The Legal Situation for Homeopathy in Europe

europe4An ECCH Report
Revised Edition  October 2010

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.

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