We have discussed various forms of healing before – see, for instance, here, here and here. Of all the implausible SCAMs, healing takes the biscuit. Here is a healing-paper that fascinated me.

The aim of the study was to report epidemiologic data on ‘biofield healers’ (all types of energy healers) in radiation therapy patients, and to assess the possible objective and subjective benefits.

A retrospective study was conducted in a French cancer institute. All consecutive breast or prostate cancer patients undergoing a curative radiotherapy during 2015 were screened (n = 806). Healer consultation procedure, frequency, and remuneration were collected. Patient’s self-evaluation of healer’s impact on treatment tolerance was reported. Tolerance (fatigue, pain) was assessed through visual analogic scale (0 to 10). Analgesic consumption was evaluated.

A total of 500 patients were included (350 women and 150 men), and 256 patients (51.2%) consulted a healer during their radiation treatment, with a majority of women (58%, p < 0.01). Most patients had weekly (n = 209, 41.8%) or daily (n = 84, 16.8%) appointments with their healer. Regarding the self-reported tolerance, > 80% of the patients described a “good” or “very good” impact of the healer on their treatment. Healers were mainly voluntary (75.8%). Regarding the clinical efficacy, no difference was observed in prostate and in breast cancer patients (toxicity, antalgic consumption, pain).

The authors concluded that this study reveals that the majority of patients treated by radiotherapy consults a healer and reports a benefit on subjective tolerance, without objective tolerance amelioration.

The authors admit that their investigation has several limitations:

  1. Among the 806 screened patients, only 500 were finally included. These patients more likely report their subjective benefit on biofield healing, and could overestimate benefits in the healer group.
  2. Practices were highly variable from a healer to another.
  3. Toxicities evaluation might have been biased due to retrospective analysis based on medical patient record.

But what does this study really show?

I think, it demonstrates that:

  1. Healing is frightfully popular in France. I use the term deliberately, because this level of irrationality does, in fact, frighten me.
  2. Healing does not seem to alter the natural history of cancer.

And what about the fact that 84% of the patients reported a good or very good impact of the biofield healer on their tolerance to radiotherapy? Does this prove or even suggest that healing has positive effects? I think not! This result is to be expected. Imagine a retrospective study of patients who chose to eat a hamburger. Would we not expext that a similar percentage might claim that eating it did them good?

I rest my case.



57 Responses to The French certainly are fond of their healers

  • Perhaps it is nice to have someone to talk to, outside of family and medical staff? I am only being half-cynical here.

  • Cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy are generally very positive about “healers” providing their services – free of charge. Not because of any objective benefits – there are none – but because of the human contact. Simple human comfort.

    “Comforters” is the word, not “healers”.

    • Given the “free of charge” I rescind my half-cynical statement and say that the concept makes a good deal of sense.

  • Apparently no benefit, no harm.

    If it’s offered as a free service, why do you care?

    • “why do you care?”
      because, if a treatment is not effective and potentially replaces effective treatments, it does HUGE harm.
      and because irrationality undermines rationality in healthcare and beyond.
      I would have hoped that such principles are well-known even to chiros.

  • 8No evidence of benefit or harm, because there was no randomisation and no matched controls. It’s just a satisfaction survey plus some “cargo cult science” statistics.
    Prof Ernst, do you.have and comment on this extraordinary claim in the paper:
    “toxicities evaluation might have been biased due to retrospective analysis based on medical patient record. Medical studies on CAM benefit often failed to reach significant due to such inevitable bias [22]”
    The reference abstract discussed where papers are published, not inevitable medical bias.

    Incidentally they highlighted a p=0.1 level 1 skin toxicity difference but don’t mention worse pain and fatigue (p 0.06, 0.11, 0.12), although they might not be clinically significant.

    • I fail to understand this quote from the article – it does not make sense to me.

