Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of the most influential promoters of outright quackery. I once (many years ago) met him at a meeting where we both were lecturing. My impression was that he does not believe a single word he speaks. Oz later became a TV star and had ample occasion to confirm my suspicion.
Oz’s wife, Lisa, is a Reiki master and has spoken widely of her insights into energy and health. Mehmet Oz appeared as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2009, Winfrey offered to produce a syndicated series. The Dr. Oz Show debuted in September 2009 and became the most successful promotion of charlatanery in the US. During a Senate hearing on consumer protection in 2014, Senator Claire McCaskill stated that “the scientific community is almost monolithic against you” for airing segments on weight loss products that are later cited in advertisements, concluding that Oz plays a role, intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams, and that she is “concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.” This judgement was supported by a 2014 analysis published in the BMJ; here is the abstract:
Objective To determine the quality of health recommendations and claims made on popular medical talk shows.
Design Prospective observational study.
Setting Mainstream television media.
Sources Internationally syndicated medical television talk shows that air daily (The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors).
Interventions Investigators randomly selected 40 episodes of each of The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors from early 2013 and identified and evaluated all recommendations made on each program. A group of experienced evidence reviewers independently searched for, and evaluated as a team, evidence to support 80 randomly selected recommendations from each show.
Main outcomes measures Percentage of recommendations that are supported by evidence as determined by a team of experienced evidence reviewers. Secondary outcomes included topics discussed, the number of recommendations made on the shows, and the types and details of recommendations that were made.
Results We could find at least a case study or better evidence to support 54% (95% confidence interval 47% to 62%) of the 160 recommendations (80 from each show). For recommendations in The Dr Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%. For recommendations in The Doctors, evidence supported 63%, contradicted 14%, and was not found for 24%. Believable or somewhat believable evidence supported 33% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 53% on The Doctors. On average, The Dr Oz Show had 12 recommendations per episode and The Doctors 11. The most common recommendation category on The Dr Oz Show was dietary advice (39%) and on The Doctors was to consult a healthcare provider (18%). A specific benefit was described for 43% and 41% of the recommendations made on the shows respectively. The magnitude of benefit was described for 17% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 11% on The Doctors. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest accompanied 0.4% of recommendations.
Conclusions Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits. Approximately half of the recommendations have either no evidence or are contradicted by the best available evidence. Potential conflicts of interest are rarely addressed. The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.
During the presidential campaign in 2016, Oz supported Trump and hosted him on his TV show. In 2018, Donald Trump appointed him to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, Oz was criticized as an example of choosing “pundits over experts”. Recently, Oz announced he intends to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican.
In April 2020, Oz also spurred controversy because he said that children should be sent back into schools despite the fact that the novel coronavirus pandemic had only just begun and there were no vaccines or therapeutics yet available. “I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity,” he said, claiming that resuming classes “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,” according to his “reading” of medical journals. The mistake was so substantial that Oz later provided a kind of half-apology, saying that he “misspoke.”
Energy healing is an umbrella term for a range of paranormal healing practices. Their common denominator is the belief in a mystical ‘energy’ that can be used for therapeutic purposes. Forms of energy healing have existed in many ancient cultures. The ‘New Age’ movement has brought about a revival of these ideas, and today energy healing systems are amongst the most popular alternative therapies in the US as well as in many other countries.
Energy healing relies on the esoteric belief in some form of ‘energy’ which is distinct from the concept of energy understood in physics and refers to some life force such as chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or prana in Ayurvedic medicine. Some proponents employ terminology from quantum physics and other ‘cutting-edge’ science to give their treatments a scientific flair which, upon closer scrutiny, turns out to be but a veneer of pseudo-science. The ‘energy’ that energy healers refer to is not measurable and lacks biological plausibility.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of energy healing (EH) therapy prior to and following posterior surgical correction for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) compared to controls.
Patients were prospectively randomized to one of two groups: standard operative care for surgery (controls) vs. standard care with the addition of three EH sessions. The outcomes included visual analog scales (VAS) for pain and anxiety (0-10), days until conversion to oral pain medication, and length of hospital stay. For the experimental group, VAS was assessed pre- and post-EH session.
