This year’s Bent Spoon Award from the NZ Skeptics has been won by Wellington Hospital for encouraging their nursing staff to claim special healing powers through the laying on of hands.

Frankly, I would be dismayed to be treated by a doctor or hospital who doesn’t recognise the important ethical or professional questions here – delusion or deception is not an acceptable basis for something which is given an approving nod by a publicly funded hospital,”says Skeptic Chair Vicki Hyde.

The Skeptics recognise that, like any form of extra caring or positive interaction from a basic smile to a relaxing massage, such “healing” or “therapeutic” touch may well make patients feel better. But they contend Wellington Hospital has stepped over the mark by trying to take advantage of a common psychological reaction and dress it up as some form of special treatment when it is not.

“Anecdotal stories and formal reports all identify a profound, disturbing lack of basic patient management and care at many of our larger hospitals, so it is particularly sad to see valuable nursing time taken up with this sort of deception, however well-meaning.”

The quest for evidence was a feature of those winning Bravo Awards from the Skeptics this year.

One such award has gone to the New Zealand Association of Rationalists & Humanists for issuing a challenge to visiting Australian Ellen Greve, aka Jasmuheen. Greve claimed not to have eaten for the last five years, feeding instead from an inner light within her deeply spiritual self.

The Skeptics have also applauded:

  • Michelle Hollis of Consumer for her June 2000 item on how to assess medical claims
  • Matt Philp, for his God’s Classroom item that ran in the Listener (April 22, 2000) examining the varying attitudes in the creationism-evolution debate and whether it is an appropriate debating point in this country’s science classrooms
  • Kim Hill, of National Radio’s Nine to Noon Programme

This year’s nomination mentioned in particular her well-balanced and informed interview of John Read, Director of Scientific Affairs of the NZ Psychological Society and vehemently outspoken critic of Dr Elizabeth Loftus and the latter’s research suggested that repressed memory is not supported by evidence.

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