett had taken antibiotics for a spider bite and had let someone give Ryan antibiotics for a gum ailment, despite her dislike of traditional medicine." No direct quotes, no atrribution to a specific witness. Two other stories, from the CBC (linked by doug above) and Calgary Sun, didn't even mention the real antibiotics at all.

But, mercy, how is the revelation that Lovett did use real antibiotics on herself and her son not the frickin' lead? How are there no direct quotes, and no attribution? How do the CBC and the Sun just leave it completely out of their reports? (Of course, this had to be the day doug didn't go, so I can't ask him if this had anything to do with the way the prosecutor handled the questioning...)

Since these men are Lovett's friends, you'd think the defense would know they were going to testify about the antibiotics... which pretty much leaves Hepner with the only line of defense being 'he didn't look that bad and I really thought he just had the flu'. Which Keller Pendergast and Dodds all seem to support, yielding a 3-1 they-said/she-said score vs. La Pointe on Ryan's distress level as perceived by a lay person the day before his death...

Also, since these guys were prosecution witnesses, you'd have to assume Hak knew what they were going to say before the trial began. So why did he hit the oregano-as-bogus-natural-remedy theme in his opening statement if he was going to present witnesses supporting Tamara's claim she thought Ryan just had the flu. If she believed that reasonably and sincerely... Well it's a self-limiting condition, so treating it with dandelion wine and oil of oregano hardly seems criminal.

Which brings us to the parts of Keller, Pendergast, and Dodds' testimony that were featured in all the news coverage: "Neighbours, friends paint sympathetic portrait of mom charged in child's death" was the headline in the Herald. Graveland wrote: "Lovett was described by her friends in court as a nurturing mother who gave up everything to take care of [Ryan]." The CBC reported Pendergast "described Lovett as a 'devoted' and 'diligent' single mother who did everything she could for her son." Again, I'm thinking this all plays right into the hands of a 'he didn't look that bad and I really thought he just had the flu' defense.

'Devoted and diligent' puts us back in Collet Stephan land, so maybe this is 'natural remedy woo' turf after all. But Collet walked with nothing but probation. And if David Stephan hadn't played martyr and kept plugging Truehope throughout their trial, if either of them had admitted that relying on 'homeopathic immune system boosters' had been a horrible mistake, Collet might have walked free and clear.

At the end of 12/1, going over to the first part of 12/2, the prosecution played a video of Lovett speaking to investigators at the police station on the day of Ryan's death. The news stories don't say too much about it, except that Lovett was sobbing on and off, and that she answered a question on when she first realized Ryan needed medical attention as the previous afternoon, on spotting jaundice in his eyes, and said he had only shown flu-like symptoms before that. but three out of four stories included a direct quote:

"Earlier yesterday, when he presented with the yellow, the jaundiced eyes, that was like, 'OK, if this starts to escalate, you've got to think about taking him to the hospital,'" Lovett says in the video. "That was the first time it entered into my mind in terms of having to do that, like you may just have to take him to the hospital and deal with this."

The video playback was followed by a police "digital forensics expert" who had examined Tamara Lovett's computer, and testified to the subjects of her Web searches leading up to Ryan's death.

there was a search about children’s nosebleeds in January and a link to a newspaper article warning Canadians are “blind to the dangers of prescription drugs.” ... there were a number of searches beginning Feb. 5, including “children, swollen groin, lymph nodes.” That was followed with searches for “oil of wild oregano testimonials” and information for earaches, ear infections, norovirus and even “radiation sickness.” (Graveland)
Lovett searched for ways to cure earaches and pus in the ear with oil of oregano, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar and water. She also looked at subjects such as “reiki healing throat” and “how to rapidly relieve an earache using supplies you probably already have in your home.” {Martin)

However, the search terms changed the afternoon before Ryan died:

when Lovett searched for things like "jaundice," "groin lymph pain children" and "dandelion jaundice alternative treatments." (Graveland)
The day before Ryan died, Lovett researched jaundice, home remedies, the benefits of dandelion tea and herbs to help the liver. (CBC)

Only Kevin Martin put 2 and 2 together, near the bottom of his story:

On the afternoon of March 1, when three friends of Lovett testified the child hardly looked sick at all, she inquired about “'natural cure for children’s diseases … jaundice' and jaundice-like symptoms and swollen neck lymph nodes and stiff joints.” Before he died, Ryan developed jaundice as his liver became infected with his illness.