      • I just looked it up. What the authors should have written (and referees and/or editor picked up and corrected) is “Evaluation of toxicities might have been biased because it was based only on retrospective analysis of patient records.”

        • that makes a bit of sense – but it’s not just the evaluation of toxicities that was retrospective; the entire study is retrospective.

  • It is a Hahnemannian Law that when two similar diseases compete for the host, be it natural or artificial, the disease with the strongest Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) wins.
    The application of artificial NMR is the art of pathological similitude, like cures like.

    • no, at best it’s a Hahnemannian fantasy.
      and was Hahnemann capable of time-travel? if not, he was unaware of NMR.
      or have I got this wrong?

      • LOL Edzard, of course you’re wrong, when have you ever been right? Hahnemann always said it was magnetic. The French connection here is in NMR, a couple dozen pub’d NMR tests confirm it, Conte, Lasne and Demangeat, as has EMF testing by Benveniste, Montagnier et al; Tritium assays by Conte and Lasne et al confirm these things you call placebos, dielectric tests by Gay and Boiron; Brucato and Stephenson, spectroscopy by Boiron, Roy, Rao; plasmography by Schwartz and Bell, not to mention the biochemical tests. This is your pons asinorum across the homeopathic rubricon. You’ll never get it, you never will.

        • OF COURSE, I AM WRONG!
          thank you for explaining this to me so very well.
          in fact, everyone seems to be wrong, except you John.

          • Yeah, it does seem to be that way when everyone else in the room has his head up his ass . . it should be pretty clear by now what it is we’re dealing with. Look, Edzard, there are too many credentialed people who have found too many physical indices for the sub atomic specificity of tritiated H2O to dismiss homeopathic pharmaceuticals as placebos.

          • 🙂 🙂

            “there are too many credentialed people who have found too many physical indices for the sub atomic specificity of tritiated H2O to dismiss homeopathic pharmaceuticals as placebos.”

            WTF?! This is a collection of random words drawn vaguely from the discipline of physics. It’s meaningless twaddle, just like “EMF, radiation, pz Where there’s a circuit there’s a field, and vice versa.”

        • @Benneth

          Hahnemann always said it was magnetic.

          Indeed he did. From setion 293 of the Organon: “I again find it necessary, in this place, to say a few words on the subject of animal magnetism, the nature of which differs so greatly from that of all other remedies. This curative power (which should be called ‘mesmerism’ after the name of its inventor, Mesmer) of whose efficacy none but madmen can entertain a doubt, which, through the powerful will of a well-intentioned individual, influences the body of the patient by the touch, acts homoeopathically by exciting symptoms analogous to those of the malady.” [my bold highlight]

          This confirms the lunacy of Hahnemann: he believed in magnetic healing! And reckoned it worked in the same way as homeopathy. Are you entirely incapable of recognizing complete, utter, fantastical nonsense for the lunatic belief system it is. (No need to answer; we already know.)

          • Well, there you go, you and Hahnemann both share something in common, you both think the other one is crazy. The difference is Hahnemann investigated, you just ruminate. He studied, experienced, practiced and published his findings. You just shoot your mouth off.

    • John

      The ideas you pull out of your arse after doing a quick flick through Chemistry For Dummies are bizarre in the extreme. Do you have any idea what NMR is or how it works? What “NMR” (as you describe it) would, for example, multiple sclerosis have and how would you measure it as compared with the “NMR” of, say, delusional disorder to pick another disease entirely at random. No idea why it might have occurred to me. Which would be considered the “stronger” and why?

  • Hello John

    Edzard and Co. have stated that they reject the ‘outdated’ unscientific’ ‘vitalistic’ theory that underpins homeopathy. In their view, it seems that their theory is that human beings are just flesh and blood: matter from which ‘consciousness’ ’emerges’.