Fifty patients were enrolled-28 controls and 22 EH patients. The controls had a median of 12 levels fused vs. 11 in the EH group (p = 0.04). Pre-operative thoracic and lumbar curve magnitudes were similar (p > 0.05). Overall VAS pain scores increased from pre- to post-operative (p < 0.001), whereas the VAS anxiety scores decreased immediately post-operative (p < 0.001). The control and pre-EH assessments were statistically similar. Significant decreases in VAS pain and anxiety scores from pre to post-EH assessments were noted for the EH group. Both groups transitioned to oral pain medication a median of 2 days post-operative (p = 0.11). The median days to discharge were four in the controls and three in the EH group (p = 0.07).
The authors concluded that EH therapy resulted in a decrease in patient’s pre-operative anxiety. Offering this CAM modality may enhance the wellbeing of the patient and their overall recovery when undergoing posterior surgical correction for AIS.
I am getting tired of explaining that this trial design tells us as good as nothing about the effects of the tested therapy per se. As we have discussed ad nauseam on this blog, A+B is always more than B alone. Such trials appear to be rigorous and fool many people, but they are unable to control for context effects, like placebo or attention. Therefore, I need to re-write the conclusions:
The placebo effect and the extra attention associated with EH therapy resulted in a decrease in patients’ pre-operative anxiety. EH itself is most likely bar any effect. Further studies in this area are not required.
The author of this study introduces the subject by stating that Reiki is a biofield energy therapy that focuses on optimizing the body’s natural healing abilities balancing the life force energy or qi/chi. Reiki has been shown to reduce stress, pain levels, help with depression/anxiety, increase relaxation, improve fatigue, and quality of life.
Despite the fact that the author seems to have no doubt about the effectiveness of Reiki, she decided single-handedly to conduct a study of it – well, not a real study but a ‘pilot study’:
In this pilot randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled study, the effects of Reiki on heart rate, diastolic and systolic blood pressure, body temperature, and stress levels were explored in an effort to gain objective outcome measures and to understand the underlying physiological mechanisms of how Reiki may be having these therapeutic effects on subjective measures of stress, pain, relaxation, and depression/anxiety.
Forty-eight subjects were block-randomized into three groups (Reiki treatment, sham treatment, and no treatment). The changes in pre-and post-treatment measurements for each outcome measure were analyzed through analysis of variance (ANOVA) post hoc multiple comparison test, which found no statistically significant difference between any of the groups. The p-value for the comparison of Reiki and sham groups for heart rate was 0.053, which is very close to being significant and so, a definitive conclusion can not be made based on this pilot study alone.
The author concluded that a second study with a larger sample size is warranted to investigate this finding further and perhaps with additional outcome measures to look at other possible physiological mechanisms that may underlie the therapeutic effects of Reiki.
I have a few questions about this paper:
- If a researcher already knows that a treatment works, why do a study?
- If she nevertheless does a study, why a pilot that is not meant for evaluating effects but for testing the feasibility?
- Why does the author calculate effects instead of evaluating the feasibility of his project?
- Why does the author try to interpret a negative outcome as though it signifies an almost positive effect?
- Why did someone who knows how to do research at the Ohio Wesleyan University (the author’s affiliation) not give her some guidance?
- Why did the reviewers of this paper let it pass?
- Why does any journal publish such rubbish?
Oh, the embarrassment!
It’s a journal for which I once (a long time ago) served on the editorial board.
As though the UK does not have plenty of organisations promoting so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)! Obviously not – because a new one is about to emerge.
In mid-January, THE COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AND INTEGRATED HEALTH (COMIH) will launch the Integrated Medicine Alliance bringing together the leaders of many complementary health organisations to provide patients, clinicians and policy makers with information on the various complementary modalities, which will be needed in a post COVID-19 world, where:
- patient choice is better respected,
- requirements for evidence of efficacy are more proportionate to the seriousness of the disease and the safety of the intervention,
- and where benefit versus risk are better balanced.
We already saw this in 2020 with the College advocating from the very beginning of the year that people should think about taking Vitamin D, while the National Institute for Clinical Excellence continued to say the evidence was insufficient, but the Secretary of State has now supported it being given to the vulnerable on the basis of the balance between cost, benefit and safety.
Elsewhere we learn more about the Integrated Medicine Alliance (IMA):
The IMA is a group of organisations and individuals that have been brought together for the purpose of encouraging and optimising the best use of complementary therapies alongside conventional healthcare for the benefit of all.
