Respectful Insolence

Tactical air support against reiki in trauma

About a week ago, I wrote about how the wooiest of woo, reiki, has infiltrated one of the best academic trauma centers in the U.S. In it, I lamented that I was feeling increasingly alone in being disturbed by this infiltration of religious pseudoscience into bastions of scientific medicine.

Fortunately for me, Dr. RW is as dismayed as I am:

Out here in the hinterlands I can only wonder what’s going on in academic medicine these days. Is there anyone there for whom the standards of science mean anything at all? Well, there must be. There are plenty of people who teach and write about evidence based medicine. And how about the rising chorus of voices calling for the purging from academic medicine of the biased influence of drug companies? They claim to stand for scientific purity, so why do they (with the notable exception of Arnold Relman) remain silent about woo?

I mention Dr. RW’s support for two reasons. First, it’s always good to be told that I’m not alone. Second, it will serve as a nice little introduction to a post that I plan to do in a day or two.

More tomorrow or Wednesday.

Comments

  1. #1 Dangerous Bacon
    October 15, 2007

    “They claim to stand for scientific purity, so why do they (with the notable exception of Arnold Relman) remain silent about woo?”

    Sorry, but this is the same sort of tu quoque fallacy used by alties, only turned around. The altie equivalent is trying to dismiss concerns about supplement dangers and false claims by saying “Well, why aren’t you talking about drug recalls and other problems with Big Pharma?”.

    It’s ethically acceptable to focus one’s efforts in either of these areas.

  2. #2 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    October 15, 2007

    Purity of Essence
    Peace On Earth

  3. #3 Coin
    October 15, 2007

    I’m still finding it kind of jarring to see people talking about Reiki in anything except a religious context.

    The only people I’ve ever encountered IRL who took Reiki seriously viewed it specifically as something that only made sense within the context of the larger religion that community happened to hold… and actually, whatever branch of Reiki that they were working from had as one of the rules that you weren’t allowed to learn it unless you agreed never to perform the technique in exchange for money. Somehow I doubt that whoever’s being brought in by the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center follows this rule.

  4. #4 Robert W. Donnell
    October 15, 2007

    Dangerous Bacon said:

    “They claim to stand for scientific purity, so why do they (with the notable exception of Arnold Relman) remain silent about woo?”

    Sorry, but this is the same sort of tu quoque fallacy used by alties, only turned around. The altie equivalent is trying to dismiss concerns about supplement dangers and false claims by saying “Well, why aren’t you talking about drug recalls and other problems with Big Pharma?”.

    It’s ethically acceptable to focus one’s efforts in either of these areas.

    Reply:

    Let’s clear up a little misunderstanding. It’s not my intention to dismiss critics of Big Pharma. They make valid arguments. Moreover I respect anyone’s decision to narrow the focus of their concerns.

    I also believe it is ethically acceptable to call out inconsistency. Some who criticize Big Pharma in the name of “scientific integrity” are disingenuous. They are driven by corporate hatred and other agendas.

    My other point is that I wish the many critics of Big Pharma who really *are* sincere in their desire to defend evidence based medicine would join me and take a stand against woo, too.

  5. #5 Orac
    October 15, 2007

    There’s another difference. A lot of the anticorporate folks who quite correctly call out big pharma when it abuses science or starts selling non-evidence-based remedies like supplements don’t just ignore woo; they actively embrace it whole-heartedly. AMSA is one example. It touts its “Pharm-Free Day,” while at the same time it actively promotes the adoption of non-evidence-based alternative (or, as it puts it, “humanistic”) medicine in both medical school curriculae and in the alternative medicine retreats that it sponsors for medical students.

    It’s more than an inconsistency in emphasis; it’s correctly chastising corporate woo on the one hand while actively embracing what it perceives as “humanistic medicine” (which is in reality nothing more than non-evidence-based woo in all to many cases).

  6. #6 Dangerous Bacon
    October 15, 2007

    I’m perfectly happy about calling out inconsistency in an article or web posting. And I’m well aware how disingenous many critics of pharmaceutical companies are.

    I’m also tired of calling attention to problems with specific alternative therapies, only to have alt medders come back with “What about Vioxx? What about medical mistakes killing MILLIONS? How come you don’t talk about THAT?!?!?”

    I don’t care to employ similar tactics, even against people who obviously are selecting targets based on irrational agendas.

  7. #7 AnnR
    October 15, 2007

    Hospitals are one of the major employers in Baltimore city.

    Now I don’t know that people who end up at the Shock trauma Unit give the helicopter crew instructions to take them to this hospital or that, but the article did get their name in the paper.

    They’re always trolling for patients. If hocus-pocus after your trauma brings people in then they’ll promote it.

  8. #8 Freddy the Pig
    October 16, 2007

    “you weren’t allowed to learn it unless you agreed never to perform the technique in exchange for money” – I know a Reiki Master and I think the opposite is usually the case past Level 1 – an exchange must take place – the idea that if you give something away it won’t be valued.

    I don’t know how much you have investigated Reiki (looking too far into it will make your head hurt). Reiki “energy” is supposed to know where to go so why does administering it require any training? It shouldn’t matter whether you wave your hands over someones head or their feet. However, there is a catch – you have get your chakra’s attuned by a Reiki practioner before you can do it which makes it a king of network marketing scheme. This of course leads to the question – Who the hell attuned the guy who invented Reiki?

    Also, since Reiki can be done at a distance and knows where to go and what to do, why is a Reiki practioner required in the trauma center? The Rieki master could just sit at home an blast the stuff out willy nilly. This would also have the benifit of not irritating the skeptics. If I woke up to some woohead waving their hands over me, I would not be responsible for my actions.

  9. #9 Brian
    October 16, 2007

    Dangerous Bacon,

    I believe you may have misinterpreted the quote. My understanding is that he poses a question (“Is there anyone there for whom the standards of science mean anything at all?”), then answers that question (“Well there must be.”), and follows that answer with reasons he believes that answer is true (“There are plenty of people who teach and write about evidence based medicine. And how about the rising chorus of voices calling for the purging from academic medicine of the biased influence of drug companies?”). The paragraph then concludes by asking why the voices for evidence-based medicine remain relatively silent on alternative medicine.

    I fail to see a tu quoque there.

  10. #10 Sastra
    October 16, 2007

    …”humanistic medicine” (which is in reality nothing more than non-evidence-based woo in all to many cases).

    “Humanistic medicine?” Humanistic medicine?? Oh great.

    “Humanism” or “secular humanism” today is unabashedly anti-woo, an approach to reality based on reason and science. It rejects the supernatural because the evidence isn’t good enough. Its tentacles reach deep into what’s called the skeptic movement.

    This is only going to be confusing. Why the heck couldn’t they call it “Spiritual Medicine?” That’s much more accurate, and it’s not as if the crowd which goes for this stuff is going to be turned off by the word “spiritual.”

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