    Also, the atheistic view of evolution is asserted as if it is fact: millions of species of life forms ’emerged’ from a process starting at a point in which a big bang occurred from ‘nothing’, and from this big bang the universe ’emerged’ and within this universe a planet earth evolved life forms. At some point, some of them may have a light switch on and emerge from the darkness, but in the meantime it seems that their aim is to drag others down into their darkness.

    Hahnemann did not know about NMR, he postulated the Organon in terms of ‘disease’ as the ‘indwelling vital force’ being overcome by ‘morbific agents’ ‘inimical to life’ and the homeopathic remedy as the ‘artificial disease’ displacing the power of the ‘natural disease’.

    What do you think Hahnemann’s term ‘vital force’ designates in terms of NMR?

    • EMF, radiation, pz
      Where there’s a circuit there’s a field, and vice versa

      • John: EMF, radiation, pz
        ‘Where there’s a circuit there’s a field, and vice versa’

        That is circular reasoning, isn’t it?

        I will just say it straight: where there is a person in a body, there is a living human being; where there isn’t a person in the body, there is a dead body.

        That is the ‘vitalism’ ‘theory’ that atheists like Edzard claim is ‘outdated’ and ‘unscientific’.

      • LOL! We can measure emf and radiation: has this ‘vital force’ been similarly measured?

        • Ask Edzard, he’s the expert on vitalism now, he says it’s no longer obsolete , ,

          • You know how it goes, John: you make the claim; you provide the evidence.

            But don’t worry if you can’t. Just admit it.

          • John
            Vitalism: noun
            ‘the theory that the origin and phenomena of life are dependent on a force or principle distinct from purely chemical or physical forces.’

            Is ‘vitalism’ the elephant in the room? Should I wait for the collective molecules known as ‘Alan Henness’ to respond because Edzard has deflected from the question?

            John, you brought EMF into this, and have not provided a bit more information. Tell us about EMF and like cures like, please.


          • I do admire your optimism of getting a sensible answer out of JB

          • Greg,

            ‘Like cures like’ is a clinical expression of Coulomb’s Law of electromagnetism wherein same poles [and fields] repel, opposite attract and similar interfere.
            Benveniste’s observations at the biochemical level confirmed this, challenging the molecular condensed phase trigger of the immunogen hypothesis with Hahnemann’s magnetic trigger, demonstrating once again the specificity of the sub-atomic field that slavish followers of the failing Standard Model of Physics appear to have missed . .

          • @Benneth


            Coulomb’s inverse square law is written as F = kQ1Q2/r^2. What, do you think, are the equivalent variables and constant in homeopathy so we can see how well your analogy holds up?

            Is r the distance between the homeopath and the customer? Is Q1 the initial charge of a ‘consultation’ and Q2 the charge for the sugar pills? k is the homeopath’s markup, of course…

          • I’m saving my laughs for last, Lenny.

  • The Homeopathic Bully‏ @JBennethJournal 16m
    @DeaconPunnett Master says: “THE CHEMISTRY OF HOMEOPATHY IS OUTRAGEOUS!!! It’s defying all known laws of time and space . .” There are people now, running around the planet saying how you get something from nothing. I say, drag this man Benneth from his quarters AND MAKE HIM TALK

  • Edzard, if John knows something about EMF and like cures like, I am very *interested* rather than optimistic to get his response: it is a globally shattering scientific proposition that will definitely get him the Nobel.

  • Gentlemen, gentlemen, please! There’s no need to fuss!I’d be honored to have Professor Ernst do the Laudation. but only if he speaks loud enough to be heard over the wretching!

  • You gentlemen (and lady) seem to entertain a denial of an EM biofield. How sad, how crippled.
    How retarded.
    Gentlemen, the error in your Standard Model of Physics (SMP) is your reasoning, it is endemically fractured by what you imagine to be disconnected “particles” . . when in fact no “particle” exists idiopathically, no particle, no entity at the quantum level exists alone, they all share the same bath, an omni-pervasive field.