The idea for this group was conceived by Dr Michael Dixon in discussion with colleagues associated with the College of Medicine, and the initial meeting to convene the group was held in February 2019.
The group transitioned through a number of titles before settling on the ‘Integrated Medicine Alliance’ and began work on developing a patient leaflet and a series of information sheets on the key complementary therapies.
It was agreed that in the first instance the IMA should exist under the wing of the College of Medicine, but that in the future it may develop into a formal organisation in its own right, but inevitably maintaining a close relationship with the College of Medicine.
The IMA also offers ‘INFORMATION SHEETS’ on the following modalities:
- Alexander Technique
- Herbal Medicine
- Tai Chi
- Yoga Therapy
I find those leaflets revealing. They tell us, for example that the Reiki practitioner channels universal energy through their hands to help rebalance each of the body’s energy centres, known as chakras. About homeopathy, we learn that a large corpus of evidence has accumulated which stands the most robust tests of modern science. And about naturopathy, we learn that it includes ozone therapy but is perfectly safe.
Just for the fun of it – and free of charge – let me try to place a few corrections here:
- Reiki healers use their hands to perform what is little more than a party trick.
- The universal energy they claim to direct does not exist.
- The body does not have energy centres.
- Chakras are a figment of imagination.
- The corpus of evidence on homeopathy is by no means large.
- The evidence is flimsy.
- The most robust tests of modern science fail to show that homeopathy is effective beyond placebo.
- Naturopathy is a hotchpotch of treatments most of which are neither natural nor perfectly safe.
One does wonder who writes such drivel for the COMIH, and one shudders to think what else the IMA might be up to.
I was notified via Twitter (thank you John) that the UK ‘United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust’ is looking to employ a spiritual healer or reiki therapist. For those who find this perhaps too hard to believe, I have copied a few excerpts from the advertisement:
- United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
- Spiritual Healer / Reiki Therapist
- Lincoln County Hospital, Lincoln
- £21,892 – £24,157 per annum pro rata
An exciting opportunity has arisen for an Spiritual Healer / Reiki Therapist to join our friendly and energetic team on Waddington Unit. We are looking for a committed, enthusiastic and a self-motivated therapist to join our well established team.
Waddington Unit is a 26 bedded acute Haematology and Oncology ward that care for male and female patients. The ward has a high acuity, fast paced clinical admissions setting that cares for acutely unwell patients as a result of haematological and oncological conditions such as spinal cord compression and neutropenic sepsis as well as facilitating the delivery of chemotherapy.
We are passionate about improving patient experience and enhancing patients stay in hospital.
We are pleased to be working with The Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust to offer this exciting opportunity on Waddington Unit.
If you are qualified and experienced as a Spiritual Healer /Reiki Therapist with 1 year or more of experience. To have completed the Healing In Hospital course, delivered by Angie Buxton-King and would like this opportunity to join this forward thinking team then please contact the co-ordinator for more information and an informal visit…
… ULHT is one of the largest hospital trusts in the country providing a comprehensive range of hospital based medical, surgical, paediatric, obstetric and gynaecological services to over 800,000 people across the county of Lincolnshire. The Trust’s core values are:
– Patient Centred
– Respect and
END OF QUOTE
The Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust supports cancer patients and their families by providing funds to employ Complementary Therapists (Healers) in the NHS and Hospices. And Angie Buxton-King is a Reiki Master/ Teacher, Spiritual Healer, Author and Public Speaker. She also tells us this about her:
I am a fully qualified tutor of adults in the life learning sector and a Director/Trustee of our charity The Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust ( SBSHT).
Since 2004 following the publication of my first book The NHS Healer; I have been invited to speak at many medical and holistic conferences. I am a past chair of The Doctor Healer Network and a former council member of The College of Medicine representing complementary therapies. Along with my husband Graham we created Energy Healing Training and Reiki Training that complies with National Occupational Standards. We have also created our unique ‘Healing in Hospitals & Hospices Training’ and ‘Delivering Complementary Therapy in a Statutory Setting Training’ to give healers and complementary therapists the necessary skills to work safely and competently in a more formal setting. I was employed by University College London Hospital (UCLH) as a Spiritual Healer to deliver healing to cancer patients as part of an integrated, holistic package of care for 12 years.
