Wellington’s Healing Touch

I was interested to read a recent article in the NZ Skeptic on Healing Touch, as I am a consultant anaesthetist at Wellington Hospital.

When I heard this “service” was to be offered to our patients, I immediately protested to CEO Leo Mercer.

During discussion he was unhappy with what he saw as my unnecessarily adversarial stance, and felt my offer to go to the police fraud squad was not a constructive approach.

My response to him was that there was absolutely no evidence that this was a proven form of healing. He replied the personal interaction between a nurse and her patient was a vital element in promoting the patient’s welfare and recovery.

I asked why dress it up in some kind of unproven mumbo jumbo, and turn it into something mystical. I also said that if this interaction had a spiritual basis, the nursing service was promoting religion, and not science or medicine, and was therefore misusing public funds.

In reply to that he asked whether I was calling for the withdrawal of the hospital chaplaincy service, which is also at least partially funded out of taxation. I said the chaplains were employed for their religious role, and no matter who funded it, they do not pretend to be anything else. Nurses are not employed as spiritual, magical, or religious advisers, and should not take on that role.

He said much of the practice of medicine has not been proven nor subjected to formal trial or analysis, a stance I agree with. However, the failings of medicine do not defend Healing Touch or anything else. What they call for is more and better scientific research in medicine, not the acceptance of anything else.

Dr Mercer agreed to raise my concerns with the senior nurses. Nothing has happened. The courses continue, and recently a seminar on the evidence supporting the energy basis of Healing Touch was offered.

Dr Mercer has now gone the way of all hospital CEOs – away from the hospital to somewhere, anywhere, else.

But the Healers Touch on.

Graham Sharpe, Consultant Anaesthetist

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