|Asahi Shimbun Be Report "Disputed Homoeopathy", Volume 3, 31st July 2010
This is a discussion about the fairness and objectivity of the articles written by Mr Nagano, a reporter on the science and medical team based at the Toyko headquarters of the Asahi Shimbun.
Particular reference will be made to the article which appeared in the morning edition of 31st July this year in the "Be Report" section of the paper;
this article can be found at http://www.asahi.com/health/feature/homeopathy.html.
It is the opinion of the Japanese Homoeopathic Medical Association (JPHMA) that this article deviates from the traditionally acceptable standards of media coverage,
which should be to report facts clearly and impartially without any bias or prejudice.
We feel that Mr Nagano has failed to adhere to the required standard of objectivity, as his has written a number of comments which are misleading, prejudicial and tainted by his personal opinions.
This has resulted in a highly bias article.
To explain our reasoning behind this claim we will examine points from both his article and ? with reference to his personal blog for the Asahi Shimbun ? the research methods he used in its creation.
1) On 14th June 2010, Mr Nagano contacted us with the following request:
"We are planning to do a feature on Homoeopathy for the Be Report in Saturday's Asahi Shimbun.
It's become a hot topic recently since it has started to feature in government-backed projects looking at integrated medicine.
But I don't know much about homoeopathy, other than it's fashionable, so I need to get as much detailed information as possible.
Ideally, I'd like to visit the JPHMA, Japan's main homoeopathic organisation and speak to its founder Ms Yui on the subject."
The same day Mr Nagano rang the JPHMA with a request to visit our premises and interview Ms Yui, our chairperson.
As it is the role of the JPHMA to promote homoeopathy we agreed to the request and arranged the interview.
The interview took place in a ground floor classroom in the College of Holistic Homoeopathy (CHhom) at ikejiri Setagaya-ku on 17th June 2010.
The interview last approximately ninety minutes.
During the interview Ms Yui responded to a range of questions about the principles underlying homoeopathy, it's history, homoeopathic tutoring and educational establishments,
the scientific evidence for homoeopathy and the international status of this therapy.
Ms Yui answered all these queries with sincerity in accordance with the principles of Hahnemann( the "father of homoeopathy").
This interview was recorded, and with Mr Nagano's consent it was placed on the JPHMA website.
We later discovered that Mr Nagano had decided to write another article on the subject of homoeopathy which was to be published after the 31st July in which he would recycle some of his original interview.
In the process of writing this second article Mr Nagano contacted Ms Yui to confirm some of her earlier statements.
It was at this stage that we became aware that Mr Nagano was attempting to manipulate some of Ms Yui's comments and deliberately orientate the article to create a one-sided viewpoint.
We contacted him prior to publication of the article with a request that Ms Yui's statements should be retained in the original context of the interview.
This correspondence will be posted on the JPHMA website soon.
2) "Disputed Homoeopathy": Mr Nagano's article for the Asahi Shimbun on 31st July 2010
From the outset the title of the article makes it is clear that Mr Nagano's subject was not the fashionable spread of homoeopathy, but rather an opportunity for him to expound upon his personal views of homoeopathy.
As will be seen from the quotation from Mr Nagano's blog below, it is apparent that his views on the subject are both biased and prejudicial.
We should perhaps not be surprised that the article misrepresented homoeopathy when we realise that Mr Nagano misrepresented both himself and his intentions when he approached us for the interview.
3) From Mr Nagano's blogsite "Apital" for the Asahi Shimbun Medical website, 3rd August 2010
"For a long time now I've been trying to write an article on homoeopathy, since I discovered a mother in my neighbourhood was treating her child's food allergy with homoeopathy.
I thought "Would she use homoeopathy if the child went into anaphylactic shock? Surely it would kill the child?"
I couldn't write the article at that time because I was unable to find any examples of such victims, but I came up with the idea of placing the article in the "Be Report" section of the paper
which documents fashionable trends and started writing in mid-June.