David Colquhoun published an excellent comment at the time about the UCLH work. All I want to add here is a list of suggestions to the ‘United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust’ regarding posts they might consider advertising in the future:
- ACUPUNCTURIST to run the department of anaesthesiology.
- FLYING CARPET MANAGER to relieve the over-worked Lincolnshire ambulance service.
- EXORCIST to deal with whistle blowers of all types.
- ALCHEMIST to turn lead into gold whenever the Trust runs into financial difficulties.
- HOMEOPATH to run the hospital pharmacy.
- QUANTUM PHYSICIST to maintain the ventilators of the IC unit.
- VIRTUAL SURGEON to head the department of surgery.
- VAMPIRE to organise the blood donation activities.
- DISCIPLE OF ANDREW WAKEFIELD to coordinate the Trust’s vaccination service.
- PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST to head the abortion service.
- SCIENTOLOGIST to run the spiritual well-being initiative.
- PSEUDOSCIENTIST to head the clinical trials unit.
- CAOS THEORIST to oversee the accounts.
- ELEPHANT to work in the porcelain shop.
In the interest of improving public health in Lincolnshire, I invite my readers to suggest further posts which might contribute profitably to the success of the ‘United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust’.
‘THE INTEGRATED HEALTHCARE COLLABORATIVE‘ claim to be a collection of the leading organisations within the field, who are committed to working together to improve healthcare in the UK. They believe that a truly integrated healthcare service would improve patient experiences, bring about better patient outcomes, and provide a framework for a more cost-effective delivery of healthcare services.
Their purpose is as follows:
To bring together professional associations and stakeholders within complementary, traditional and natural healthcare, to identify common areas of interest, and to collectively take forward agreed objectives to promote greater integration with conventional Western medicine.
- To increase public awareness, knowledge and understanding of complementary, traditional and natural healthcare.
- To raise issues in integrated healthcare with government and decision-makers.
- To provide information on complementary, traditional and natural healthcare to the media and interested parties.
- To promote the benefits to public health of greater provision and integration of complementary, traditional and natural healthcare.
- To develop co-ordinated strategies to help patients access accurate information on integrated healthcare.
- To facilitate better access to, and choice of, appropriate complementary, traditional and natural healthcare within the NHS.
- To empower the public to share responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
- To encourage whole-person, individualised healthcare.
- To advocate collaboration with conventional Western healthcare professionals.
- To support the development of a robust and appropriate evidence base.
They sate that Integrated Healthcare involves combining the best of conventional Western Medicine with a range of complementary, traditional and natural therapies.
The IHC brings together the following leading organisations, who are Core Members and lead our work.
- Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH)
- Association of Energy Therapists (AET)
- Association of Naturopathic Practitioners (ANP)
- Association of Physical and Natural Therapists (APNT)
- Association of Reflexologists (AoR)
- Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture (ATCM)
- British Complementary Medicine Association (BCMA)
- British Reflexology Association (BRA)
- Chinese Medical Institute and Register (CMIR)
- Craniosacral Therapy Association (CSTA)
- General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN)
- Faculty of Homeopathy (FoH)
- Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)
- International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA)
- Kinesiology Federation (KF)
- McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA)
- National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH)
- Shiatsu Society UK (SSUK)
- Society of Homeopaths (SoH)
- Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT)
- UK Reiki Federation (UKRF)
The IHC also provide revealing paragraphs about several so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) on their website. This is where I have found a host of interesting statements. Here are just 6 examples:
- Chiropractic treatment mainly involves safe, specific spinal manipulation to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly.
- Science is starting to understand the mechanism of action of ultra-high dilutions in the body, and homeopathic medicines are gentle, safe to use and in widespread use across the world.
- By testing … muscles the kinesiologist can get a picture of what is happening in your meridian system and how this may be affecting you.
- Radionics is a healing technique in which your natural intuitive faculties are used both to discover the energetic disturbances underlying illness and to encourage the return of a normal energetic field that supports health.
- Reflexology is a complementary therapy based on the belief that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which are believed to correspond to all organs and parts of the body.
- [Reiki] is a tradition that is open to any belief system and benefits may include deep relaxation and the promotion of a calm peaceful sense of wellbeing.