So, I think we can see the prosecution's argument. It's all about the events of March 1, 2013, the day before Ryan died. It goes like this: 1) Sometime that afternoon, Tamara noticed Ryan's jaundiced eyes. 2) This was the first point she realized he was seriously ill with more than the flu. 3) She realized she should take him to the hospital. 4) If she had taken him to the hospital, he would have received antibiotics and recovered. 5) But she did not take him to the hospital, and only gave him dandelion tea and oregano instead. 6) Thus he went past the point of no return during the night, and died early the next morning. ==>> Which equals failure to provide the necessities of live, and negligence causing death.

Each presentation to the judge plays a role: The ME establishes cause of death, but also that Ryan could have been saved by antibiotics. La Point established that Ryan was sick around dinner hour, and that Tamara said he only needed dandelion and oregano at that time. The neighbors establish that he was not yet THAT sick earlier that afternoon. This is important to establish that had Tamara acted early that evening, Ryan would have pulled through. They also establish Lovett's understanding of antibiotics as the proper treatment for serious infections. The video presents Tamara's own admission that she had seen the jaundice the previous day and recognized it warranted a trip to the hospital. Finally the computer search logs verify Tamara's point of realization in the afternoon when she began searching for 'jaundice', and indicate that she was still looking up alt-med treatments after the point she later told police she had thought "hospital".

Thus, I think we can finally understand why Hak emphasized the oregano and dandelion in his opening: it's not what Tamara Lovett gave Ryan thinking he just had the flu, but what she gave him the evening before he died AFTER recognizing the signs of serious infection.

Whether or not that would make a convincing argument for conviction, well IANAL. I see some serious weaknesses in the argument, but I'll try to find a layperson's guide to the relevant legal standards for those charges to see how they might match up, and do another post after that. Of course, the prosecution argument may also turn out to be different in some important way. And we have yet to hear from the defense...

OT, does anyone know what is happening with the investigation of the Naturopathic Doctor in the Stephens case? or, what a likely time frame might be for getting information? or, if there will ever be any information available publicly?

Ryan Lovett died because of belief in teh toxinz and applied Dunning-Kruger effect.

Tamara Lovett testified today. During her testimony for the defense, she came across as intelligent and articulate, if a bit self-aggrandizing. She holds a BA in history and has worked for doctors (sounded like outpatient surgical practice) and lawyers.

Homeopathy does not enter the picture. She turned to alternative medicine, but mostly to diet-related things, after a bad experience with Prozac, Paxil and some unknown prescription sleep medication. She used pretty ordinary vitamin and mineral supplements, and a few "natural" type remedies such as teas claimed to be useful for colds, flu and/or "immune boosting". She had given Ryan prescription antibiotics in the past for an abscessed tooth.

The "doctor" she took him to a few times when he was very young was a chiroquack.

Ryan had no birth certificate because she refused to name the father. This lead to her getting no social services payment benefits for him and no Alberta Health Care card for him. She understood these would be consequences of not naming the father, but still she refused.

The previously mild-mannered prosecutor was rather brutal with his cross examination, and I thought quite masterful in using her text messages and web searches to get truthful statements from her and fix the timeline.

Over and over she insisted she was dealing with Ryan's illness to the best of her abilities. She verbally denied that he was ever really sick, though her text messages showed otherwise. She used the oil of oregano and dandelion tea to "detox" him. She thought she could detox his jaundice away because he'd had neonatal jaundice and she "dealt" with that. She never considered a doctor until his speech began to slur shortly before he died. She thrice denied La Pointe had suggested taking him to a doctor the evening before he died. The prosecutor put it to her that she would have refused anyway. No matter how hard he tried, the prosecutor could not get her to say that an actual MD might know how to do things she didn't.

This really isn't much about alternative medicine. It is about mommy knows best because she reads bullshit on the net, the arrogance of ignorance, and failure to seek reasonable care for a sick kid. (I still think lack of an AHC card and money played a part. She took bottles to a depot to get money to buy the dandelion tea, lost the money, then got some from her father - all hours before Ryan died.)