I'm thinking that I'd like to collate proven examples of victims, so that I can bring the reality of homoeopathy to the public"
This quote is taken from https://aspara.asahi.com/blog/kochiraapital/entry/kNKQFuNbTK.
This statement more than adequately indicates the prejudice and lack of objectivity on the subject of homoeopathy.
It shows that Mr Nagano was seeking to portray homoeopathy in a negative manner, and deliberately searched for information that would place homoeopaths in a bad light.
This is emotive, biased writing which deliberately distorts the principles of fair-minded representation required by journalists.
If a member of the JPHMA witnessed someone going into anaphylactic shock they would undoubtably call for an ambulance to take the sufferer to the relevant medical institution.
It is also possible that the homeopath may provide the sufferer with a homoeopathic remedy while they wait for the medical team to arrive.
There are remedies suitable for those going into anaphylactic shock such as "Apis", made from honeybees, which assuages the shock caused by bee stings.
We believe that the administering of such remedies can assist the sufferer greatly until full medical attention can be given.
From our perspective the unfounded acceptance of the opinion that there is no scientific explanation of how the homoeopathic cure works therefore homoeopathy must be wrong is indicative of a closed mind,
one which deliberately seeks to limit the individual's opportunity to seek out the therapeutic methods which may suit them best.
It also shows ignorance to the two hundred years of recorded data from homoeopathic practitioners, which would suggest by longevity alone that homoeopathy has been proven effective on numerous occasions.
4) Some quotes from the Asahi Shimbun Be Report of 31st July 2010 written by Mr Nagano:
"...taking highly diluted toxins to cure disease"; "...toxins that "cause" symptoms and diluted with water, thoroughly shaken and distilled into sugar balls...";
"...their are 3,000 types of diluted toxins from insects, minerals, even the poisonous herb "aconite..."; "...after being shaken and diluted the memory of the toxin is retained in the water."
Ms Yui states that during both the original interview, and during his follow-up call prior to the article Mr Nagano continuously used the word "toxin".
It was explained to him that homoeopathic remedies originate from a wide variety of sources, including herbs and other plants, insects and minerals,
but not limited to these groups; the process of dilution and "succussion" (thorough shaking to potentise the remedy) was also explained.
This would make it readily apparent that whatever the origin of the remedy, the process of manufacture would remove any toxicity.
JPHMA requested that Mr Nagano curtail the use of the word toxin as it was inappropriate and misleading.
As the quotes from the article given above show Mr Nagano continues to associate homoeopathy with the word toxin despite being given advice and evidence to prove the contrary.
We feel this reflects his personal prejudice and determination to portray homoeopathy in a negative manner.
5) Contents of e-mail message sent by Mr Nagano on 10th July 2010
"This is Nagano from Asahi Shimbun. Thank you for arranging the interview with Ms Yui the other day.
As I mentioned to you when I visited you, I'm interested in covering homoeopathy from the point of view of studying alternative medicines.
In my researches I now have another two questions and the evidence of the effects of the therapy which I would like to ask Ms Yui. Would it be possible for her to send me a written reply to this e-mail?
I'm awfully sorry to rush you, but I would appreciate an e-mailed response by Friday 16th July.
As I mentioned on the telephone there is no need to answer these questions if you are unable to do so, but if that is the case I would like you to say why you cannot provide a response.
I apologise for bothering you, and thank you for your time and consideration."
Not realising Mr Nagano's true intentions, we were grateful that he had expressed such an interest in homoeopathy and would be taking it to a wider audience via his publication.
JPHMA board members in both Japan and the UK went to work to collate information pertinant to these queries within the limited timespan we were given which resulted in the JPHMA
sending Mr Nagano a forty-two page report detailing the following:
Under normal circumstances it would be expected that this type of research should be performed by the journalist writing the article. Indeed,
when we realised that Mr Nagano had ignored the information we had provided on the rebuttal of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee findings,
the speech in the House of Lords, the widespread approval of homoeopathic practises through out Europe and the 200-plus lists detailing the efficacy of homoeopathy across a range of afflictions
we were forced to conclude that Mr Nagano was somehow inconvenienced by our report,
as it would require him to spend more time furthering his research... or address the thesis and evidence that was shaping his article. It is certain however that Mr Nagano overlooked commentaries
which cast doubt upon the study published in The Lancet.