And here are 6 corrections of the above-listed statements:
- Chiropractic involves unsafe spinal manipulation to free customers of their cash.
- Science has long understood that there is no mechanism that could possibly explain homeopathy.
- By testing muscles, the kinesiologist pretends to do something meaningful in order to be able to bill the customer.
- Radionics is a con technique that is counter-intuitive, implausible and unrelated to energy.
- Reflexologists believe to have shown conventional anatomy and physiology to be mistaken.
- Reiki is a tradition and a belief system demonstrably out of touch with reality.
If the IHC want to change their text and adopt my corrections, I would waive my fee for this efforts.
It has been reported that Brazil and India will collaborate in the promotion of quackery! Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have just signed several agreements on collaboration. Agreement 8 is particularly intriguing:
8. Memo of agreement for cooperation in Traditional Medicine and Homeopathy
We seek to promote and develop bilateral cooperation in the field of traditional medicine and homeopathy. The areas of cooperation provided for in the instrument include exchange of experience in teaching regulations, practices, medicines and non-medicine therapies; knowledge promotion, exchange of training for therapists, health professionals, scientists, teaching professionals and students; and development of joint research, besides educational and training programs.
Homeopathy, already a recognized medical specialty in Brazil, is currently offered for free by the Brazilian national healthcare system. Other so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) employed in the Brazilian healthcare system include:
- spiritual healing,
- crystal healing,
Homeopathy and acupuncture are also recognized by the Brazilian Federal Council and both are taught in the most prestigious public Universities, in medical, veterinary, public health and nursing schools.
India has gone one step further by establishing its AYUSH ministry. It registers SCAM practitioners considered ‘indigenous’ by the Indian government under a separate board. The SCAMs thus regulated are:
- Yoga and Naturopathy,
- Unani and Tibbi,
In India, practitioners are taught some of these subjects as MBBS ( Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery). The graduates are then considered to be ‘doctors’. In Brazil, homeopathy and acupuncture are practiced by medical doctors. Brazilian citizens are thus misled to believe that these SCAMs are evidence-based.
So, what this ‘bilateral co-operation’ is going to achieve? Narendra Nayak (President of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations and former Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in Mangalore) and Natalia Pasternak (President of the Instituto Questão de Ciência in São Paulo) are less than optimistic:
Exchange of ‘technology’ of so called ‘psychic surgery’ of quacks like the late José Arigo, “the surgeon with the rusty knife”, with specialists of gaumutra (urine of India’s allegedly indigenous cows) whose concoction is supposed to be a panacea for 440 diseases? Is Brazil going to export to India the peculiar surgical techniques of the “medium” John of God, recently arrested, not for years of practicing unlicensed medicine and hurting people, but for sexual harassment and rape? Don’t get the wrong message, we are very glad John of God was convicted, and very glad for the brave women who came forward, but we cannot ignore the fact that he was never bothered by the authorities for placing people under his (usually not quite clean) knife.
Since India and Brazil are leaders in sugar production, are they going to support Homeopathy? Also the use of alcohol to produce their tinctures?
Again, we wonder why India and Brazil are going for an alleged system of medicine called homeopathy which is nowhere in the mainstream in the country of its origin -Germany. And why do they embrace it while the rest of the world is pushing back against homeopathy, after several scientific papers, reviews and meta-analyses showed beyond any reasonable doubt that it doesn’t work?
Brazil and India have much in common, both are rising developing economies, with a diverse population, trying to be true to their democratic ideals. Unfortunately, another similarity comes to light: the fact that presently both our countries are governed by rulers that have shown total disregard by scientific knowledge and evidence in many of their public policy decisions.
As heads of organizations that promote science and rational thinking in Brazil and India, we regret the decision of our governments to promote quackery as a legitimate subject of an international agreement.
I feel that individuals and organisations promoting critical thinking in other parts of the world should lend their support to these two courageous people.
I have recently gone to the trouble of evaluating 150 different modalities from the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) in a book. This is what it tells you about Reiki:
Reiki is a form of paranormal or energy healing popularised by Japanese Mikao Usui (1865-1926). Rei means universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being) and ki is the assumed universal life energy.
- Reiki is based on the assumptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the existence of ‘chi’, the life-force that determines our health.
