You will recall Jeremy Sherr, the homeopath working with AIDS sufferers in Tanzania (see my previous post here).
The excellent Gimpy has now made a number of scathing posts about Mr Sherr, especially Mr Sherr's admitted disregard for ethics and his questionable scientific standards in promoting homeopathy for AIDS sufferers, see here, here, and here.
Gimpy's posts, as well as the comments by Ben Goldacre and Le Canard Noir (and others) previously here but now deleted by Mr Sherr, appear to me to be compelling and unanswerable.
Mr Sherr, in my opinion, is at best highly irresponsible.
As you will see from beneath Gimpy's posts, there has been a clamour of responses - hundreds - from those in favour of homeopathy in general and Mr Sherr's exploits in particular. All these posts are all worth a read, as not one pro-Sherr post deals squarely with the conduct issues raised. They together confirm what one fears as to the intellectual honesty and precision of the pro-CAM lobby.
(By the way, Mr Sherr also threatened to sue critics for libel. When I asked him via his site to set out why exactly the statements he describes would be libellous, he never answered, and he instead deleted the relevant page making the threat.)
As I cannot add to the critique of Mr Sherr's ethical and operational conduct, I now raise the interesting question of whether Mr Sherr is breaking Tanzanian law.
This is an intriguing query, as Mr Sherr makes a great deal that the Tanzanian state has legislated for a statutory regime for (and thereby legitimised) traditional and alternative medicine.
In asking this question, I cannot pretend to know the answer, and whether there are relevant circumstances which would go to a prosecution or a defence.
So I do this exercise for academic purposes only.
The law in question is the Tanzanian Traditional and Alternative Medicines Act, 2002. It is well worth a look.
The best starting point is section 45. Section 45(1) provides:
45.-(1) Any person who practices as traditional health practitioner or aide without being registered or enrolled as the case may be under this Act, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both, such fine and imprisonment.
Section 45(2) then provides a similar offence for "Alternative Medicine":
(2) Any Person who Practice as alternative health Practitioner or aide
without being registered or enrolled as the case may be under this Act,
commits an offence and is liable on convict,five hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both, such fine and imprisonment.
Section 45(3) then empowers the Tanzanian court to take the relevant materials away:
(3) In addition to the penalty imposed in Pursuance of subsection (1),
and (2), the trial court may order that any traditional medicine remedies or diagnostic instruments Or appliances used by or belonging to or found in possession of a person convicted, be fortelted, destroyed or otherwise disposed of.
(Sections 46 to 48 then provide for related and ancillary offences.)
One wonders if Mr Sherr is registered as an "alternative health Practitioner" under the Act. (He cannot be an "aide", as that is limited to Tanzanian citizens, which I assume he is not.)
If he isn't, and if he is practising as an alternative health Practitioner, he may well be committing an offence under section 45(2).
To be an alternative health Practitioner, however, requires that the conditions of section 15(1) are fulfilled. This provides that an applicant must produce "any degrees or certificates from a recognized institute" and "any other relevant documents in support thereof". One wonders what such documents would look like.
Once a registered alternative health Practitioner, there are strict obligations on professional conduct and in respect of ethics and etiquette (apart from the offences under sections 45 to 48). These are set out at section 29. These are when:
(a) he neglects or disregards professional responsibilities to patients
respect of their care and treatment;
(b) he abuses professional privileges and skills;
(c) his personal behaviours and conducts are derogatory to the reputation
of the traditional and alternative health medicine;
(d) he disparages his professional colleagues;
(e) he associates in his work with unqualified persons; and
(f) his conduct would amount to an offence against the law relating
to the control of dangerous drugs.
Reading Gimpy's posts, one can form a provisional view on whether, if registered, Mr Sherr is in breach of any of these obligations. My view is, of course, that one cannot tell without all the circumstances: I could not possibly comment.
However, if in breach of any of these professional duties, a registered alternative health practitioner will face sanctions from the regulatory body.
Furthermore, in addition to these professional and ethical obligations, the Act provides for statutory duties on the registered alternative health practitioner. These are under section 35:
(1) It shall be the duty of every traditional or alternative health
Practitioner registered under this Act to attend and treat their patients
with clear knowledge, skills and right attitude.
(2) Every registered traditional or alternative health practitioner shall ensure that:
(a) he is compatible with the traditional and alternative health profession;
(b) his conduct does not amount to professional misconduct;
(c) his conduct is commensurate to traditional and alternative health
ethics and professional etiquettes;
(d) he adheres to the secrecy and confidentiality aspects of his
(e) he transfers difficult cases to hospitals or other practitioners;
(f) he has a good system of keeping records to all cases attended by
(g) he observes cleanness of himself, appliances used and premises
under which the service is rendered.
Again, reading Gimpy's posts, one wonders if Mr Sherr is in breach of any of these professional duties; and, again, I could not possiby comment.
Please note, for completeness, that even if someone is working with patients alongside a registered alternative health practitioner, the prohibiton under section 36(1) bites:
36.-(I) No person registered under this Act as a traditional or alternative
health practitioner shall allow, associate or otherwise cause a person who is not registered as such to practice as traditional or alternative practice
So what could the legal position of Mr Sherr be?
Options could include:
1. he is not working as an alternative health practitioner at all (and so is outside the scope of the Act);
2. he is a registered alternative health practitioner and is abiding with his professional obligations and statutory duties;
3. he is working as an alternative health practitioner but is not registered (but this would be an offence!);
4. he is a registered alternative health practitioner but his approach to ethical and operational conduct could put him in breach of his professional obligations and statutory duties; or
5. he is working as an alternative health practitioner and is not registered (even though this would be an offence), but even if he were registered his approach to ethical and operational conduct could put him in breach of his professional obligations and statutory duties.
I simply have no idea which is the correct one (if any).
I wonder what Mr Sherr's view is?