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University of Maryland Medical Center-Are you that naive?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 8, 2009

This bit of news that has been picked up by major news outlets such as the Seattle Times and is troubling beyond belief.

At one of the nation’s top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient’s bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that mix with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive.

They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Dr. Richard Dutton, calls it “mystical mumbo jumbo.” Still, he’s a fan.

“It’s self-hypnosis” that can help patients relax, he said. “If you tell yourself you have less pain, you actually do have less pain.”

True, but aren’t you in fact endorsing a fake therapy in the eyes of the patient and the public? Why the University of Maryland Medical Center offers it, so it must work. People are not going in there getting reiki, feeling better, and walking out thinking ” wow that placebo effect I got from the fake treatment known as reiki was great!”. They come out of there thinking “Wow that reiki is great, I don’t know what I would have done without it. It works!“, and then they’ll go on to accept all the claims that are made in the name of reiki.

Really Dr. Dutton? Are you really that naive or short sighted? Don’t you think that your job as a doctor includes dispensing good, sound information? Don’t you think your job should be more than just making the patient feel better right there and then, regardless of what that might mean for the patient further down the road? I find this attitude quite incredible!

Thank goodness the journalist reporting this troublesome bit of news, does not stop there, but goes on to point out how dangerous these so-called natural, alternative medicines are.

Dietary supplements do not have to be proved safe or effective before they can be sold. Some contain natural things you might not want, such as lead and arsenic. Some interfere with other things you may be taking, such as birth control pills.

“Herbals are medicines,” with good and bad effects, said Bruce Silverglade of the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Contrary to their little-guy image, many of these products are made by big businesses. Ingredients and their countries of origin are a mystery to consumers. They are marketed in ways that manipulate emotions, just like ads for hot cars and cool clothes. Some make claims that average people can’t parse as proof of effectiveness or blather, like “restores cell-to-cell communication.”

Even therapies that may help certain conditions, such as acupuncture, are being touted for uses beyond their evidence.

An Associated Press review of dozens of studies and interviews with more than 100 sources found an underground medical system operating in plain sight, with a different standard than the rest of medical care, and millions of people using it on blind faith.

How did things get this way?

Ten years ago, Congress created a new federal agency to study supplements and unconventional therapies. But more than $2.5 billion of tax-financed research has not found any cures or major treatment advances, aside from certain uses for acupuncture and ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea. If anything, evidence has mounted that many of these pills and therapies lack value.

Yet they are finding ever-wider use:


“In testing, one out of four supplements has a problem,” said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of, an independent company that rates such products.

Even when the ingredients aren’t risky, spending money for a product with no proven benefit is no small harm when the economy is bad and people can’t afford health insurance or healthy food.

But sometimes the cost is far greater. Cancer patients can lose their only chance of beating the disease by gambling on unproven treatments. People with clogged arteries can suffer a heart attack. Children can be harmed by unproven therapies forced on them by parents who distrust conventional medicine.


The truth is, supplements lack proof of safety or benefit. Asked to take a drug under those terms, “most of us would say ‘no,'” Allen said. “When it says ‘natural,’ the perception is there is no harm. And that is just not true.”

Now this is what I call good reporting. Well done Marilynn Marchione.


2 Responses

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  1. Brian said, on June 16, 2009 at 3:54 AM

    Thanks for a great acticle, I will pass this on to my patients…

    • Skepdude said, on June 16, 2009 at 10:31 AM

      BS, I’m onto you people that do this “nice article” comment thingie to promote your sites. The hyperlink to your website has been removed. If you don’t have a real comment to leave, don’t even try to be cute. You comment will be deleted.

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