I think it likely she will be convicted of at least one of the charges.

mho, I don't know about any investigation of the naturopath in the Stephan case, but someone at the Lovett trial today told me the appeal is scheduled for early June. Apparently both the Crown appeal asking for longer sentences and the defense appeal asking for the conviction to be overturned will be heard at the same time. This is not a new trial, just a few tens of minutes per side before a panel of three judges who will decide to uphold or reject the conviction and possibly order a new trial, and/or uphold or alter the sentences.

Jerome had had no contact with Ryan or Tamara for years. Nothing he could have said would be probative.

My main comment about today at the trial is held up in moderation cuz I used a rude word.

Random bits:
In the US, a haberdasher sells hats & socks & stuff. In the UK, a haberdasher sells sewing notions.

I can't see the slightest hint of anything on the part of the Crown relating this case to the Stephan case, beyond the basic fact of failure to seek proper medical care.

Tamara did at least claim (see reports of autopsy, possibly to contrary) to have given Ryan Advil (ibuprofen). I sort of got the impression she used it because the dentist who had prescribed antibiotics for Ryan when he had an abscessed tooth had recommended it. Hak hammered her pretty hard about how much pain Ryan had to endure before she would give him any.

Kevin Martin takes copious notes, I think in shorthand (I never sat close enough to see for sure). During La Pointe's testimony he filled page after page at a furious pace.

why doesn’t the prosecution make some statement of “no, that’s not it…”

Why on Earth do you think a Canadian prosecutor would EVER do such a thing? Lawyers make statements in opening speeches and at summation. They address the judge (and jury, if there is one). They do not make statements in between, and they don't go blabbing to the press. The trial is conducted in the courtroom.

"Really, doug, how is it “ranting” to issue distraught pleas if your adorable 7 year old son dies because his wackaloon mom was too cheap to take him to a walk-in clinic?"

"Really, doug, how is it "ranting" to issue self-serving rationalizations if your adorable 7 year old with whom you've had zero contact for several years dies because you chose to spawn with a nutbar and fail to fulfill your duties as a parent?"

It is about mommy knows best because she reads bullshit on the net, the arrogance of ignorance, and failure to seek reasonable care for a sick kid. Yes. And the fact that nearly every single adult in Ryan's life was trash.

Ryan was also his mother's own personal social experiment, I doubt very much that he was an actual independent living person to her.


In late April, Karen Tanaka, the complaints director of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta sent a response to the physicians' letter of 3/28/16 that had requested an inquiry. It began "I have determined that your complaint will be investigated pursuant to section 55(2)(d) of the Health Professions Act." You can see the whole letter here: http://tinyurl.com/h5wuz3k

The CDNA is self-regulating, and it's investigative procedures are private. I can only find one new item on Tannis past the date of that CNDA response, from June, noting that nothing has been announced. Tanaka is quoted that reviewing a complaint “may take several months to years.” At he end of the 'investigation' Tanaka will have the authority to either dismiss the complaint or refer it to the Hearing Tribunal of the CNDA, That decision is reported to the complainant, and the hearing, if there is one, becomes open to the public.
For all I know, by now Tanaka may have completed whatever 'investigation' she deemed suitable, sent Michelle Cohen a 'complaint dismissed' notice – which apparently can't contain any elaboration by law – thus ending the matter, and that just hasn't been noted in the press. Anything is possible, though. I'd think t would indeed be news if the complaint was referred for a hearing, which would only happen, I think, if there turned out to be some far more serious involvement by Tannis than anything yet speculated. It did occur to me they might gin up something to throw Tannis under the bus as a bad actor since Ezekiel's death occurred before naturopaths were (supposedly) regulated, but I doubt that would relieve any heat the CDNA might be feeling even so, so that seems highly unlikely.

The Lethbridge Naturpathic website is still up, though all identification of providers has been scrubbed, save for the contact email address beginning 'drtracey@' . The 'ratemds.com' site does not have a comment from an actual patient posted since April 13, roughly two weeks before Tanaka's letter announcing an investigation hit the press.
Doug: Thanks again for your reports.

Fwiw, I suspect lack of an AHC card and money played a very large part in her not taking Ryan to hospital. According to Keller, she was $3000 behind in her rent.

