Reiki: Fraudulent Misrepresentation


The Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic sells reiki treatments (also here) to patients with cancer, fertility issues, Parkinson’s Disease and digestive problems, as well as other diseases and conditions. The Center’s website ad describes reiki as

a form of hands-on, natural healing that uses universal life force energy . . . [a] vital life force energy that flows through all living things. This gentle energy is limitless in abundance and is believed to be a spiritual form of energy. The Reiki practitioner is the conduit between you and the source of the universal life force energy. . . You may experience the energy as sensations such as heat, tingling, or pulsing where the practitioner places her hands on your body, or you may feel these sensations move through your body to other locations. This is the energy flowing into you.

This “universal life force energy” is described as having certain positive effects on one’s own energy, such as “energetically balancing” one physically, replenishing one’s supply of energy, improving distribution of that energy in the body, and dissolving “energy blockages.” It also increases one’s “vibrational frequencies,” although how these frequencies relate to one’s energy, or to anything else for that matter, is not made clear.

The Center claims that reiki has specific medical benefits. These include:

  • Lessening symptoms and side effects of traditional treatments
  • Success in all types of physical healing
  • Detoxifying the body
  • Pain relief
  • Stimulating bone and tissue healing after injury or surgery
  • Stimulating the body’s immune system

If you are in good health, the Center recommends monthly reiki treatments to “enhance your ability to respond to unhealthy elements in your environment and help you to handle stress.”

For those of you not familiar with the Cleveland Clinic, it is a top ranked (and here) U.S. hospital, although it has experienced some difficulties of late. According to its website:

All health information posted on the site is based on the latest research and national treatment standards, and have been written or reviewed and approved by Cleveland Clinic physicians or health professionals unless otherwise specified.

The website is HonCode certified.

The Cleveland Clinic is not the only hospital selling reiki to patients. According to a recent article in the Washington Post:

More than 60 U.S. hospitals have adopted Reiki as part of patient services, according to a UCLA study, and Reiki education is offered at 800 hospitals.

The Cleveland Clinic touts this popularity as a selling point for reiki:

Its popularity has spread all over the world, and is now used in many medical facilities, such as hospitals and hospices.

Which brings up an interesting question: Could a medical facility’s selling reiki to the public give rise to an individual or class action lawsuit for fraud? If so, then hospitals and other health care facilities are needlessly subjecting themselves to liability, something they generally go to great strides to avoid.

Homeopathy could serve as a cautionary tale for the hospital industry. Numerous class actions based on fraud, as well as consumer protection laws, have been filed against homeopathic remedy manufacturers in the last several years. (Class actions can aggregate many small claims of financial loss for plaintiffs unlikely to bring individual suits.) To my knowledge, all of these have settled, costing the companies millions of dollars. One manufacturer has decided to opt out of the American and Canadian markets because of liability concerns. Homeopathic products are still very much on the shelves but, then again, homeopathic remedy companies seem fairly shameless. I would think that medical facilities, which trade on their reputations for excellence in patient care, have a lot more to fear from a suit for fraudulent misrepresentation.

I wrote about CAM and fraud a couple of years ago, but it is a subject worth revisiting. As we’ve seen, the mere lack of scientific plausibility, evidence of effectiveness or collateral damage doesn’t appear to penetrate the mindset of those who engage in CAM promotion. Perhaps the unseemly optics of being a defendant in an action for fraud, plus the possible financial impact, could chill the passion for integrating pseudoscience into otherwise respectable medical organizations.

The law of fraudulent misrepresentation

What is fraud? It can take a number of forms: tort, contract, criminal. The concept has been incorporated into several specialized state and federal laws, such as deceptive trade practices, consumer protection and securities laws. Here, we are discussing what is known as the tort of fraudulent misrepresentation, also called deceit. Fraud is a very old concept adopted in America from the English legal system when it became an independent country with its own system of laws. While the law of fraudulent misrepresentation varies in some respects from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, here we’ll use a general statement of its elements from the Restatement 2d of Torts. (The Restatement is sort of “best practices” guide to certain areas of the law composed by experts in the field.)

