Medical and professional homoeopathy in the UK : a study of tensions in a heterodox healthcare profession
Homoeopathic practitioners in the United Kingdom can be divided into two groups,those with medical qualifications and those without, professional homoeopaths. This study examines these two groups to discover how they practise homoeopathy and why. Also examined are any tensions that may exist, both between the two groups and within the groups. Collecting qualitative and quantitative data using questionnaires and interviews, a randomly selected sample of homoeopaths was studied. All subjects were members of either the Faculty of Homoeopathy or the Society of Homoeopaths. The study starts by examining the development of homoeopathy over its almost 200 year history. Following this section data regarding the practice of homoeopathy and the opinions of homoeopaths on this practice are discussed. The homoeopath's opinions regarding their opposite numbers are also discussed, that is professional homoeopath's opinions of medically qualified homoeopaths and vice versa. The data highlighted a number of tensions that exist between medically qualified homoeopaths and professional homoeopaths. Medically qualified homoeopaths questioned the wisdom of allowing non-medically qualified people to practice homoeopathy and the professional homoeopaths questioned the validity of the homoeopathic methods used by medically qualified homoeopaths. Tensions within professional homoeopathy were also identified between pro and anti professionalisation and registration subgroups. Another tension identified was between those professional homoeopaths who claim to use the original, 'classical' formulation of homoeopathy and those using a more eclectic therapeutic regime with changes to the original method incorporated into their practices. Finally, the utility of the concept of heresy when describing both medically qualified homoeopaths and professional homoeopaths in the United Kingdom was addressed. Although the labelling of heretics is properly reserved for those members of the orthodoxy, not for researchers, a small number of homoeopaths were identified as holding potentially heretical ideas. On the whole the medically qualified homoeopaths and the majority of professional homoeopaths could not be regarded as heretics or dissenters in any way. In the light of the tensions that were identified, and the policies being promoted by the professional bodies, the conclusion examines the possible future of homoeopathy in the United Kingdom in the first years of the new millennium. A thoroughly modernist medicine in a possibly postmodern era.