6) Mention of the study in The Lancet in Asahi Shimbun's "Be Report" of 31st July 2010 by Mr Nagano
"In 2005 a team from the University of Bern sent a paper for publication in The Lancet.
From a sample of 110 studies, they selected eight of the best qualified studies and subjected them to comprehensive review to check the efficacy of homoeopathy.
This comprehensive analysis led them to the conclusion that : "...the medical effectiveness of homoeopathy is nothing more than the effects expected by using a placebo".
This is called the "Placebo Effect" and it occurs when someone's well-being will improve despite their being issued with a substance with no medicinal properties,
because they believe the substance to be beneficial. In short, the University of Bern is saying that "Homoeopathy has no therapeutic effect.""
In his book "13 Things That Don't Make Sense", Michael Brooks, Ph.d, a consultant writer for the magazine "New Scientist" mentions this article published in The Lancet on 27th October 2005.
The book has sections on both the Placebo Effect and Homoeopathy (Chapters 12 and 13 respectively) and, like the rest of the book, these explore scientific anomalies
? things that shouldn't happen or work according to scientific principles... but do.
In looking at the Placebo Effect, he queries how this should affect our assessments of pharmaceutical products if the placebo can prove effective;
the chapter on Homoeopathy looks at all sides of the debate in a highly-thought provoking way, and concludes that despite its apparent irrationality,
the popularity of homoeopathy and the scientifically inexplicable findings of a study conducted in Belfast suggest that their is still a need to research the subject further.
On the study in The Lancet, Dr. Brooks points out that a number of scientists ? including those known to have little sympathy for homoeopathy such as Klaus Linde and Wayne Jonas ?
found the conclusions of Dr Shang's team at the University of Bern to be "flawed".
He claimed to be appalled that The Lancet should publish such an out-of-character and defective study in Chapter 13 of his text (Brooks, 2010, p.304).
We informed Mr Nagano that there had been a number of commentaries casting doubt on the article in The Lancet prior to him going to publication but this was not reflected in his article.
7) Further examination of Mr Nagano's reference to the Lancet article in Be Report article in the Asahi Shimbun of 31st July 2010
"This is called the "Placebo Effect" and it occurs when someone's well-being will improve despite their being issued with a substance with no medicinal properties,
because they believe the substance to be beneficial. In short, the University of Bern is saying that "Homoeopathy has no therapeutic effect.""
It is a source of irritation to the JPHMA that there are in Mr Nagano's article sequential implications used to emphasise his belief in the ineffectiveness of homoeopathy.
We will accept that ? at the current time ? the mechanisms of scientific analysis haven't fully explained the workings of homoeopathy,
but its actual effectiveness has been proven practically on numerous occasions for both infants and animals,
whom it would be safely assumed are outside the psychosomatic frame of reference of the "Placebo Effect".
We further dispute Mr Nagano's assertion that because there is little scientific evidence to support homoeopathy this means that "Homoeopathy has no therapeutic effect."
The first statement does not logically determine the conclusion of the second.
We provided Mr Nagano with a selection of articles from the thousands that have been produced globally to demonstrate the effectiveness of homoeopathy;
if Mr Nagano chose to research the subject he would have found this out himself. It should be noted that even after sending Mr Nagano the aforementioned forty-two page report,
we contacted him again (twelve days later) on the 28th July with the news that the British Government had decided to retain the right to access homoeopathic remedies for patients within the NHS.
The JPHMA e-mail to Mr Nagano on 28th July 2010 read:
"To Mr Nagano of the Medical Science team of the Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo):
We appreciate your continued interest, and have some new information for you regarding the NHS.