If you want to successfully sue someone for fraudulent misrepresentation, you have to prove certain defined elements of that tort. Let’s imagine a hypothetical case in which the plaintiff is a cancer patient who receives ongoing treatment at a certain hospital. In our discussion, we’ll assume that the patient has seen the hospital’s website advertisement for reiki and that it contains the same information as the Cleveland Clinic’s ad. The patient has decided to purchase a session with one of the hospital’s integrative medicine center’s practitioners. We’ll also assume that the information given to our cancer patient in person is the same as, or at least not inconsistent with, the information in the ad.

Here’s what the patient will have to prove to win his case against the hospital:

  1. The hospital fraudulently made a misrepresentation of fact or opinion.
  2. The hospital intended to induce the patient to purchase a reiki session.
  3. The patient acted in justifiable reliance on the misrepresentation.
  4. Pecuniary damage to the patient resulting from his reliance.

Let’s get a few of these out of the way right off the bat. The hospital obviously intends that the patient rely on its advertisement for reiki in purchasing its services, that is, it “intends to induce plaintiff to act.” And, to the extent the patient paid for those services, the patient has suffered damages, even though the amount may be small. The hospital would also be liable for any physical harm caused by reiki. As reiki has no known ill effects, a fact that undercuts its very credibility as a treatment, we can safely assume physical harm won’t be an issue.

(Although it would certainly make for an amusing case if the patient claimed that reiki actually messed up his “energy distribution,” thereby making him even more ill. How would the hospital defend against that? Would it put on evidence that this energy doesn’t exist and can’t cause any harm, thus proving the patient’s case for misrepresentation?)

Misrepresentation of facts

To recap, here’s what the patient is told: During reiki, a practitioner receives energy from a source, then proceeds to replenish the patient’s own energy and/or manipulate the patient’s energy by causing it to move through the body. The practitioner can also unblock energy to facilitate its proper flow. Objective evidence that energy is flowing may be felt by the patient in the form of heat, tingling or pulsing. Treatment effects are both a positive effect on the body’s energy itself and specific improvements in the patient’s medical condition, such as stimulation of bone and tissue healing after injury or surgery, an unspecified “success” in physical healing and “detoxifying” the body.

Here is what we actually know about reiki:

  • There is no evidence that this “energy” exists or that it’s putative deficit or suboptimal movement is detrimental to health.
  • Physical effects such as tingling must be attributed to some other phenomena.
  • Reiki is ineffective, although it may evoke some sort of placebo response.
  • Detoxification” and “boosting the immune system,” are bogus.

So, yes, there are misrepresentations in the ad.

Even if the hospital were to argue that the statements are in fact true and that there was some evidence (no matter how poor) in support of the ad’s claims, we can still characterize the ad as misleading.

A statement containing a half-truth may be as misleading as a statement wholly false. Thus, a statement that contains only favorable matters and omits all reference to unfavorable matters is as much a false represention as if all the facts stated were untrue.

Restatement 2d of Torts, Sec. 529, comment a.

To avoid characterization as misleading, the ad should, at the very least, inform the patient of reiki’s lack of plausibility and the extremely poor quality of the evidence supporting its use. Even at that, it might not pass muster.

Are these misrepresentations fraudulent?

Whether a misrepresentation is fraudulent refers solely to the hospitals knowledge of the untrue character of it representations. I know hospitals are business entities, such as corporations, and they can’t “know” anything except through their employees and other agents who act for them. But to keep it simple, we’ll just refer to the hospital itself instead of having to say “the hospital’s employee” or “the hospital’s agent.” And we won’t worry about whether the reiki practitioner was totally clueless and really believed what the ad said. Hopefully she doesn’t hold such a position of authority that there is no medical doctor somewhere up the supervisory line who holds the responsibility of knowing what she is up to. Why? Because no medical doctor could credibly testify he did not know, or did not strongly suspect, that the ad wasn’t telling the full story. Or, at the least, he knew there must be some disconfirming evidence to contradict the ad’s claims. His knowledge is the hospital’s knowledge from a legal standpoint.

