Public interest in and use of homeopathy and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has increased over the past decades . Figures for the use of CAM therapies vary from country to country depending on which therapies have been included as CAM, but range from 15 to 48 % over a limited time period (most commonly 12 months)
Homeopathy has been found to be the most frequently used CAM therapy in 5 out of 14 countries in Europe and among the three most frequently used in 11 out of 14 countries
Council of Europe’s resolution on CAM
Although legislation and regulation of the practice of CAM is a national concern in Europe and within the European Union, the Council of Europe in its 1999 resolution on non-conventional therapies recommended that member states should “… model their approach on their neighbours‟ experiments and, whenever possible, co-ordinate their position with regard to these medicines.” Moreover, the Council of Europe stated that:
“… a common European approach to non-conventional medicine based on the principle of patients‟ freedom of choice in health care should not be ruled out,”
“… various forms of medicine should not compete with one another: it is possible for them to exist side by side and complement one another.”
“… in the future alternative or complementary forms of medicine could be practised by doctors of conventional medicine as well as by any well-trained practitioner of non-conventional medicine (a patient could consult one or the other, either upon referral by his or her family doctor or of his or her free will), should ethical principles prevail.”
“… the best guarantee for patients lies in a properly trained profession, which is aware of its limitations, has a system of ethics and self-regulation and is also subject to outside control.”
The European Parliament’s resolution on CAM
A 1997 European Parliament resolution on the status of non-conventional medicine called on the EU Commission “to carry out a thorough study into the safety, effectiveness, area of application and the complementary or alternative nature of all non-conventional medicines and to draw up a comparative study of the various national legal models to which non-conventional medical practitioners are subject.” The resolution was based upon a number of central statements including:
Support for patients‟ choice of therapy
Guaranteeing patients the maximum level of safety and protection against unqualified individuals
Free movement of persons and freedom of establishment, which is undermined by the heterogeneous prevailing situation with regard to the status and recognition of all the non-conventional medical disciplines within the European Union
The freedom to exercise their profession which certain health practitioners currently enjoy in their countries should under no circumstances be limited by modifying the status or the degree of recognition enjoyed by these disciplines at European level, nor by limiting the freedom of choice of therapy enjoyed by patients with regard to non-conventional medical treatment.
European legislation concerning the status and the practice of non-conventional medicine would provide patients with guarantees; whereas each type of medicine should be able to organise the profession at European level.
ECCH’s agreed guidelines
Given the fact that several national Governments have not yet taken sufficient measures to regulate the practice of homeopathy, the European Central Council of Homeopaths (ECCH) has undertaken responsibility and introduced a number of guidelines for regulation that all Member Associations have agreed. The aim of these guidelines is to contribute to ensuring there is a common quality and safety of homeopathic treatment for patients across Europe.
The Government in 28 countries in Europe has introduced systems of legislation or regulation which affect the practice of homeopathy (table 1). Legislation or regulation specifically mentions homeopathy in 15 European countries, whereas the remaining 13 countries have introduced legislation or regulation which relates to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in general or which results in limitations in the right to treat patients.
Seven countries have introduced protected titles and seven countries have established public registers for non-conventional practitioners.
In 21 countries in Europe non-conventional practitioners may practise homeopathy
The term “non-conventional practitioner” here refers to someone who is not a practitioner of conventional medicine, such as a medical doctor or nurse. Homeopaths who are non-conventional practitioners and who have carried out a full education and training in homeopathy are to a large extent registered with homeopathy associations that are members of the European Central Council of Homeopaths (ECCH). These associations are in most countries also open to practitioners with a conventional medical background, as long as they fulfil criteria for education and training to become a qualified homeopath.
In seven countries, the Government has introduced legislation which specifically refers to and regulates the practice of CAM performed by non-conventional practitioners. There are two main approaches to such regulation, statutory voluntary self-regulation and statutory regulation.
Seventeen countries have either introduced legislation or regulation which limits the practice of homeopathy to practitioners with a conventional medical background, or treatment of patients is in general restricted to such practitioners.
The practice is either unclear or unregulated in three countries, and in one country legislation varies depending on which homeopathic medicinal products patients are prescribed. No information has been obtained for two countries.
Read the full report : www.similima.com/pdf/ecch-legal-report-2010.pdf