Prince Charles the ‘snake-oil salesman’: Professor slams royal in new book condemning homeopathy

Prince Charles the ‘snake-oil salesman’: Professor slams royal in new book condemning homeopathy
A renowned university professor has reignited a 13-year-old spat with Prince Charles. Emeritus Professor Edzard Ernst has hit out at the royal in his new book, condemning the prince’s supportive views on alternative medicine.

Just as Australian comedian Tim Minchin once deftly pointed out: “You know what they call alternative medicine that's been proved to work? Medicine,” the expert in complementary medicine has taken much the same attitude with the heir to the British throne.

Ernst is a former chair of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, and claims he was forced out of the role by the royals after previous comments he made about Prince Charles. He says the royal is putting patients at risk by supporting homeopathic practices, and has called him a “snake-oil salesman”.

“You can’t have alternative medicine just because Prince Charles likes it, because that is not in the best interest of the patients,” Ernst said. “The quality of the research is not just bad, but dismal. It ignores harms. There is a whole shelf of rubbish being sold and that is simply unethical.”

The emeritus professor, along with co-author Dr Kevin Smith, is about to publish a new book titled ‘More Harm Than Good?’ Ernst said homeopathic treatments were “immoral,” adding that royal support for the remedies was “very worrying”.

“We certainly are very worried about the future king being a proponent,” Smith added. “We should start to think of complementary and alternative medicines as a controversial industry, like tobacco, pornography and gambling. They are worthy of this badge of being morally tainted.”

A royal spokesperson hit back at the professor, however, claiming that Ernst and his co-author have “misrepresented” the prince’s views. "It is not entirely surprising that a book entitled ‘More Harm Than Good’ takes a more critical view of complementary medicine than the prince does,” a Clarence House spokesman said.

"He believes that safe and effective complementary medicine is an essential part of any healthcare system, as long as approaches are integrated with conventional treatments.

"Unfortunately the book misunderstands and misrepresents this position which the prince has reached after years of talking to experts in many different areas of medicine."

In his new book, Ernst slams Prince Charles for backing alternative medicine and ancient medical practices like iridology - a bogus practice that began in 1665, which claims to diagnose and determine health based the colour and pattern of the eye’s iris.

“Such methods run an unacceptably high risk of producing false positive or false negative diagnoses,” the authors wrote in the book. “The former would be a diagnosis that the patient is, in fact, not suffering from. The latter would be missing an illness that might even kill the patient.

“Given that the evidence for iridology and other alternative diagnostic techniques is either negative or absent, why does the heir to the throne advocate using them? Does he not know that he has considerable influence and endangers the health of those who believe him? Why does he call this nonsense valuable?

“The answer probably is that he does not know better. But, if he is ignorant about certain technicalities, he should not publish falsehood,” they added.

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