Sunday, 31 July 2011

£200k of lottery money spent on Reiki like therapy in West Midlands Hospital a waste of time and money

Back in February I reported on a BBC story claiming that ‘a third of NHS trusts still offer homeopathy despite there being no scientific evidence for its effectiveness’. I laid out a checklist for Christians for assessing complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies.

Today, Archbishop Cranmer (aka ‘His Grace’), has drawn my attention to a story in the Mail on Sunday, '"Voodoo" row as the Lottery gives £200k to spiritual healers available on NHS', reporting on a research project into a controversial form of ‘alternative medicine’ being carried out in a West Midlands Hospital.

Three healers at Good Hope are apparently recruiting 200 patients suffering from bowel conditions. These healers then pass their hands over the patients' bodies to channel 'healing energy' to affected areas in 20-minute sessions designed to see whether the treatment relieves discomfort.

A Big Lottery Fund grant for the two-year study was awarded to healing charity ‘Fresh Winds’, which is working with Birmingham University and the NHS Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.

Advocates say the energy works 'like a gentle set of jump leads' and can alleviate pain. But critics say the healing has no scientific basis and money raised through the Lottery should not be used to promote alternative medicine when the NHS is squeezed for cash.

One patient at Good Hope is reported as refusing to join the trial. 'How a person running their hands over you can make a difference, I really don't know,' she said. 'I think there is a certain amount of pandering to people's desperation. The healing appears to be based on the Buddhist spiritual practice of Reiki, which is ironic when Christian doctors and nurses are warned about praying for their patients.'

She is referring to the case of Caroline Petrie, a Christian nurse who was suspended from her job for offering to pray for an elderly patient's recovery from illness.

Simon Singh, the author of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, has said: 'The £200,000 should have been spent on much better causes. There is no worthwhile evidence at all that spiritual healing works in any way, shape or form other than the placebo effect – when the patient feels better just because they are getting some attention. To use Lottery money on this is to introduce voodoo into our health service. It is genuinely tragic to spend money this way when there are so many real medical questions that need answering.'

Simon Singh's co-author Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, added: 'It makes a mockery of evidence-based medicine to put public money into this.'

Reiki is an increasingly popular ‘therapy’ recommended for a variety of acute and chronic conditions. Developed in the late 19th century, it is characterised by the laying on of hands, and based on an ancient Buddhist healing technique. Like other alternative therapies with New Age associations, it involves belief in an invisible life force that generates self-healing.

Reiki has no credible scientific basis and there is no evidence for its efficacy in controlled trials. Although posing little medical danger, apart from causing delay in orthodox diagnosis and treatment, its spiritual roots and lack of evidence-base should ring loud alarm bells.

Two major reviews have recently been published looking at Reiki’s effectiveness.

The first, ‘Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials’, was published in 2008 and concluded that ‘the evidence is insufficient to suggest that Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition’.

The second, 'A systematic review of the therapeutic effects of Reiki', in 2009, drew the conclusion that ‘the serious methodological and reporting limitations of limited existing Reiki studies preclude a definitive conclusion on its effectiveness’.

But as well as having no proven benefit, Reiki’s spiritual roots should also ring alarm bells for Christians. A review in the CMF Journal Triple Helix concluded:

‘Reiki claims to be a spiritual path leading to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual attunement, harmony, good health and happiness. As a holistic therapy with Buddhist roots, it clearly has serious spiritual implications but does not and cannot supply answers for the basic spiritual sicknesses of mankind such as sin, guilt, fear and the need for forgiveness and salvation.’

In other words there is not only no evidence that it actually works. It is also spiritually unsound. Two good reasons to stay away from it!

For both reasons Reiki is what medics call a ‘WOTAM’ therapy – a ‘waste of time and money’.

