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Skeptics chair survives ‘homeopathic suicide’

Skeptics Canada chair Eric McMillan says he feels just fine.

Some might be surprised he is even alive—a week after publicly downing the entire contents of three containers of homeopathic remedies, including a supposed arsenic alum.

McMillan took the massive overdoses as part of an event to launch the organization’s year-long campaign on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The meeting featured York University professor Michael De Robertis presenting the history and research into homeopathy, as well as award-winning journalists Paul Benedetti and Wayne MacPhail reporting on their investigations into chiropractic and other alternative medical treatments.

The audience gasped as halfway through the meeting McMillan displayed three homeopathic products, opened the packages and tilted the contents of all—including a bottle of liquid, a dispenser of granules and three tubes of caplets— into his mouth, adding only a little water to help him swallow them.

“I wanted to dramatically demonstrate the ineffectiveness of these so-called remedies,” he said afterwards.

According to homeopathic theory and practice, the effective agents in the remedies are diluted by their makers to the point that it is unlikely that even a molecule remains, but “water memory” is supposed to help the diluted substance retain its curative properties.

Despite warnings from the products’ manufacturers about overdosing, the three selected for the demonstration contained no active ingredients, McMillan said.

“I was told that if they were effective, I would start feeling ill within one to two hours.” However, he completed hosting the meeting. And seven days later he reports no ill effects at all. “Not even a twinge.”

However, McMillan does not recommend anyone else try this experiment on their own.

“We researched the products beforehand and I consulted with a pharmacist about the particular ingredients in the three I decided to take,” he said. “Even if the advertised active ingredients are not actually present in mixtures, homeopathic products are often filled out with other substances that I understand may cause a reaction if taken in large doses.”

He also experimented with other samples of the products earlier to ensure he would not have an allergic or other reaction to the ingredients at the meeting.

Nor was the demonstration offered as a controlled, scientific experiment examining the effectiveness of homeopathic products in preventing or curing disease, he said.

“Skeptics Canada is calling for all such products to be tested for efficacy, with scientific evaluation meeting the same empirical standards that all medical remedies should meet,” said the chairperson.

“This was just a little dramatization to bring home the lack of understanding about these products.”

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