The British Government has decided to retain the right to access homoeopathic remedies for patients within the NHS.
It can be found at the top of the home page for the International Council for Homeopathy (ICH) at http://homeopathy-ich.org/.
(We also provided him with a Japanese translation [note: at the time of writing this article was placed second on the home page given above]).
The article is reprinted in full below:
27 July 2010
8) Mr Nagano's response to the above JPHMA e-mail of 28th July:
"Thank you for the e-mail, it's an interesting reference. However the text from the Department of Health doesn't state that "homoeopathy is effective" does it?
I'll be interested to see how this discussion develops in the UK.
"As previously mentioned the article based upon the information we have recently covered is due to come out on 31st July.
It won't be in the main paper, but in the extra "Be" section which is printed in advance, so I will not be able to include this information.
"As you are aware a lawsuit has been initiated against one of your members, a midwife. It seems that the arguments surrounding homoeopathy are starting in Japan,
and I will be writing a follow-up piece later to cover these.
"I hope we can continue to work together on this. Tsuyoshi Nagano"
Yet even though there were three days available to make alterations to his article, it included the banner headline "UK Parliament says "NO!" to homoeopathy" and the lead "However in the UK,
where this therapy has a place in public healthcare a Committee of Inquiry flatly denied the efficacy of homoeopathy and recommended that the Government excludes this therapy from the NHS".
This gave undue weight to the claims of a known sceptic of homoeopathy ? who had recently lost his seat in the General Election ?
and gave his claims the appearance of a Parliamentary concensus against homoeopathy.
It is our opinion that this is a seriously misleading view of foreign affairs. We suggest that, even though the print deadline was near,
a concientious journalist would have corrected this error by changing the text of the article or including an insert to incorporate the new information in that part of the paper which was still to be printed.
We further contend that the unwillingness to include the provided references we had given to the British Parliament's attitude to homoeopathy ? such as it being the "safest alternative therapy",
in addition to the above ? reflects the prejudicial nature of the article.
9) From Mr Nagano's "Apital" blogsite for the medical section of the Asahi Shimbun website on 3rd August 2010
"During my research I was sent an "academic" article claiming that homoeopathy was "effective" ? from a homoeopathic association.
The article contends that "70% of those treated at an homoeopathic hospital showed improvement". Put into the perspective of the double-blind method this is obviously riddled with flaws".
We provided Mr Nagano with this report, which was based upon a homoeopathic hospital in Bristol, UK. It discussed and reviewed the follow-up treatments of patients.
Mr Nagano had had expressed interest in this study, so we gave him with a copy of the original documents.
Mr Nagano had come across this study in conversation with the JPHMA, and requested a copy, so we provided it. He did not directly request any evidence of studies using the double-blind comparative method.
We did in fact already provided Mr Nagano with a number of studies using the double-blind comparative method, and provided him with the following link to our website where this methodology is discussed:
Not one of these studies is referred to by Mr Nagano.
In his blog he states: "If double-blind comparative studies could confirm the effectiveness of homoeopathy, homoeopathy would be the real thing.
The article I quoted in my report was from The Lancet, a British medical journal, regarded as one of the most authoritative in its medical journalism.
" As we have seen, this article was widely criticised, even amongst those working for The Lancet, but Mr Nagano's research overlooked this,
as it seems to have done with many articles that present homoeopathy positively.
10) Mr Nagano and the "victims" of homoepathy, from the "Be Report" of the Asahi Shimbun, 31st July 2010
"There are many reports from the victims of homoeopathy on the internet."
In his blog on 3rd August 2010, Mr Nagano wrote:"For a long time now I've been trying to write an article on homoeopathy,
since I discovered a mother in my neighbourhood was treating her child's food allergy with homoeopathy.
I thought "Would she use homoeopathy if the child went into anaphylactic shock? Surely it would kill the child?" Following this line of thought, Mr Nagano, then admitted:
"I couldn't write the article at that time because I was unable to find any examples of such victims."
