Richmond Adult Community College Teaching Reiki Nonsense – A Letter

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing over some concerns I have that RACC is holding Reiki courses.

My first concern is with the unscientific nature of reiki and the way in which its unsupported claims are advertised in your syllabus.

There is, for instance, no evidence that ki (chi) or any “life energy” exists in the human body. In fact one of the most famous series of tests, carried out by a young girl, showed that Touch Therapists (they also believe that humans have some kind of energy field) were unable to detect the presence of a field 56% of the time [1]. That’s worse than we would expect them to do through random guessing alone.

There’s also the issue that the feeling of well-being one experiences after a reiki treatment can be induced by a sham reiki treatment – that is one where the “reiki healer” knows nothing of reiki, nor do they try to influence the patients energy field, yet the patient still reports outcomes such as a reduction in pain[2]. This is due to the placebo effect and is found in various sham treatments such as chiropractic, homeopathy, intercessory prayer and other alternative medicines.

My final and most important concern is that the use of alternative medicines can sometimes lead to people avoiding conventional, proven treatment. Perhaps the most concerning and heartbreaking case was that of Penelope Dingle, an Australian woman who died from metastatic rectal cancer in 2005 after refusing conventional treatment at the suggestion of her homeopath[3], who is being sued[4].

Before her death Penelope wrote a letter to her homeopath[5] which I think illustrates how a vulnerable person can be manipulated by sometimes well meaning but ultimately harmful people and their beliefs.

The coroners report on Mrs Dingle’s death is also quite damning[6].

I hope the college will seriously consider whether it should be the kind of place that encourages pseudo-scientific and potentially dangerous nonsense. I understand that reiki can have positive effects on a person, but such effects can be sought through other health regimes that would not have such potential for misuse.

To quote Tim Minchin: “Alternative medicine that has been proven to work is just called medicine”

Yours sincerely,

James Smith.

[1] http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=187390#qundefined
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21531671
[3] http://steelclaws.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/who-was-penelope-dingle-and-why-what-happened-to-her-matters/
[4] http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/13310801/woman-sues-homeopath-over-sisters-cancer-death/
[5] http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2011/s3260776.htm
[6] www.homeowatch.org/news/dingle_finding.pdf

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