Georgian College says it is cancelling its controversial advanced diploma program in homeopathy. The announcement came just hours after the college told CBC News it had no plans to change the program, which has been criticized by doctors and scientists from across the country.
"In light of the recent response from our local community and beyond and in consideration of our students, Georgian College has made the decision to cancel the homeopathy program," the Ontario school said in a statement on Friday. Students already enrolled are being offered the chance to withdraw or transfer to another program.
The provincially funded community college had planned to start courses in September to train students to use sugar pills to treat "acute and chronic health conditions." The course documents had been prepared, and the tuition had been set at $4,454.00 for the first term, according to the official course materials.
The program had been approved by the Georgian College board of governors and the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
But over the past few weeks the college had come under increasing criticism. Dr. Chris Giorshev, an emergency medicine physician, sent letters of protest to the college and to the provincial government after seeing an advertisement for the program which would have been offered at the nearby campus in Barrie, Ont.
He worried there would be a risk to public health if people assumed homeopathy has some legitimacy.
"It gave me some angst about the whole thing," he said.
Giorshev is already seeing evidence of homeopathy's impact in his hospital's emergency room.
"We see people, they have the flu and they're sick and I ask, 'Did you get a flu shot?' and they say, 'My homeopath gave me a flu shot,' and I think, 'Well, you actually didn't get anything.'"
'Years of nonsense'
The program documents say homeopathic vaccines, called "nosodes," were part of the program. One course — HOMP1002— would have taught "concepts related to remedy selection, aggravations, antidotes, polycrests and nosodes." ("Polycrest" is another term for homeopathic treatments.)
"In this day and age with everything we know about science, that a discredited 200-year-old bit of puffery should be legitimized is scandalous," said Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University's Office of Science and Society, who had been consulting with other scientists about launching a protest against the program.
"To put students through three years of nonsense so that they can go out and practice placebo treatments is totally unfair to those students and it's unfair to the public," said Schwarcz.
Hey, skeptics win one. Good on the doctor for speaking up and writing letters. Amazing how close this came to happening though. It had already been approved by the college and course materials prepared.