By Anke Zimmermann, BSc, FCAH
An Anthroposophic Hospital in Germany
During a trip to Germany in 1993 I had a unique opportunity to visit a German
medical doctor who specialized in natural health care, particularly classical homeopathy. At the time she worked at an integrated, anthroposophic, teaching hospital near Cologne. This hospital offered both conventional and natural treatment modalities, including homeopathy.
At the time Dr L worked as an Ob/Gyn on the maternity ward. She had previously spent two years in Toronto, Canada, working and training at Sick Kid’s Hospital. During this time, she had also studied with Dr. Andre Saine, ND, my homeopathy professor, who subsequently connected us.
I was very impressed with Dr L, not only was she an Ob/Gyn as well as a classical
homeopath, she was also in charge of a program for biological cancer therapy at the hospital. Natural therapies were completely integrated with conventional medicine in this facility.
She invited me to spend a day with her but asked me not to disclose my true identity as a naturopathic doctor and instead pretend to be a medical doctor visiting from Canada instead, ‘just in case’. I agreed and we started to see her patients.
Little did we know then what ‘just in case’ was going to mean…
Homeopathy during pregnancy, labour and delivery
The first patient, let’s call her Paula, was nine months pregnant and a few days overdue. Dr L gave her one dose of Pulsatilla 200C and she promptly went into labour! Now I was getting my hopes up to observe my very first birth!
Not only did Dr L work on the maternity ward but there was also a midwifery school on the premises and the multiple births that took place every day were all handled with minimal medical intervention if possible. I followed Dr L around all day as she was examining patients and supervising staff.
By the time Dr L's shift ended at 9 pm Paula has still not delivered, so I asked if it would be possible for me to stay on anyway. Dr. L. generously made arrangements with the kindly Chief of Staff to let me stay. All the time I felt like a bit of an imposter of course, but nevertheless unable to resist the temptation!
Well, I almost gave it away when Paula received an epidural at 1:30 am. The birthing room, not unlike a regular bedroom, was crowded with several midwives and midwifery students, nurses, a doctor, Mrs. S’s husband and - little me. By this time Paula had been in labour for at least 12 hours and was tired and ready for an epidural. No other physicians on the floor were trained in homeopathy or perhaps the epidural could have been avoided, but nonetheless, here we were.
The effects of epidurals on the innocent
Of course I had know about epidurals but had never actually seen one done. The doctor arrived wheeling a tray with assorted equipment, including the largest hypodermic needle I had ever seen in my life. I swear the thing was ten inches long!
He then asked Mrs. S. to bend forward and tried to maneuver the tip of this monstrosity into her spine. Having some difficulty he quipped: “Paula, you have a back made of steel, you must be doing a lot of sports,“ to which the patient replied that, yes, indeed, she was skiing a lot.
That’s the last I heard of that conversation. The next time I opened my eyes I was flat on the floor in the hospital room with several concerned faces peering at me from above!
As you already guessed, 'Dr Z', the wimpy medical doctor from Canada, had fainted at the sight of a needle!
Luckily, Paula's husband caught me as I went down. Then he fainted, too!
As I hadn’t eaten all day, I blamed it on hypoglycemia to save face and was duly
revived with some orange juice and cookies by the helpful staff, who also let me
lie down for a while in another room.
But I just couldn’t leave it alone and asked the staff to get me when the baby
was ready to come.
The big C
About an hour later, a midwife came and told me that things were not going so well with Mrs. S. and that she was going to have – a Caesarian section. Did I want to watch??
Well, after two seconds of mental deliberation, I agreed of course. Everyone changed into surgical gear; I didn’t have a clue and put the mask on upside down. One of the nurses corrected the mistake and the surgeon joked about people passing out from the sight of needles.
They had me stay at the side of the scene and a chair ready, just in case. But this time I was okay, I got to observe an entire Caesarian section up close, it was amazing! And I hoped I would never need one!
During this night about eight other babies were born on the ward and I got to observe one other natural birth, as well as actually assist a woman in premature labour with homeopathy, since the resident homeopath was off duty and the Chief of Staff allowed it.
What an experience!
Acceptance of biological therapies in Germany
This essay was originally written in 1993. At the time in Germany, biological therapies were becoming more and more accepted and almost mainstream, so to speak. A few years later basic training in homeopathy started to be is offered to all medical students and chairs for integrated “Naturopathic” medical programs have been established at several major medical schools.
There were and still are whole hospitals in Germany devoted to treating people with biological methods – a few years earlier I had visited a 200 bed hospital specializing in integrated natural therapies for cancer patients. They used everything from macrobiotic cooking to light and psychotherapy, as well as botanical and homeopathic medicine.
A recent survey of medical doctors in Germany at the time revealed that the majority were using some natural remedies in their practices. The German government had also pledged 10 million marks at the time (1993) to fund research projects on the efficacy of natural therapies to put them on firmer scientific ground.
If only our medical system in Canada was as only progressive. At the time of my visit in Germany, midwives were not even regulated, never mind any doctors using homeopathy in hospitals. And of course in our naturopathic training we did not have access to hospitals or observe births, although that would have been most interesting and helpful also. It is now 2022, almost 20 years later, and the health care system in Canada has certainly not progressed towards a more holistic approach.
Well, it is only a matter of time, as homeopathy and other natural therapies are increasingly becoming recognized as safe, effective and cost-efficient.
Anke Zimmermann, December 13, 2022
Anke Zimmermann, BSc, FCAH
Classical and Modern Homeopathy
Sooke, BC, Canada
Serving families in Sooke, Metchosin, Langford, Colwood, Victoria, Greater Vancouver Island, BC, as well as internationally via zoom/telehealth.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-6 and alternating Saturdays from 10-4