The law of fraudulent misrepresentation does not get into issues of whether the hospital’s intent was pure or whether it was “trying to help.” “Intent” refers to the intent to withhold information, or to give false information, not intent in some evil sense. What the law requires, if you are selling a product or service to a consumer, is that you tell the consumer what you know about the product or service and you don’t leave out information that a person purchasing your product would want to know. (I think we can safely assume that a patient would want to know that a treatment is worthless.)

If you don’t have the complete story, but you operate with a reckless indifference to what the complete story is, you can also be held liable. Or if you represent something as fact when you actually know you don’t have all the facts, or don’t think you do, you can be held liable as well. In short, you can’t represent something as a fact unless you indeed know it is a fact, or at least honestly think you know it as a fact, without doubts or a disregard for the facts. A hospital that presents itself as offering the best care, yet fails to determine the full extent of the evidence for (or against) that care, or knows there is other evidence out there that may contradict what it is telling patients, is potentially liable for fraudulent misrepresentation whether the treatment is chemotherapy or reiki. It makes no difference as far as liability is concerned.

Was our patient’s reliance on the hospital’s claims justifiable?

So far, we’ve looked at the hospital’s conduct and found that, based on the facts we’ve used in our hypothetical, the hospital has both misrepresented the facts and has done so intentionally. Let’s turn to our cancer patient, because to successfully make out a case for fraudulent misrepresentation, we have to show that the patient (a) relied on the misrepresentation in deciding to purchase a reiki treatment and that (b) the reliance was justified.

We’ve already determined that the patient relied on the hospital’s information – otherwise, why would he buy the treatment? But was his reliable justifiable?

If the patient were you or I (if you are a faithful SBM reader), we would know that the hospital’s claims are false, and we wouldn’t win. Actual knowledge of falsity bars recovery. But what about other patients, who don’t know anything about reiki? Are they required to do their own research? No, not in an action for fraudulent misrepresentation, even where the falsity of the information about reiki could have been ascertained without much trouble or expense. (Say, by reading Science-Based Medicine, or Wikipedia, or Respectful Insolence.) If a patient is highly suspicious, there might be a question of whether he relied on the misrepresentations or whether his reliance was justifiable, and some jurisdictions do impose a duty to investigate where there is reason to suspect a statement is false.

But the standard is not whether a reasonable person would investigate these claims. That is the standard for contributory negligence – what a reasonable person would do – and contributory negligence is not applicable in fraudulent misrepresentation lawsuits, because it is an intentional tort. The only question would be is whether the patient himself was suspicious of falsity. (And that would be a dicey question for the defendant’s attorney to ask the plaintiff: “Didn’t you even suspect my client’s statements were false?”) He is not required to investigate. This is especially true where, as here, the plaintiff may particularly vulnerable due to his illness and the defendant knows of that vulnerability. (Of course, the hospital could not be heard to argue that it didn’t know its cancer patients are vulnerable due to their illness.) It is also especially true where there is a relationship of trust and confidence between the plaintiff and defendant, a situation that most certainly describes that between a patient and hospital, especially where the hospital advertises itself as providing top notch care.

Closing argument

To sum up the case for our cancer patient: The hospital advertised a treatment, reiki, claiming it provides specific health benefits by adding to, moving and/or unblocking the patient’s “energy.” The hospital knew these claims are false (or it disregarded the facts), yet intended that our patient rely on these false claims in order to induce him to purchase one or more reiki sessions. The plaintiff did, in fact, rely on the hospital’s statements of health benefits and was justified in believing reiki could actually produce these benefits, a reliance grounded, in part, because he believed that his hospital would provide accurate health information. Our patient has proved all the elements of fraudulent misrepresentation and should win his case.

