Changing the conversation about health

‘He was a public standard bearer for homeopathy’: The College of Medicine pays tribute to Peter Fisher

On June 12th 2019, a memorial service for Dr. Peter Fisher was held at St Martins in the Fields church in Trafalgar Square.

Dr Peter Fisher FRCP FFHom died in August last year following a cycling accident. He was President of the Faculty of Homeopathy and Physician to the Queen, and a friend of the College of Medicine.

The College’s Chair, Dr Michael Dixon offered the following eulogy at Dr Fisher’s memorial service:

What makes a man great? 

Is it someone with a mission? Is it someone with integrity, who pursues that mission through thick and thin?  Is it someone, who has the courage
to continue with the struggle, when those around him are taking fright
as opponents become increasingly vicious? Or is it just a doctor, who
cares, who gives and wants to do the best for every patient.  If it is these
things then Peter was a great man.
He was dogged, determined and fearless – that no one can doubt.  He
was the leading medical champion for homeopathy and always
available to defend it on radio, television or in numerous debates.  He
was calm and considered in presenting his case, something that could
not always be said of his opponents.

He was highly skilled at using the modern language of “evidence based
medicine” to defend homeopathy. But he also realised that good medicine must extend beyond the literal and prosaic translation of evidence based medicine to become something altogether more human.

Bertrand Russell, the philosopher, predicted that “unless men increase
in wisdom as much as knowledge, an increase in knowledge will be an
increase in sorrow”. That sorrow, as Peter observed, is all too evident in
patients and doctors. They want something more.

That is because each of us has a unique perspective on life. Our beliefs
matter. I should hardly need to talk about believing inside this beautiful
church yet belief in medicine is too often relegated to the status of superstition. Peter recognised that we cannot ignore the beliefs, the hopes, the culture, the history or even the mystery of each individual and then expect to get our medicine right. This recognition underpinned his vision of integrated medicine.

He was a serious person but did not take himself too seriously. He had a particularly wicked sense of humour and would chuckle about the foibles of his detractors and their curious tactics.  He could also be a pragmatist when necessary.  I remember long conversations about his plans to develop a wider range of therapies at The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital and later conversations about changing its name to the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine – when homeopathy became such a focus for those criticising and attacking complementary medicine. 
He must have had to bear some very dark days.  As many of you here will know, homeopathy is now regarded as heresy among most of the conventional medical community.  The prescription of homeopathic medicines has been banned from the NHS and intolerance has risen to such a level that one Royal Medical College is even telling its doctors that they should not practice homeopathy.  We live in an age of what is called “patient centred medicine” yet, when it comes to homeopathy, patient choice and belief appear to count not at all. 

Peter took all this in his stride.  He developed the very successful Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine with bursting clinics and a huge international reputation.  The service and its practitioners were of the
highest quality and he and his hospital just got on with the job putting
patients first and showing – for those with open minds who wanted to
see – the immense power of his brand of medicine.

Yet his detractors were always waiting in the wings.  Often using foul means more than fair.  Instead of reasoned argument, he was too often subjected to personal attack and invective from those who should have known better.

Today is not a time for recrimination – Peter was far too forgiving and gentle a person to want that – it should become a time for conciliation.

After all, there are good men and good women on both sides of the complementary medicine debate. In Peter’s memory let us hope – that doctors and patients will become a little more generous, respect each other’s differing views and beliefs and that patients will be able to get the best of both worlds – just as Peter had hoped.

Peter was not only a national but also an international champion of integrated medicine. Latterly he was President of The Faculty for Homeopathy. His ultimate achievement, recognised posthumously – in fact, just today – is something that I can report with considerable pleasure. The faculty of Homeopathy is to receive Royal Patronage. It is a great personal tribute to him, and also a tribute to the leaders within the Faculty, who will now need to build on his work.

On a personal level, Peter was a real gentleman.  Company that I always enjoyed and company that I will greatly miss.  I know that the same goes for all of us here that knew him.  And it is a tribute to Peter as a human being that so many of you are here today.

Who knows what more he might have achieved if he had not been so prematurely taken from us.  Yet his place in history is assured.  He was unique.  Uniquely intelligent, uniquely motivated and the unique public standard bearer for homeopathy for so many years.  A great legacy and a great man.