- Reiki practitioners believe that, with their hands-on healing method, they can transfer ‘healing energy’ to a patient which, in turn, stimulates the self-healing properties of the body. They assume that the therapeutic effects of this technique are obtained from a ‘universal life energy’ that provides strength, harmony, and balance to the body and mind.
- There is no scientific basis for such notions, and reiki is therefore not plausible.
- Reiki is used for a number of conditions, including the relief of stress, tension and pain.
- There have been several clinical trials testing the effectiveness of reiki. Unfortunately, their methodological quality is usually poor.
- A systematic review summarising this evidence concluded that the evidence is insufﬁcient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore, the value of reiki remains unproven. And a Cochrane review found that there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not Reiki is useful for people over 16 years of age with anxiety or depression or both.
- Reiki appears to be generally safe, and serious adverse effects have not been reported. Some practitioners advise caution about using reiki in people with psychiatric illnesses because of the risk of bringing out underlying psychopathology.
So, Reiki is both implausible and unproven. Now a new, large trial has emerged that might change this verdict. The main purpose of this study (published in JCAM) was to measure the effect of a single session of Reiki on physical and psychological health in a large nonclinical sample.
The study design was a single arm effectiveness trial with measures at pre-and postintervention. The study took place at private Reiki practices across the United States. Reiki practitioners were recruited from an online mailing list to participate in the study with their Reiki clients. A total of 99 Reiki practitioners met the inclusion criteria and participated in the study. Reiki practitioners were instructed to give a flyer to each of their Reiki clients that contained information about the study and invited the client to complete a survey before and after their Reiki session.
Trained and certified Reiki Masters conducted the Reiki sessions in person, with each session lasting between 45 and 90 min. The 20-item Positive and Negative Affect Schedule was used to assess affect, and brief, single-item self-report measures were used to assess a wide range of physical and psychological variables immediately before (pre) and after (post) the Reiki session.
A total of N = 1411 Reiki sessions were conducted and included in the analysis. Statistically significant improvements were observed for all outcome measures, including positive affect, negative affect, pain, drowsiness, tiredness, nausea, appetite, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being (all p-values <0.001).
The authors concluded that the results from this large-scale multisite effectiveness trial suggest that a single session of Reiki improves multiple variables related to physical and psychological health.
This ‘large scale’ effectiveness trial’ could make you laugh and cry at the same time.
- Laugh, because it is almost comically daft.
- Cry, because the conclusion is bound to mislead a lot of gullible people.
Without a control group, the study cannot even attempt to determine anything like the effectiveness of Reiki. What the results truly show is that consumers who consult (and pay) a Reiki master expect to have a positive effect. The expectation translates into a sizable placebo response. The investigators seem to be clueless scientists, or they wilfully mislead the public (the senior author is from the ‘The Center for Reiki Research‘ which, according to its mission statement, is dedicated to gaining acceptance for the practice of Reiki by the medical community).
The only conclusion that can honestly be drawn from the data is that consumers who pay for a serivce often like this service (otherwise they would not use it!). It’s a bit like the thing with the hamburger joint that I often cite: if you ask people eating in a McDonalds whether they enjoy hamburgers, most will answer in the affirmative.
But there might be a valuable lesson in this paper after all: never trust the JACM further than you can throw it.
The UK Reiki Federation (UKRF) is an independent organisation of individuals who have been attuned to Reiki, with the objective of providing support and guidance to Reiki professionals and to the public, with particular reference to education and training, and the public practice of Reiki. Some of their members give of their time each week to send Reiki healing to anyone who makes a request from anywhere in the world.
Each week the volunteers receive a list of those people/animals/events that have requested healing and they all collectively send positive Reiki healing to everyone on the list.
The UKRF claim that Reiki distant healing (RDH) has now been scientifically proven by Lynne McTaggart in these articles http://www.shareguide.com/McTaggart.html and https://lynnemctaggart.com/the-intention-experiment/ that healing is magnified when many healers are involved, so we are contributing an amazing vibration of positivity into our world and doing so much good, with so little effort. Imagine how brilliant it would be if even more members decided they too wanted to support other people, with minimum effort. It’s so simple just to place your hands on the list and send Reiki to everyone on it. It can be so quick if time is an issue for you and yet so powerful.