Posted in: Energy Medicine, Health Fraud, Homeopathy, Legal, Medical Ethics

Leave a Comment (101) ↓

101 thoughts on “Reiki: Fraudulent Misrepresentation

  1. john says:

    Reiki along with many other alternative ‘medicines’ have their origin in religion or spiritual knowledge and when they were practiced were based upon a deep body of knowledge and practice. However today these types of promoted alternative medicine and treatments which are promoted as being capable of treating and curing stem from a spiritual religion called New Age. Medically they promote energy healing, angel healing,acupuncture myofascial healing, yoga, quantum healing and so forth; it’s very easy to scoff at this but the represent a multi-billion dollar industry within and without the medical establishment tens of thousands of practitioners and many patients who are going to these fraudulent and false medical centers and practitioners instead of going to their doctor for treatment.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Dr. Gorski has a post somewhere on SBM how reiki is actually little more than Christian prayers for healing with an Asian twist and a Japanese name. It’s not really even New Age, that’s merely the hippie “spiritual” gloss given to it so the caricatures I so love to invoke don’t end up supporting the Catholic establishment maaaaaaaan.

  2. fxh says:

    Does reiki require anything by the client? I wonder if someone might be curing me on the train by stealth hand waving.

    1. Jann Bellamy says:

      As I understand it, the client isn’t required to do anything. In fact, some reiki practitioners claim they can transmit and manipulate this “energy” without the client’s presence or knowledge.

    2. Windriven says:

      Oh, good point. And if reiki can be used to cure at a distance by “stealth hand waving”, doesn’t it stand to reason that it has a dark side? Yin and yang and all that. Think of all the reiki practitioners using their powers to cause disease instead of to cure it! It might be that reiki is the one true cause of all disease!

      1. Chris Hickie says:

        Is remote reiki like that skit from Kids in the Hall where the two guys are trying to remotely crush each other’s skull?

  3. Michael says:

    The real issue with reiki seems to be “Are patients told that it might violate their religious beliefs?”

    1. David Gorski says:


      Actually, the Catholic Church hasn’t been too happy about reiki being offered in some of its hospitals in the US:

      Fundamentalist Christians aren’t too fond of it either, because it’s so obviously a religious practice:

      Perhaps my favorite thing about reiki, at least in terms of the pure entertainment value that comes from reading such ridiculous nonsense, is how reiki masters claim they can use it to heal at a distance. Some even claim that reiki is “intelligent” and gives patients what they need, rather than necessarily what they want. Oh, and it can be sent back in time:

      1. Windriven says:

        “the Catholic Church hasn’t been too happy about reiki being offered in some of its hospitals”

        “Fundamentalist Christians aren’t too fond of it either, because it’s so obviously a religious practice”

        Sweet irony.

        1. David Gorski says:

          Particularly hilarious is the part where Catholic reiki practitioners try to argue that there’s nothing about doing reiki that violates Catholic doctrine. :-)

        2. Lytrigian says:

          How is it ironic when a religion objects to practices contrary to its beliefs? That’s kinda what they always do.

  4. David Gorski says:

    I’ve used quotes from the Cleveland Clinic website about reiki in talks about the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia at least since 2009 as an example of just how badly rank quackery like reiki has found its way into academic medical centers, no matter how obviously ridiculous it is. Does CCF also offer Christian faith healing? If not, why not? Reiki is basically the same thing. Its “reiki masters” claim to be able to tap into life energy from what they call the “universal source” and channel it into the patient for healing purpose. Just substitute the word “God” or “Jesus” for “universal source,” and you have faith healing. In other words, reiki is nothing more than faith healing in which Eastern mystic beliefs are substituted for Christian beliefs.

    Unfortunately, the CCF is not alone. A faculty member from the University of Arizona complained about the University of Arizona Cancer Center’s promotion of reiki and other quackery.

  5. Windriven says:

    Well first we can all rejoice that Toby Cosgrove won’t be the next person to run the VA. The bad news is that he will remain CEO of Cleveland Clinic.