Jerome was not married to Lovett, and as doug just noted, he was not named on the birth certificate. He had no legal standing, and he was broke. Once she cut him off, he little recourse, if any. What exactly do you think he should have done?

sadmar: "Jerome was not married to Lovett, and as doug just noted, he was not named on the birth certificate. He had no legal standing, and he was broke. Once she cut him off, he little recourse, if any. What exactly do you think he should have done?"

I know someone who had a father just like this. Except she was never told who he was. He just abandoned her pregnant mother in the early 1960s. (apparently "rape them and leave them" was a thing back then)

If the secretive parties were still alive I would have severe words with them. Unfortunately they both took the information about the father's identity to their graves. They had no idea how trying to "protect" a child would cause questions and heart ache later. I have seen the tears from someone who has absolutely no idea where half of their genetic material, including certain cancer/disorder traits, comes from.

Secrecy has real costs.

Sadmar @130

I suspect lack of an AHC card and money played a very large part in her not taking Ryan to hospital.

The lack of an AHC card would not be an issue with an ER. I know the old 8th and 8th clinic* (west end of downtown Calgary) did not require an AHC card and I believe it still has the same policy after relocating to the Chumir Centre in the Beltline (just south of downtowm)

*I used to work about a block away and went there for lab stuff. There was a high concentration of homeless and panhandlers in a two block area.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 06 Dec 2016 #permalink

There are two questions I wish Mr. Hak had asked:

How often did you check Ryan's temperature and what was his actual temperature?
I suspect it was never actually measured with a thermometer. If in fact she never used a thermometer, I believe it would help establish failure to take even the simplest of actions appropriate for the care of a sick child.

Did lack of an AHC card for Ryan increase your reluctance to take him to a doctor?
I suspect the answer would have been "no", even it did. Tamara had to take bottles to the depot for money to buy the dandelion tea, She repeatedly said she didn't think it was necessary to take him to a doctor (as distinct, in my mind, from not wanting to). She had the use of a car and had taken Ryan with her to the bottle depot, so clearly there was no "physical" barrier to getting him to a clinic. The barrier was either her arrogance in believing she was "dealing with ..." (a phrase she used many, many times) or something other than transportation.

I once took a kid who was registered but did not have his number for AHC to a doc & I paid cash for the visit. It surprised me how little it cost. I have a vague recollection of it being less than $15.
Tamara mentioned the Chumir Centre as a destination she was considering in the last minutes of Ryan's life. She lived on 17th Ave & 9th St, so it was pretty close (12th & 4th). I would be very surprised if they wouldn't treat first and worry about payment later, especially for a very sick child. Sheldon Chumir certainly would have chewed them up one side and down the other if they wouldn't. However, if someone with no money thinks they will have to pay, especially if they believe it could be a substantial amount, it could still be a deterrent. Something she said gave me the impression she believed that he would be treated at emergency at the Children's. But she should have consulted a doc long before Ryan was critically ill, and money may have been a consideration at that time. Even if he had been teleported to intensive care when she finally decided a doc was required when his speech began to slur, it might have been too late to save him.

The series of tweets here covers a lot of the significant points from Mr. Hak's cross examination of Tamara.

Closing arguments are on Friday.


I looked at the tweets you linked. I see what you meant about the toxins. That was painful to read. Must have been more painful to hear. Assuming she's not BSing I don't know how the law deals with that. And I don't know how law should or could deal with that. That being believing things that are just totally wrong.

Even if he had been teleported to intensive care when she finally decided a doc was required when his speech began to slur, it might have been too late to save him.

i wonder if there's some legal strategy relating to 'the moment of realization'. Tamara, I assume under Hepner's coaching, is repeatedly saying, 'I thought he just had the flu until right before he died', while Hak's questions to La Pointe especially seem intended to establish Ryan was indeed clearly more than 'just regular sick' the day before. My guess is that the autopsy establishes when the actual 'too late' point was, and it somehow matters in terms of the statute what Tamara made of Ryan's condition before that, or what she could/should have reasonably made of it, when taking him to the ER would have saved him. ???

My suspicion is that arguments will be whether Tamara's actions were consistent with what can reasonably be expected of the average parent, with Hepner arguing yea and Hak nay. I think it likely that Hak will use her statement "A mother always thinks that they can treat their children the best", together with the way in which she "attributed" all of Ryan's signs and symptoms to something she made pretense of knowing about against her (e.g. dark urine as a sign of toxins coming out instead of something possibly grave), and do it pretty effectively. Add to that everything consequent to her failure to get a birth certificate for Ryan because she put her (dubiously valid) personal interests above his welfare.
My view is that the fact she seems to be generally quite intelligent and holds a degree will weigh against her. She should have known better.