This is a patent self-contradiction of his article.
11) Mr Nagano's quest for "victims" of homoeopathy via his "Apital" blog for the Asahi Shimbun medical website, 3rd August 2010
"I couldn't write the article at that time because I was unable to find any examples of such victims,
but I came up with the idea of placing the article in the "Be Report" section of the paper which documents fashionable trends and started writing in mid-June.
I'm thinking that I'd like to collate proven examples of victims, so that I can bring the reality of homoeopathy to the public.
Is there anyone out there who missed an opportunity to receive medical treatment due to a belief that homoeopathy could cure them?
If that's you, I'd like interview you. Please contact the "Apital" team (email@example.com)"
12) The purpose behind Mr Nagano's quest for "victims" of homoeopathy via his "Apital" blog for the Asahi Shimbun medical website, 3rd August 2010
"I believe this is an issue that needs to be made public. I would like to produce a report of the victims for this paper.
As mentioned, this will be people who have rejected vaccinations. There is currently a law suit in Yamaguchi on such a matter regarding perinatal treatments.
It will be easy to write on the subject if the lawsuit succeeds, but prior to this I will need case studies.
However, I do not have any direct contacts. I have searched the internet for commentaries without success. Please get in touch if you can help."
If your research fails to uncover evidence backing your claims, can it really be regarded as appropriate for a journalist to try to recruit people to his cause?
This is certainly not an objective or fair-minded approach to the subject.
13) Two more quotes from the Asahi Shimbun Be Report of 31st July 2010 written by Mr Nagano
"Ms Yui, the Chairperson of the JPHMA, explains her theory of "Embrace the symptoms", as a homoeopathia aggravation; sometimes when the homoeopathic remedy is taken the symptoms worsen,
but this can be a good thing as it enourages the natural self-healing abilities of the body. Dr Umezawa contends that this extreme theory could lead to the belief amongst clients that they are getting better when they are worsening and refusing hospital treatment."
"The worst problem is that people deny conventional medicine, and their clients avoid hospitals"
This is a deliberate attempt to give the impression that Ms Yui, and therefore the JPHMA, deny the benefits of conventional medicine and hospitals,
and this impression is propagated throughout the many articles on homoeopathy on the Asahi Shimbun website.
Yet the JPHMA does not deny conventional medicine, but takes a stance of co-operation towards it, as is enshrined in section 3.3 ofthe JPHMA's Code of Ethics:
"JPHMA members must not disparage or make negative comments about hospital treatments or examinations. If a client needs referral to a hospital they must be told immediately.
The professional homoepath must not force a client, but should defer to their needs. Clients who suffer chronic diseases should be encoraged to get regular hospital check ups"
This is a responsible stance, and Ms Yui frequently refers to the importance of conventional medicine in her discussions with students and JPHMA members.
Clients of the JPHMA are in no way pushed towards an extreme theory refusing hospital treatment.
The basis of the theory behind "Embrace the symptoms", is that with the exception of chronic symptoms of organ failure
and the like, a symptom is often a reflection that the body is trying to eliminate waste material.
The natural self-healing functions of the body should be encouraged to increase the immune system and assist the body in removing the waste products This is called "favourable reaction".
The symptom is therefore an important part of the healing process. Favourable reaction is common throughout alternative medicine and not limited to homoeopathy.
It is one thing to provide a publicly misleading analysis of a theory, but quite another to then use this flawed analysis to label the theory "extreme". This is irresponsible use of language.
Homoeopathy has a two hundred year history of clinical data discussing favourable reaction.
To promote fear of the symptom can lead to the supression of the immune system and uncourage the use of unnecessary drugs, both of which can promote serious disease.
The JPHMA therefore views Dr Umezawa's comments as extremist as it propagates conventional medicine as the sole curatative path.
This is a narrow viewpoint, and it would be regrettable if his words kept people from discovering the benefits of homoeopathy.