    • Dear Skeptics:

      The success of homeopathy and the failure of your Standard Model of Physics proves it, not some dingy LaGrangian on a chalkboard with some doddering white man standing in front of it holding a lump of chalk.

      Stop and think abput it for a moment. The proposition extruded from the practice of homeopathy is that with a chain reaction in an HO solvent, the electronic structure of the solute can, by manufacture, be strung out and imprinted in an unlimited number of pz energized aliquots, structured through the Hydrogen bonds between the Oxygens, radiating the solute’s specific nuclear resonance.
      The self appointed speakers for the opposition to this formula supporting diluted homeopathic pharmaceuticals stated that H bonded imprinting was impossible because the Hydrogen bond is constantly breaking.
      Now . . or was it then that the self appointed speakers for the opposition to this formula supporting diluted homeopathic pharmaceuticals stated that H bonded imprinting was impossible because the Hydrogen bond is constantly breaking? Professor Colquhoun made such a fuss about it. I don’t know, it’s been so long since I set you all straight on this in my Earth shattering revelations at Professor Josephson’s mind over matter effect at the Cavendish Lab in 2016. Colquhoun and his tribe bombarded the poor HoD with email protesting the appearance of a no degree, non-academic teaching the supramolecular context of homeopathy to all his weaklings from University College’s degree mill attending my lecture making the Josephson Connection.
      Good God, the Elixir of Life is so intoxicating, give me more! More I say!

      The response to the opposition regarding the impossibility of such stricturing in liquid water is two fold. One, direct observation of persisting ice formations around contaminants in water at liqiud temperatures, called clathrates, reveal water structuring, and theoretically speaking, if these bonds between molecules break, what is left in their stead? A vacuum? There is no true vacuum within a contiguous Universe, the only potential refuge for a vacuum being where Consciousness cannot abide, a dwellin for which Infinitessimal Physics provide.

      Not only do the H-bonds in water not break, the structures they form can persist against removal by condensed phase ruminants and acids meant to scrub them out of containers, which could account for Kent’s reporting of killing people by overdosing them with homeopathic pharmaceuticals.
      Let me remind you all that I am an investigator, not an academic. My background is in getting answers, not beating on someone else’s toy drum. If I see a murder, I report it.

  • You varnish white, Professor Ernst. Where is your tribe’s curiosity about the electrochemical indices of the homeopathic remedy? And why do you continue to block me on Twitter?

  • So, John

    Care to explain why, if your game-changing re-evaluation of the laws of physics and chemistry is so important, it hasn’t been written up by you in a paper and accepted for publication by a prestigious mainstream journal?

    Is it just that you haven’t got round to it yet, or is it that you realise the journals will recognise your spoutings for the fantastical twaddle that they are and will laugh them out of town?

    Come on, John. Publish!

    • he probably published it on youtube

      • If you’re referring to H-bond structuring in liquid water and its relevance to homeopathy, it’s already been published by top material scientists Roy, Tiller, Bell and Hoover. Nothing new about clathrates, Pauling ascribes physiological effects to them. Look at Demangeat’s work using NMR, it’s extensive.
        Where’s your published review of the literature denying it?

        • Roy, Tiller, Bell and Hoover published in The Indian Journal Of Research On Homeopathy, John. Ten years ago. Plenty of time for a prestigious mainstream journal to pick up on their work. Or others to replicate it. Or the Nobel Prize committee to sit up and take notice.

          Hasn’t happened, has it?

          Almost as if it was a load of fatuous, laughable twaddle published in a junk journal and rightly recognised as such and ignored by anyone with the faintest iota of critical thinking skills.

        • Oh, and as for the published evidence denying it, John.. that’s not how science works. It works by others independently replicating the findings. Which hasn’t happened, has it?

          A bunch of believers in magic shaken water helplessly dredging through statistical noise in the vain hope of confirming their biases isn’t science, John. It’s silly.

          And anyway. Homeopathy works because of magnetic photons, apparently.

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