I wasn't going to attend on Friday, but now plan to, since it will probably be a good education in the relevant law and precedent.

I dunno, sadmar, maybe bagged it up or better yet, not stuck it in?

Jerome wasn't broke. He managed to sell his business in Hamilton so he could move back to AB to attend the tri- never mind.

The trial is done and closing arguments have been made.

The presentations by the lawyers went much as I expected. Mr. Hepner tried very hard to emphasize that everybody said Tamara was a dedicated mother, and was doing her best. Madame Justice Eidsvik, at about the half way point of his arguments, stopped him to ask "Are you seriously suggesting it wasn't her obligation at that point to take him to a doctor? She admits at that point, he can't stand up, he's got pain in his groin, he's got fever, his arm is puffing up." (from CBC report She certainly gave me a very strong impression she wasn't buying the argument. After Mr. Hak made his presentation, Hepner again went after the "beliefs, even if they are wrong" angle as defense.

Mr. Hak went through all of the evidence from Tamara's text messages and web searches to establish that she was seeing serious symptoms well in advance of Ryan's death. He stated that the case was not about alternative remedies and whether or not they work. He cited precedent to establish that the test is what a "reasonable" parent would do based on societal expectations, not individual belief. He contended that the evidence would support conviction on both of the critical points, though one would be sufficient for conviction (for failure to provide the necessaries). I had some difficulty trying to follow the arguments surrounding law for criminal negligence (to a large extent, the two lawyers and the judge were reading from the same script on some of this, which wasn't all that helpful to the peanut gallery).

I think it very likely Tamara will be convicted on failure to provide the necessaries of life, and perhaps somewhat less likely to be convicted on the charge of criminal negligence causing death.

Tentatively, Madame Eidsvik expects to deliver her verdict on January 23, though there are scheduling issues.

One point I'd partially missed because I didn't hear the medical examiner's testimony: Ryan's left arm was swollen to about twice the size of his right arm (I only knew about swelling, not magnitude). Tamara, during her testimony, had attributed this to the fact he'd been lying in bed [!!]. Throughout his cross of Tamara and again a couple of times today, Hak noted Tamara's propensity for attribution of all of Ryan's symptoms to something she thought she knew about.

Tamara, during her testimony, had attributed this to the fact he’d been lying in bed [!!]. Throughout his cross of Tamara and again a couple of times today, Hak noted Tamara’s propensity for attribution of all of Ryan’s symptoms to something she thought she knew about.

Arms, legs, whatever. Now stop just lying around like that.

Oh, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Give that man a contusion.

Something entirely missed by the prosecution, and that didn't occur to me either, though it should have because I once used it ("you should go to emergency - not right away but in the next hour") - in Alberta, 24/7, you can talk to a real live registered nurse for help with health matters, simply by dialing 811. Had Tamara done that instead of looking on the web, Ryan might still be alive.

Going back to an earlier exchange - the Children's Hospital doc who testified for the prosecution said that Ryan absolutely would have been treated even without an Alberta Health Care card, and that such is a common occurrence. Justice Eidsvik mentioned the proximity of the Sheldon Chumir Centre when she was giving Hepner a hard time during his summation.

I'm not sure what relevance this trial or it's results have, if any, to the medical science policy concerns of RI. That said, I looked up the Canadian Code for the two charges, not that doing so yielded much clarity. The key phrase defining Negligence is "shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons." It appears to me this speaks to 'state of mind' in a way that distinguishes it from "Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life" which I'm guessing functions as a lesser included charge in the Lovett case.

The standard for the Necessities charge:

the culprit acts or omissions... were a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances, and it was objectively foreseeable that the failure to provide necessaries would lead to a risk of danger...

Which, it seems to me, leaves an awfully wide window for varying definitions of "reasonably prudent" and "objectively foreseeable".