    It is clear that some hospitals have wa-a-a-a-ay too much money, stupid money, money to spend on boutique quackery like reiki. As a nation we spend more on hospitals than on physicans and clinical services and pharmaceuticals combined. The hospital business in the US has become an arms race of sprawling campuses and massive buildings with fine art and cavernous atriums. And, increasingly, on sCAMs.

    I’d love to see a hospital sued for fraud for reiki. But let’s say a patient spends $100 per session for, say, 10 sessions. That’s $1000. A decent litigator in Cleveland has got to go for north of $400 per hour. The damages don’t seem worth the litigation costs unless some PI mill can roll up an awful lot of reiki users into a class and find a judge to actually certify the class.

    1. David Gorski says:

      Yeah, CCF is heavily into woo. Remember how it made news a little while back for opening a traditional Chinese medicine herbal clinic?

  6. e canfield says:

    I would have no problem with reiki if it were part of the chaplain department. I bet several of them would do a faith healing if you ask. Not that most people here would.

    For the record, no one at the clinic mentioned any CAM to us when we were having IVF treatments last year.

    1. Kathy says:

      The chaplain would pray for you for nothing. But people don’t value what they don’t pay for.

      1. e canfield says:

        I know, and that’s how much I’m willing to pay for reiki, ‘though I’d much rather talk to the chaplain.

        They, the reiki people, could be salaried and just do their thing for any who ask without extra money, which is what I was sort of thinking, but not expressing very well.

  7. Andrey Pavlov says:

    I have a question for you Jann.

    I actually have already emailed Dr. Gorski the entirety of this (old) conversation between myself, a classmate, and none other than Barrie Cassileth of MSKCC on the topic of reiki.

    In a nutshell, MSKCC says this about Reiki:

    Reiki is a light touch manual therapy from Japan that supports the whole person. For those with medical conditions, Reiki effectively addresses a variety of symptoms thereby improving quality of life. For others, Reiki can promote self awareness, inspire creativity, reduce stress, and create a sense of harmony and well-being


    Reiki promotes the healing of physical and emotional ailments through gentle touch. Reiki therapists use light pressure techniques to restore harmony and provide deep relaxation and a sense of clarity.

    Now neither of these talk about energies or whatever nonsense like CCF does, but both make claims that are unsupportable by the science. They seem to be more slippery than the CCF’s claims because they are so vague. However, the (former) classmate of mine said this to Cassileth:

    I have looked through many of your publications in PubMed, the most relevant ones I found being and You’ve said that Reiki is a light touch massage, but according to other sources (including your PMID 19706235 article) Reiki is also classified as an Energy Therapy. I guess it may be a combination of the two, so I’d be interested to find out more about what makes the Reiki therapy work, and how it is practised at the MSKCC. The role of channelling ki-energies into the patient is especially interesting. Are patients told that healing energies will be channelled into them?…. Dr Cassileth, thanks again from your reply. Whilst you clearly think “healing energy” doesn’t exist as a physical entity, I wonder how important is it for the patient, vs. just the light massage? According to definitions of Reiki like that one at, the idea of energy is a part of Reiki practice, so am I correct in assuming that your therapists talk to patients about, perhaps abstract, “energy” flows? Is there a kind of “Reiki protocol” that is followed?

    So he does his own research and – using PubMed and the NCCAM definitions! – comes up with the “correct” description of Reiki. Cassileth responds:

    “Energy medicine” is quackery. We don’t do it. Our Reiki, which again is light-touch massage, works because of the touch. I suspect that people who find no-touch Reiki or any of the other “energy therapies” useful are responding to the mere presence of a caring person nearby… Our therapists do not talk to patients about “energy” flow

    Is there a case for fraud here in where a person actually wants “real” Reiki and could be reasonably thinking (s)he is getting it (because the descriptions on the MSKCC website are so vague) and then after a few sessions discovers that the therapists are not actually using (ha!) the universal energy source to channel energy into their bodies? In other words, they are paying for a service they reasonably believe they are getting and then actually not getting said service?

