Lady Margaret Hall is to host a third event for the Society of Homeopaths, which has been criticised for its links to anti-vaccination activists
An Oxford college has been rebuked for its plans to host a homeopathy conference for a group with links to the anti-vaccination movement.
Lady Margaret Hall, which counts Nigella Lawson, Michael Gove and the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto among its alumni, will be the setting for the Society of Homeopaths’ annual general meeting on March 18.
The gathering will feature a keynote speech on treating bacterial infections with homeopathic remedies and will open with a lecture from a Dutch homeopath who specialises in treating developmental “disorders” such as autism.
Two of the society’s directors are teaching staff at the Centre for Homeopathic Education (CHE), which brought Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former scientist and ringleader of the “anti-vaxxer” campaign, back to London last month for his first public appearance in this country since he was struck off by the General Medical Council in 2010.
Lord Krebs, professor of zoology at the University of Oxford and a past principal of Jesus College, urged Lady Margaret Hall not to allow the organisation to bathe in the college’s credibility. “Scientists agree that there is no evidence that homeopathic treatments have any effect beyond the placebo effect,” he told The Times. “I hope that Lady Margaret Hall, as a distinguished academic institution, ensures that its name and reputation are not used to advantage by the Society of Homeopaths.”
Michael Marshall, project director of the Good Thinking Society, a pro- science charity, said: “Nobody believes Lady Margaret Hall should stop accepting bookings for events . . . but we do urge them to reject bookings which run directly contrary to their values of learning and intellectual rigour. It is important that institutions with good reputations don’t hire out their good name to potentially harmful quackery.”
The college is the third university body to face criticism in recent weeks for its association with controversial alternative medicine groups. Regent’s University London said it had cut all ties with the CHE after inadvertently hosting a Q&A session with Mr Wakefield on Valentine’s Day. Middlesex University, also in London, has declined to stop awarding bachelor of science degrees in homeopathy on the CHE’s behalf.
While there is no suggestion that the Society of Homeopaths or any of its leadership team opposes vaccination, at least two of the organisation’s directors promote homeopathic alternatives for patients with autism.
The Oxford college, whose principal is the former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, said that it would be “impractical” to cancel the Society of Homeopaths’ booking at this stage. This will be the third time Lady Margaret Hall has hosted the organisation but it is not clear how much money it has made.
However, a spokeswoman said Mr Rusbridger was happy to consider a review of the college’s policy. “The act of renting space and providing food to a group — whether it is a business or a charity — obviously does not imply that LMH endorses the organisation,” she said. “We do not lend it credibility.”