However, based on what doug has reported in addition to the news coverage, it doesn't seem to me Hepner is making a good defense against the Necessities charge – more or less conceding that and focusing on defending the Negligence charge. I think the telling response in Lovett's testimony is "I never thought he had anything I couldn't treat. I never expected him to do anything but get better." If the judge accepts that as truthful, there's no wanton disregard. However, the testimony from Lovett and her neighbors to the effect Ryan did not appear seriously ill appears to be contradicted by the physical evidence of the autopsy, e.g. the swollen arm. The Judge could conclude Ryan's physical condition was so alarming, doing anything but taking him to the ER was wanton disregard, and the fact Lovett and her friends are lying about Ryan's appearance makes them more culpable.

But if I have to guess, I'll go with acquittal on the Negligence charge condition, as they can only infer Tamara was aware of and understood how serious Ryan's illness was – and with no hard evidence she was anything but delusional, wanton disregard would seem to be a stretch.

On the other hand, ""I never thought he had anything I couldn't treat," sounds to me like nolo contendre on the Necessities charge, since Hepner didn't seem to do anything to establish "a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances," would have come to such a conclusion. And this is something that strikes me as odd about the trial. When the Crown put up the testimony on Tamara's Web searches, it seems neither attorney went into what was actually on those pages. Having Googled 'natural antibiotics' myself, I found many pages citing things like oil of oregano. These pages typically had the look of authoritative medical advice, but contained mixed messages about the home remedies described on different parts of the page. While none actually said oregano would cure strep, and most suggested consulting with a physician, they typically did claim the oregano actually had strong antibiotic properties and was effective at killing bacteria. So this is something I expected Hepner to offer as part of his defense: a case that Tamara was just following widely distributed and accepted 'health advice'. It might be dead wrong, but a "reasonably prudent" lay person might be taken in, and thus fail to recognize the significance of the objective conditions, obscuring the forseeable outcome.

Anyway, for whatever reason, it seems Hepner didn't go that way at all. Failing to Provide Necessities of Life carries a maximum sentence of 5 years, with no required minimum. The Judge can find Lovett guilty on the charge, and merely put her on probation. Collet and David Stephan received 2 years probation, with David also sentenced to 4 months in jail and Collet sentenced to 3 months under house arrest. I'd guess the Judge in this case wouldn't deviate too far from that. But, I guess we'll see, eventually.

Whatever, with the prosecutor stating "the case was not about alternative remedies and whether or not they work" it seems the case won't set precedent one way or the other for the legal consequences of harm children may come to from their parents' beliefs in 'natural cures'.

sadmar, I agree that, knowing what we know now, this isn't terribly interesting for Insolence people. But, I started it, so ...

The issues regarding the Criminal Code language and rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada resulted in considerable back & forth between Hepner and Justice Eidsvik. Everyone was rather unhappy about a pertinent case that was heard by six judges and resulted in a 3:3 split. She sent Hepner away to review one recent case during the lunch break (rather with the implication, as I interpret it, that she was telling him "Read this so you understand you're gonna lose.") She made it quite clear that she is going to have to consider precedent carefully in terms of objective versus subjective tests. I think your assessment of Hepner's defense is apt - it was weak for the necessaries but somewhat stronger on the criminal negligence. I chatted with a reporter from the Toronto Star and she commented that his defense on the necessaries seemed pretty weak.

Though I have maintained and the Crown has stated this case wasn't about "alternative medicine", I would also say that is only partially true. Tamara certainly wasn't a hard-core "true believer" like the Stephans, but were it not for the ready availability of the "remedies" and the promotion thereof on the web, she might have been more inclined to seek real medical care. The BS on the web and the fact the junk can be bought almost anywhere create a toxic swamp that helps to kill people. In relating this to Orac's recent posts about the FDA, it makes me believe more strongly that it is not appropriate to call something used as a remedy "safe" unless it can be demonstrated to be efficacious. Oil of oregano may be safe to consume, in and of itself, but when used as an alternative to necessary penicillin, it proved fatal for Ryan Lovett. This was not a case, like many Orac has written about, where real medicine was not certain to effect a definitive and "permanent" cure, yet still far more likely to succeed than coffee enemas or the like. This was a case where failure to use simple, well-established, highly efficacious and generally very safe real medicine lead to easily preventable death of child.

My opinion is that if she is convicted, far more societal benefit would potentially come from appropriate publications by the popular media than from putting Tamara in jail. The opinion piece Narad linked to changes from the author's personal opinion to a ruling by the Court. If Tamara is convicted, her conviction will be precedent, though not necessarily as damning of quack nostrums as we might hope for.

