The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dr. Oz and the new bioenergy therapies

On January 6, 2010, Dr. Oz endorsed Reiki on his show as something all Americans should try in the coming year as part of their health care regimen. And now he is endorsing Dr. Issam Nemeh, a former anasthesiologist turned acupuncturist who helps people heal by praying over them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the show on Reiki caused a fellow doctor to write that Dr. Oz has "gone over to the dark side", abandoning sound medical principles in favour of promoting woo-woo. But has he really?

Reiki and its cousin Therapeutic Touch have been gaining increasing acceptance in hospitals as "adjunctive therapies", or as therapies that can help patients navigate their hospital experience with greater ease and comfort. Reiki and TT have been shown to reduce pain and anxiety and to speed recovery from surgery and other hospital procedures. In current practice Reiki and Therapeutic Touch complement orthodox medicine as nurses complement doctors.

Healers such as Dr. Issam Nemeh who pray over patients also complement medical practice by adding a spiritual element and offering comfort. And if it so happens that in a number of these cases a miracle, or a spontaneous remission, occurs, in what way can that be construed as harmful, either to the patient or to the medical profession? You could say that Dr. Nemeh complements the work of other physicians as a chaplain would, although he seems to be rather more successful at healing than your average chaplain.

In a radio interview on WDOK radio Dr. Oz spoke of being impressed with Dr. Nemeh's sincerity, and of considering that sincerity as being more important than results. Dr. Oz is eminently practical: from this practical perspective if something can help a patient along a healing journey, as for instance Reiki in the operating room, then that something should be made available and not be discounted because it's not part of the orthodox or accepted medical route. At the same time, his position is that he would not send a patient with lung cancer to Dr. Nemeh to be cured solely by prayer. Prayer, like Reiki, is adjunctive.

But now there are energy therapies coming up on the horizon that go beyond being merely adjunctive to orthodox medicine and its standardized toolkit of drugs, surgery and radiation.

Dr. Larry Dossey, author of numerous books on alternative medicine, speaks of there being three "Eras" in medicine. Era I is "mechanical medicine", or the traditional medical practices that treat the body as a biochemical machine. Era II is "mind-body medicine" that recognizes the importance of psychology and practices such as meditation in creating well-being. Era III medicine is "non-local" or "consciousness based", which would be where Reiki and Dr. Nemeh fit in.

In describing Era III medicine Dr. Dossey proposes that
consciousness is not confined to one's individual body. Nonlocal mind -- mind that is boundless and unlimited -- is the hallmark of Era III. An individual's mind may affect not just his or her body, but the body of another person at a distance, even when that distant individual is unaware of the effort. You can think of Era II as illustrating the personal effects of consciousness and Era III as illustrating the transpersonal effects of the mind.
In Era III medicine the mind or consciousness of one person can heal the body of another.

In Dr. Dossey's view these three "medicines" will coexist peacefully for the benefit of patients and humankind. But it is my opinion that in this future of peaceful coexistence doctors may have stop relegating energy medicine into an adjunctive role to drugs and surgery. The new energy therapies are on their way to being powerful enough entirely on their own. Dr. Bengston, for instance, insists on patients being under a doctor's care while receiving energy treatment, but sees his therapy as a stand-alone proposition and speaks of chemotherapy and radiation as being hindrances to its effectiveness. The Domancic Method also works with physicians, and views them as being essential for the diagnosis and monitoring of patients, but sees their chief role as providing diagnosis, not treatment. In Era III medicine doctor and energy healer work as equal partners.

I wonder how the doctors critical of Dr. Oz's endorsement of Reiki would feel about that proposition. Here is my message to some of them: An Open Letter to Oncologists.

Postscript: Here is a video on the Domancic Method:

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