14) Mr Nagano's misrepresentation in the "Be" article in Asahi Shimbun, 31st July 2010:
"When I asked her if homoeopathy could cure cancer, Ms Yui firmly answered "Yes.""
This is an example of Mr Nagano's selective and emotive use of quotation.
Ms Yui said "Yes" in a normal conversational manner as befits someone who has recognised that many diseases can be cured by stimulating the body's natural self-healing abilities.
Returning the above quotation to it's true context in the interview gives it a completely different emphasis.
Mr Nagano has been previously approached by the JPHMA about the way he chooses to de-contextualise Ms Yui's interview statements to give undue gravitas to his arguments.
This approach was made after he sent us a questionnaire-style request with disconnected fragments of the original interview with Ms Yui.
We consider Mr Nagano's selective use of evidence and continuous use of implied statements to be unfair to homoeopathy, the JPMHA,
and Ms Yui. It is even more distasteful when he abuses his position in the newspaper and on the web to pre-judge the midwive (and JPHMA member) who currently faces a lawsuit in Yamaguchi.
When contacted by Mr Nagano on August 5th 2010 with a request to interview people regarding the above lawsuit,
Ms Yui was struck by his assertion that he was looking to write a "fair-minded" article on the events.
After his commentary in the "Be" article and via his blog entries it was impossible to see how he could write with the objectivity,
the discussion of the pros and cons of the matter and the concientious representation of the facts that are the benchmark of ethical journalism.
15) Another source of selective quotation from Mr Nagano's "Be" article in the Asahi Shimbun of 31st July 2010:
"The remedy is only a grain of sugar because the dilution process does not even leave a molecule of the original substance in the pill."
He suggest that the rise of homoeopathy is linked to the beliefs that science is somehow unnatural, and... emphasises the need to understand the risks of refusing conventional medical treatments."
This quotation from the article is credited to Professor Makoto Kikuchi of Osaka University.
Makoto Kikuchi is famous for his scepticism towards homoeopathy, which he has continuously attacked in his blog entries for some time.
His comments on homoeopathy often reflect the close-minded scrutiny of his scientific practises which allow him to ignore reports that present an alternative view to his own.
He is hardly the person to approach for a "fair-minded" scientific debate on homoepathy.
16) From Mr Nagano's "Be" article in the Asahi Shimbun of 31st July 2010:
" A lecturer from Saitama Medical University, Satoshi Ono, said" The government has an ambiguous attitude towards alternative medicines such as homoeopathy,
but it should inform us as to which ones are effective and which are not"
At JPHMA we agree with this statement, but would be more specific that Satoshi Ono; it is necessary to know which treatments are effective against which illnesses,
not just a broad stroke against a specific therapy. It should be asked "Is homoeopathy effective against cancer?" not "Is homoeopathy effective?"
Again, the presence of this quote provides a misleading implication.
There are many medically trained doctors and therapists who utilise homoeopathy and other forms of complementary medicines ? traditional Chinese therapies, diet and nutrition programmes for example ?
and it would surely be more valid to frame questions about the validity and efficacy of these treatments from them rather than continually questioning the sceptics who deny homoeopathy
because it cannot be approached from the angle of the specialised scientific background.
If you are interested in finding out more about the clinical trials and case studies that show homoeopathy in a more positive aspect please attend the forthcoming 11th Annual Congress of the JPHMA.
To end this discussion we will quote from the "Objective Journalism" section of "Standard practises expected of journalists employed by Asahi News Publishing:
These precepts can only be applied in the loosest possible manner to the research methods and the resultant articles and blogs when considering Mr Nagano's views on the subject of homoeopathy.
Such prejudice is unworthy of ethical journalism.
We regret that less than a thousandth of the people who read the Asahi Shimbun are likely to see this response to the offending article,
and we are sadden when we consider those readers who will view Mr Nagano's writings as a truthful representation.
However, we believe that no matter how few people see this item it is important that we continue to correct the errors made in the Asahi Shimbun,
and to give each individual the information to enable them to reach an educated decision of their own.