Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Suggestion to researchers running studies on acupuncture

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 22, 2009

What can researchers that study acupuncture do to make their studies even more reliable? In the last entry, I linked to a study that used non-penetrating needles, which even the practitioners were not able to distinguish from the penetrating ones, thus effectively double blinding (or so they claim) the study. Except that the people knew, or thought, that they were getting acupuncture, so the comparison with the no-acupuncture group was meaningless. The next step would be to somehow blind people from the treatment they were getting. How can one achieve this? I mean to put forward a suggestion for consideration. Someone more knowledgeable with the rules should tell me if there are any ethical or practical issues here. So here goes my suggestion:

Give people the acupuncture, fake acupuncture, or no acupuncture treatments while they are asleep! Elementary Watson (And I don’t mean Rebecca Watson)!

That way people really do not know if they got treatment at all (they’re asleep you see), and the people sticking the needles have no way of influencing the subjects in any way possible, since they would come in when the subject is asleep, provide their treatment, and walk away while the subject is still asleep.

The hard part is how do you get people to sleep when we want them to? This is where I stop as I don’t have enough expertise. My naive suggestion would be sleeping pills or general anesthesia (which would probably be an issue given that it does  carry certain risks, so it may be a show stopper).

Nevertheless, if this could be done, I predict that there would be no statistical differences between the acupuncture, fake acupuncture and no acupuncture group, thus settling this issue once and forever (well not really, we know how these beliefs go, no amount of evidence will change the mind of the true believer!).

Any comments?

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