A group of UKRF members send Reiki to each other at specific times of the week. They state that we have a list of members’ names and allocated time slots in the week when we can send and receive Reiki energy to each other. The intention is to send Reiki for all the different time slots and then sit down and receive the energy whenever it is convenient for us to do so. Those members who have given me feedback all say they can feel the energy flowing during these times.
I urge you to look up the two ‘scientific proofs’ by McTaggart – I promise, you will not regret the effort. For those who might like to see real evidence for or against RDH, I ran a quick Medline search. Somewhat to my surprise, I did find a rigorous study RDH. Here is its abstract:
In this randomised, double-blinded study, women who underwent an elective C-section were allocated to either usual care (control, n=40) or three distant reiki sessions in addition to usual care (n=40). Pain was assessed using a visual analogue scale (VAS). The primary endpoint was the Area Under the VAS-Time Curve (AUC) for days 1-3. Secondary measures included: the proportion of women who required opioid medications and dose consumed, rate of healing and vital signs.
AUC for pain was not significantly different in the distant reiki and control groups (mean ± SD; 212.1 ± 104.7 vs 223.1 ± 117.8; p=0.96). There were no significant differences in opioid consumption or rate of healing; however, the distant reiki group had a significantly lower heart rate (74.3 ± 8.1 bpm vs 79.8 ± 7.9 bpm, p=0.003) and blood pressure (106.4 ± 9.7 mmHg vs 111.9 ± 11.0 mmHg, p=0.02) post surgery.
CONCLUSION: Distant reiki had no significant effect on pain following an elective C-section.
This begs at least three questions, in my view:
- Which evidence should I trust, that of McTaggart or that from what seems to be the only RCT on RDH?
- The UK Reiki Foundation state on their website: As the largest Reiki-only professional organisation in the UK and Europe we are setting the highest standard for Reiki. Is the promotion of the McTaggart ‘proof’ combined with the omission from the UKRF site of the only trial of RDH truly in accordance with the highest standards?
- Is a professional organisation that does such things really professional?
Reiki is a form of energy healing popularised by the Japanese Mikao Usui (1865-1926). ‘Rei’ means universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being), and ‘ki’ is the assumed universal life energy. Reiki is broadly based on some of the obsolete concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Reiki practitioners believe that they can transfer ‘healing energy’ to a patient which, in turn, stimulates the self-healing properties of the body. They assume that the therapeutic effects of this technique are obtained from a ‘universal life energy’ that provides strength, harmony, and balance to the body and mind.
This study (entitled ‘ The Power of Reiki’) was conducted to pilot testing the feasibility and efficacy of Reiki to provide pain relief among pediatric patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Paediatric patients undergoing HSCT during the inpatient phase in the Stem Cell Transplantation Unit were eligible to participate. Short and medium effects were assessed investigating the increase or decrease of patient’s pain during three specific time periods (“delta”) of the day: morning of the Reiki session versus assessment before Reiki session (within subjects control period), assessment before Reiki session versus assessment after Reiki session (within subjects experimental period) and assessment after Reiki session versus morning the day after Reiki session (within subject follow-up period). The effect of 88 Reiki therapy sessions in nine patients was analysed following a short, medium, and long-term perspective. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a significant difference among the three periods: a decrease of the pain occurred in the experimental period in short and medium term, while in the follow-up period, the pain level remained stable.
The authors concluded that this study demonstrates the feasibility of using Reiki therapy in pediatric cancer patients undergoing HSCT. Furthermore, these findings evidence that trained pediatric oncology nurses can insert Reiki into their clinical practice as a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood.
This is an unusual conclusion in that it is strictly speaking correct. What is wrong, however, that the abstract reports findings related to the alleged effectiveness of Reiki. A feasibility study is not designed for that purpose. I therefore suggest to ignore all allusions to therapeutic effects.
This, I think, begs the question as to why it is necessary or productive to study Reiki in clinical trials.
- The treatment is not plausible.
- There have been many trials already.
- The ones that are sufficiently rigorous fail to show that it has any effects beyond placebo.
- The medical literature is already highly polluted with Reiki studies reporting false-positive results.
- This can only confuse researchers who attempt to conduct reviews on the subject.
- Reiki studies discredit clinical research.
- They are a waste of valuable resources.
- Arguably, they are even unethical.
If you ask me, it is high time to stop researching such implausible nonsense.