16 comments:

  1. john lewington31 July 2011 at 15:51

    i'm sorry, but how can you say its a waste of time and money? reiki does work for some people, even if it is a placebo effect. you have people who try to cure there ills with praying, and that doesn't have any scientific proof, but thats seems ok does it? this artical is just biased and offensive to those who have the belief of reiki and other alternitive therapiesi'm sorry, but how can you say its a waste of time and money? reiki does work for some people, even if it is a placebo effect. you have people who try to cure there ills with praying, and that doesn't have any scientific proof, but thats seems ok does it? this artical is just biased and offensive to those who have the belief of reiki and other alternitive therapies

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  2. @john lewington

    You will refuse to understand this, but when you say

    "reiki does work for some people, even if it is a placebo effect."

    that means reiki doesn't work - that's what "placebo" means...

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  3. Dear @john lewington,

    Rieki is a waste of time and money because it is based on a world-view that is fundamentally flawed and because there is no evidence that it actually works. There may indeed be a placebo effect as there is equally for sprinkling fairy dust but we should not be providing therapies that are no more effective than placebo on the NHS. As for prayer, leaving aside completely the question of whether it is effective or not, it costs nothing and you don't have to be a 'trained therapist' to use it.

    Peter

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  4. John Lewington makes a good point, however. Getting someone to do Reiki on you is like asking them to pray for you, no? As long as the "therapist" is not charging, what's the big deal? I would not pay anyone to do it, though.

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  5. I was a Reiki Master for many years before becoming a Christian. I'm better now! If I explain a practice that involves chanting over someone, drawing symbols over them and using spirit guides,you would think I was talking about witchcraft, but no. This is what Reiki is. Wake up people. What seems harmless can be causing a lot of damage.

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  8. guides,you ibcbetwould think I was talking about witchcraft, but no. This is what Reiki is. Wake up people. What seems harmless can be causing a lot ibc of damage

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  9. Back in February I reported on a BBC story claiming that ‘a third of NHS trusts still offer homeopathy despite there being no scientific evidence for its effectiveness’. I laid out a checklist for Christians for assessing complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies Liz Woods

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  11. It was the healing miracles of Jesus that inspired Mikao Usui to develop the healing system we now call Reiki. The assertion above that Reiki is a Buddhist practice is incorrect. Yes Usui found the 'formula' for his healing system in a Buddhist text, but the healing system he developed does not require people to be Buddhist - or be of any particular faith. I have taught people of different religions: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh - none of them had a problem integrating Reiki with their own faith. Indeed many found that it enhanced their faith. Pope John Paul II received Reiki. Usui wanted this healing to be available to as many people as possible, therefore no requirement of belief is included. The person receiving Reiki does not even need to believe it will do anything (but they must be willing to receive it).

    Regarding the placebo effect: animals also become more relaxed and seem to benefit from Reiki. You can't get a horse or a dog to believe this is going to be good for them! So that shows me that there's more to Reiki than the placebo (quite apart from my own experience and that of the many people I've treated).

    There is also some research now which shows some effectiveness for Reiki. e.g. one study showing it improved heart rate variability (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21821642) Another showed lasting improvement for people with diagnosed depression. I grant that these studies are not large enough sample groups to be robust evidence, but what I'm saying is that the evidence is not all as presented above.

    What many people experience when receiving Reiki is a reduction in their stress. Many people find they sleep better. Yes this could simply be due to the fact that they are being touched and held in a positive therapeutic relationship (there's scientific evidence that this helps people heal). I believe from my own experience (over 20 years practice) that there's more to it than that, but I understand that some people find that hard to believe. Whatever the reason a reduction is stress does lead to improved mood and better health.

    ReplyDelete
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  13. Peter, your article is poorly informed as to the origins and timing of the developement of Reiki. It is not based in a Buddist healing technique, and has no affiliation to any religion. In fact it was a practising christian, Chujiro Hayashi, who was responsible for its spread out of Japan into the western world, though his religious beliefs have no significance to anything. You are invalidating something that you clearly have little knowledge of, based on a claim of no scientific evidence. I will pass on the words of a woman I gave reiki to who had cancer.."I don't know how it works,, I don't need to. This is the first time in over a year that I am without any pain. Thank you."

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