On the matter of the actual content of web pages: Justice Eidsvik asked Hak, near the end of his direct examination of the expert witness, if it was possible to actually click on what looked like links in the electronic version (provided on DVD, but presented at trial on paper) of the witness's report and get to pages. The witness pointed out that the web is not static, and what pages had to say back in early 2013 might be quite different from what they say now. No one mentioned the possibility of the Wayback Machine. As I suspected he would while he was going through the report, essentially reading parts of it into the record (pity the poor learned shorthand writer [as Mr. Justice Guthrie Featherstone called her in a Rumpole of the Bailey episode], but it had to be done), the intent was to establish when Ryan's symptoms were the subject of searches - e.g. swollen groin lymph nodes almost a month before he died - and thereby establish that there had been ample time to seek advise from a physician.

Oil of oregano may be safe to consume, in and of itself

It's not advisable (MSDS; PDF), but she may have been rubbing it on the soles of his feet, which was popular back when I frequented mothering-dot-com.

Tamara certainly wasn’t a hard-core “true believer” like the Stephans

I don't know about that.

From the very beginning of Ryan's life, Tamara eschewed traditional medical care. He was born at home, attended by an unregistered midwife. He never once saw an actual medical doctor.

Under cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Jonathan Hak grilled Lovett on why she didn’t think to take her son to a doctor before it was too late.

“Have you ever taken him to a medical doctor?” Hak asked her.

“No, just to a dentist,” Lovett replied.

“Were you opposed to conventional medical treatment for Ryan,” he continued.

“I just chose to do something different.”

She's lying. She was opposed to it until Ryan passed the point of no return.

I can pretty much guarantee that at some point in the previous 7 years of Ryan's life, he needed to see a physician. Forget about well child visits - no child makes it to age 7 without a bad sore throat, a nasty cough, a UTI, a bonk on the head. She didn't take him then, either.

When I said Tamara wasn't "hard core" I was thinking of her approach in contrast to that of the Stephans. They crammed Ezekiel full of all manner of stuff, whereas she pretty half-heartely tried teas, oil of oregano and potato poultice. I view her approach as one of (convenient, for her) omissions rather than commissions.

I think she avoided real doctors as much because they might tell her things and state or imply that she wasn't Right and they might not do things her way. Ryan didn't have a birth certificate because she couldn't get her way in terms of the details required on the application. She lost her social assistance benefits because social services wanted her to take some courses she insisted she could teach. I don't think it was ever published anywhere, but she wanted her first son born in a water pool, and when the real doc wasn't sufficiently supportive she found a midwifery centre that would cater to her demands. If she treated Ryan at home with stuff she could buy over the counter with as much ease as buying a can of beans, everything could done her way. No one would question or doubt her. If she used a real doc, she would be told what to do, and she couldn't have that.

She’s lying. She was opposed to it until Ryan passed the point of no return.

I may have missed it, but did Lovett try to shift the blame for her son's death onto the ambulance crew, the way the Stephans did?

By shay simmons (not verified) on 12 Dec 2016 #permalink

shay, she did to a small extent.

She said she could tell there were flashing lights outside her apartment but no one was coming in while she was attempting CPR on Ryan. She left Ryan and went outside to see what was happening, but they sent her back in, she said. She complained of how they wanted to bring all sorts of stuff into the apartment and how that wasn't going to work. She tried to suggest they had taken a long time to arrive, but even her lawyer pointed out that the records showed a very short time interval and it just seemed long. Ryan had no pulse when the EMTs arrived and was, at least peripherally, cold to the touch. Testimony from the main medical witness was that toxic shock would have caused a significant drop in blood pressure, resulting in poor peripheral circulation for some time before death.

Her lawyer made no hint of suggestion of failure on the part of the EMTs at any point in his summation.

