In the UK there is a national Lottery that, for every £1 that the public spends on Lottery tickets, 28 pence goes to the Lottery good causes. How do they define “good causes”? Well, these are the arts, charities and voluntary groups, heritage, health, education, the environment and sports. OK, so far that sounds great.
OK yes, you can tell there is a WTF moment coming up because I’m blogging about this, and indeed yes there is, so brace yourselves.
The National Lottery has awarded a £205,000 grant for the two-year study to healing charity “Fresh Winds”. Basically NHS patients will be offered a treatment where a healer will pass their hands over the patient’s body to channel ‘healing energy’ to affected areas in 20-minute sessions to correct energy flow imbalances …WTF (Well I did warn you) … As for this being actual value for money, this is more or less akin to taking the entire pile of cash into the car park and setting fire to it. The evidence that this will be anything other than a placebo is zero.
- Daily Mail story is here.
- India Times story is here.
- University of Birmingham announcement here.
- Similar announcement on the FreshWinds website here (you can also surf here to appreciate how kooky FreshWinds are)
On the FreshWinds site I note that they claim it is a “Study” and that they are conducting “Research”, but you can be sure will not include any proper double-blind controls.
Now lets be 100% clear here, they talk about correcting energy flow, but do not define what that actually is. Energy is (in our normal universe) a word that is used to describe measurable well understood physical things such as sound, light, heat and electricity. Usage beyond that is a gross abuse of the word. Terms such as negative energy, chi energy, aura, psi or just a plain old energy-field do not describe anything real or measurable and have no meaning. Such usage is most commonly found within the context of the paranormal or alternative medicine as we have here, so when detected like this you should calibrate your bullshit meter to start buzzing very loudly.
If you want an honest unbiased assessment, then Professor Edzard Ernst has a paper here within the Journal of Pain and Symptom management (Nov 2006), in which he writes :
the clinical evidence does not suggest that spiritual healing is an effective means of symptom management. A systematic review of 23 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of spiritual healing for any type of condition initially documented that the majority of these studies were positive but stated that “the methodological limitations of several studies make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.” An update of this systematic review found 17 further studies, including 9 RCTs, and concluded that “the majority of the rigorous trials do not support the hypothesis that distant healing has specific therapeutic effects.” Recent studies have been more rigorous and failed to demonstrate significant effects. In one such trial, patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer experienced a higher complication rate after bypass surgery.
Regardless of the increasingly negative evidence, healing continues to be promoted.
Our good friend and public skeptic Simon Singh, also has the following observation regarding this lottery funding:
The 200,000 pounds 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.”
It all leaves me wondering what comes next, perhaps sugar pills that do nothing at all but are claimed to cure anything, or magic incantations … Oh wait, we already have all this on the NHS. The first is called Homeopathy, and for the second we have hospital chaplains.