- Good Thinking challenged the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) over their failure to protect vulnerable autistic children from anti-vaccine proponents and potentially harmful ‘cures’
- The PSA accredited the Society of Homeopaths, despite registrants of the Society of Homeopaths offering CEASE therapy – an anti-vaccine ‘cure’ for autism
- If successful, the challenge could see the accreditation decision ‘quashed’ (annulled) by the court and the PSA ordered to take into account the harms associated with CEASE therapy in considering any reaccreditation application from the Society of Homeopaths
- Good Thinking hopes that this will result in the Society of Homeopaths being required by the PSA to take action to protect autistic children from harmful therapies, or lose their accredited status
Mr Justice Freedman has granted permission for the Good Thinking Society’s Judicial Review claim to be heard in full. The claim challenges the decision by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to grant reaccreditation to the Society of Homeopaths despite some homeopaths falsely claiming that toxins from vaccines are responsible for autism, and that homeopathy can be used to ‘cure’ the developmental disorder.
The court will hear that the PSA were aware that multiple members of the Society of Homeopaths offered and promoted CEASE therapy – a purported treatment for autism which is targeted particularly at children – when the PSA renewed the Society of Homeopaths’ accreditation earlier this year.
In reaccrediting the Society of Homeopaths, the PSA acknowledged that CEASE therapy – which relies on the false notion that autism is caused by vaccination, and can be cured with homeopathic treatments, high-dosage Vitamin C, and dietary restriction – is potentially harmful. The PSA’s reaccreditation decision acknowledged that CEASE therapy conflicts with the advice of the NHS in several respects, including with regard to the childhood vaccinations for potentially life-threatening conditions. In spite of this, the PSA decided on April 1st to approve the Society of Homeopaths’ accreditation for a further year.
Good Thinking argued that the effect of PSA accreditation is to sanction treatments performed by members of the accredited organisation, such as the Society of Homeopaths, and that the PSA must carefully consider whether such treatments are harmful as part of its deliberations. Additionally, Good Thinking argued that in reaccrediting the Society of Homeopaths the PSA failed in its legal duty to consider the potential effects of its decision on disabled people, such as the autistic children at whom CEASE therapy is aimed. It was also argued that the decision to reaccredit given what the PSA knew about CEASE therapy was irrational. The Judge granted permission on all grounds.
Michael Marshall, Project Director of Good Thinking, said: “Being part of the PSA’s Accredited Voluntary Register scheme is clearly a boon to the Society of Homeopaths and its members – this is apparent from how prominently homeopaths, including those who practice the anti-vaccination ‘CEASE’ therapy, display the PSA’s logo on their websites and marketing materials. Accreditation by the PSA is used as a signifier that those homeopaths are competent, trustworthy and safe, but that accreditation can only carry any meaning if the PSA takes seriously their duty to protect the public from harmful practices.
“The PSA have acknowledged that members of the Society of Homeopaths are offering a treatment that is harmful and that is targeted at a particularly vulnerable group. Given those concerns, for the PSA to go ahead and accredit these homeopaths all the same not only makes a mockery of their whole accreditation scheme, but it is arguably in breach of its legal duties.
“We are pleased that the Judge granted permission to go to a full hearing of the issues, and we look forward to having the opportunity to argue in court why the PSA’s decision was not only erroneous, but that it puts autistic children and other vulnerable members of the public in harm’s way”.
The Society of Homeopaths has been part of the PSA’s Accredited Voluntary Register scheme since 2014. The PSA’s decision to accredit the Society of Homeopaths and its subsequent decisions to re-accredit have been the subject of criticism from both autism rights campaigners and those who support evidence-based medicine.
Marshall said: “The PSA advise the public to choose healthcare practitioners that belong to one of its accredited registers, and provide a tool to find accredited practitioners. That advice is fundamentally undermined when the PSA’s accredited register of homeopaths, the Society of Homeopaths, includes registrants who discourages vaccination and believes they can cure children of autism.”
Good Thinking’s Judicial Review comes at a time when public health experts have expressed serious concerns about the impact of anti-vaccination misinformation. Last week, NHS data revealed that uptake has dropped for all routine childhood inoculations, leading health secretary Matt Hancock to announce that the government is considering the introduction of compulsory vaccinations.
If the legal challenge is successful, the PSA will likely be required to revisit their decision to reaccredit the Society of Homeopaths, this time paying proper regard to the need to protect the public and in particular autistic children who are the main targets for CEASE therapy.
As a small charity, Good Thinking have appealed for support in funding their Judicial Review, and are urging supporters to contribute to their crowdfunding campaign, at
- Simon Singh, Science Writer and Chair of Good Thinking: “Earlier this year, the World Health Organization identified anti-vaccination misinformation as one of the top ten threats to global health, and the impact of that misinformation has seen the UK lose its status as a measles-free country. It is therefore shocking that the PSA seems to be comfortable with effectively endorsing practitioners who practitioners who undermine public confidence in vaccination and who thereby put vulnerable children at risk.”
- Laura Thomason, Project Manager, Good Thinking: “Since 2017 we have raised concerns with the PSA about Society of Homeopaths members practicing CEASE therapy, and how we felt the actions they took to protect the public were wholly inadequate. We were therefore shocked and dismayed to see the PSA reaccredit the Society of Homeopaths, and believe their decision to do so, in the absence of any real sign from the Society that they are taking the protection of autistic children seriously, to be unlawful.”
- Professor Edzard Ernst: “According to the ‘like cures like’ principle of homeopathy, Dr Tinus Smits, the Dutch homeopath who invented CEASE, claimed that autism must be cured by applying homeopathic doses of the substances which allegedly caused the condition. CEASE therapists thus ‘detoxify’ all assumed causative factors – vaccines, regular medication, environmental toxic exposures, effects of illness, etc. – with homeopathically prepared substances that were administered prior to the onset of autism. The assumptions of CEASE therapy fly in the face of science. There is also no clinical evidence that CEASE therapy is effective in curing autism or alleviating its symptoms. By misleading desperate parents that CEASE therapy works, homeopaths can do untold harm.”
- Good Thinking – the Good Thinking Society is a registered charity set up by science writer Simon Singh to encourage curiosity and promote rational thinking. In 2015, they brought a Judicial Review against NHS Liverpool CCG over their continue provision of homeopathy, which resulted in a public consultation that called for the end of homeopathy funding. Also in 2015, they successfully challenged a decision by the Department of Health to refuse to blacklist homeopathic products.
- Bindmans LLP – Bindmans LLP is a central London law firm specialising in public law and human rights, and who Chambers and Partners rated as having an “unrivalled reputation for its civil liberties and human rights work”. Bindmans LLP represent Good Thinking together with barristers Jason Pobjoy and Hollie Higgins of Blackstone Chambers.
- Professional Standards Authority – the PSA is the government body that regulates healthcare regulators, including statutory conventional medicine regulators such as the General Medical Council and General Dental Council, statutory alternative medicine regulators such as the General Chiropractic Council and General Osteopathic Council, and accredited voluntary regulators (AVR).
- The permission granted by Justice Freedman can be read at https://goodthinkingsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/20190913-JR-PSA-permission.pdf
For more information, contact Michael Marshall, Project Director of the Good Thinking Society:
- email – firstname.lastname@example.org