@ shay

No. She didn't blame anyone else. She testified she 'failed' as a mother by not knowing Ryan was so sick. But then she attributed that completely to external circumstance - the presumed deceptive nature of the illness mainly - not to anything she could have reasonably prevented. Her line was basically 'I was doing the best I could. I didn't know. I thought he wasn't that sick.'

i think doug has it right, in that Lovett wasn't a true believer in 'natural health' just a true believer in the absolute rectitude of whatever was in her head at the moment. Which is to say that unlike the Stephans, I suspect Lovett is what we'd generally call a nut-job, in that she perceives the world through a reality distortion field in which anything she wants to be true IS true. All Ryan needed was some tea, because that's all she wanted to have to give him. He wasn't sick enough that she needed to take him anywhere to be seen, because she didn't want him to be sick enough to need care from some "expert". doug wrote earlier;

The naturopathic clinic to which she used to take him, but hadn’t for a long time, is quite a long way from where she lived.

If Tamara had been a natural remedy 'true believer', she'd have hauled Ryan down to the naturopathic clinic when his 'cold' entered it's third week, or when the jaundice showed up in his eyes. But it was such a long way off, and "a mother always thinks that they can treat their children the best", so who needs a naturopath? Or anybody?

doug and I are just speculating, of course, on the basis of very scant evidence revealed at trial and in the press, all of which begs interpretation rater than speaking for itself. But I will note this sort of hypothesis is consistent with all the varying opinions of Tamara Lovett. That is, it could account for Janice Yildiz's account of material neglect, and her neighbors' accounts of Tamara as "devoted" and "diligent" near-helicopter mom to the point of being "over-nurturing and over-caring."

IANAPsydoc, but we might be looking at a deep-seated personality disorder, possibly rooted – as those conditions often are – in some truly awful betrayal she experienced as a child.

When I said Tamara wasn’t “hard core” I was thinking of her approach in contrast to that of the Stephans. They crammed Ezekiel full of all manner of stuff, whereas she pretty half-heartely tried teas, oil of oregano and potato poultice. I view her approach as one of (convenient, for her) omissions rather than commissions.

Yes. I agree with that.

IANAPsydoc either, but Tamara strikes me as a narcissist. She reminds me of some of the lunatics at mothering dot commune, the ones who walk the line of sacrificing their own children on the altar of their beliefs. The idiots who insist on unassisted birth, or unregulated midwives, or exclusive breastfeeding despite obvious signs of faltering weight.

Invariably, if their luck runs out, their delay in getting help from an actual qualified person is well beyond what any reasonable parent would countenance.

@ Delphine:

I did wonder 'narcissist?' but too much doesn't fit. Not having ever been clear on the difference between NPD and BPD, I just Googled some comparisons. Based on that, Lovett seems more Borderlinish:

Similarities between BPD and NPD
Lack of concern for how their behavior impacts others. Tendency to believe the world revolves around them. Fear of abandonment. Need for constant attention. Constant struggle with work, family, and social relationships. Overly emotional, erratic, or self-dramatizing behaviors

Differences between BPD and NPD
People with BPD tend to be highly impulsive and may engage in such compulsive behaviors as excessive spending, binge eating, and risky sexual behavior. They are also more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors, such as cutting or suicide attempts. People with NPD, on the other hand, have an inflated sense of self-importance and may take advantage of others to get their needs met. People with NPD think they are “special” and that they can only be understood by other special or high-status people, while people with BPD feel misunderstood and mistreated, People with NPD expect others’ lives to revolve around them, while those with BPD will devote their lives to another person. People with BPD will frantically try to avoid what they consider to be abandonment, while narcissists are more likely to do the abandoning.

In another case of extraordinarily horrific consequences of rejection of real medicine, the Crown's decision in the trial of the parents of Alex Radita is expected on the same day as the decision in the Lovett case: from the CBC

In my opinion, Alex Radita died of willful torture over a period of several years, though killing him was probably not the objective. I'm not much of a believer in the concept of "justice" for major crimes, but I am content that the Raditas may receive substantial punishment. And a pox upon every quack who spreads the BS, be it by word or mouth, in print or on the internet, that supports the beliefs of the like of Tamara Lovett or the Raditas. You kill children.

On the matter of Tamara Lovett: Mr. Hak used either "narcissist" or "narcissistic" in describing Tamara in his closing remarks.

Even after hearing her testimony first hand, it is well beyond my capability to conclude the term is apt, but neither would I disagree.

In another case of extraordinarily horrific consequences of rejection of real medicine

And Spourdalakis and Szkroda are entering pleas for involuntary manslaughter and walking with time served. Thanks, LJ and Wakefraud.