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Sorry for the mixup on the HTML tags. Should still be understandable.

      I should also add that Cassileth’s assertion that it works through the mechanism of light touch is unsupported by science and her thoughts on the no-touch version basically admit it is nothing but a pure placebo.

    2. Jann Bellamy says:

      Here’s how I’d analyze your hypothetical:

      Is there a misrepresentation of fact?

      I think one could argue that there is, because MSKCC is representing this therapy as reiki when it is not, in fact, “real” reiki.

      Is it fraudulent?

      It is at the least ambiguous, and if you know it is ambiguous, but say it anyway, that’s a problem. MSKCC apparently knows that reiki could be understood by the consumer to mean energy therapy, yet calling it reiki anyway. Why?

      Did the consumer justifiably rely on the misrepresentation?

      I think the consumer could credibly put on evidence that reiki as she understood it was the generally accepted definition of reiki and therefore there was no reason for her to doubt that she was getting “real” reiki.

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:

        That’s what I would have thought and even seems a little more easy to demonstrate (legally) than the CCF’s version of it, because it doesn’t rely on anybody understanding that the evidence for Reiki is completely negative. In fact, science doesn’t even seem to come into play in this instance, particularly since the NCCAM defines it differently than the MSKCC defines it .

        You said in your post that it would be impossible for me to sue for fraud at the CCF because I know better. But would it be possible for me (or other SBM type) to sue the MSKCC for fraud?

        1. Jann Bellamy says:

          Not likely, as you could not claim you justifiably relied on the misrepresentations, because you know the facts.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            But my claim would be that I know the facts that Reiki is energy healing, that the MSKCC website told me they were going to provide Reiki without specifying explicitly that it was not energy healing, and then I would get some “treatment” called Reiki but when asked would be told it was not actually energy healing. So my claim does not rest on me knowing that Reiki is BS, but that I wanted Reiki (regardless of my knowledge of its efficacy) and got something not-Reiki.

            That still wouldn’t fly?

            1. Jann Bellamy says:

              No, I don’t think so. If you are the “I” in this scenario, you already know that the reiki offered is not the “energy healing” reiki so you knew what you were getting. (Or, I guess, not getting.)

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Dangit! But someone else who is SBM-minded but not aware of the details of my conversation with Cassileth could potentially go this route?

                It seems that foreknowledge is key in these issues, which means that it is nearly a Catch-22: either you are deluded/ignorant/uncaring/whatever enough to fully buy into it and thus never press the issue legally or you know enough to have the case dismissed. The only middle ground is the small group of the former who realized it after the fact, but then it would require those people to be motivated enough to actually file suit. Effectively (though not entirely), making quackery like this untouchable legally speaking.

                The only course I can see is if we get a group of SfSBM folk to basically stand outside these centers with pamphlets to hand out to people who have just gotten these treatments and try to light a fire under their asses. Like good ambulance chasers. But would doing that make it lose ground in court for some reason that i don’t know about?

  8. The Midwesterner says:

    Not sure you understand the concept of contributory negligence. It’s a defense used when a plaintiff is alleged to have done an act that contributes to her/his own injury. For instance, if a plaintiff claims to have been hit by a speeding car and seeks damages, the driver can use as a defense that the plaintiff was jaywalking and thus contributed to his/her own injuries. Or a business being sued for an injury on its premises can claim that the plaintiff didn’t heed warning signs not to be in a certain area and was injured as a result. I don’t claim to be a legal scholar but I don’t see how it applies in your argument and it’s not a standard in the way that the reasonable person standard is.

    1. Jann Bellamy says:

      I am not sure I follow what you are saying. My point is that fraudulent misrepresentation is intentional tort, not negligence. Thus, whether the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his injury (contributory negligence) is irrelevant.

      1. The Midwesterner says:

        But the only way the person could have contributed to their injury is by not doing something, such as investigating reiki before receiving it, which is a negative. I am unaware that that defense is available in the situation you’re describing.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Perhaps I am confused because law is not at all my field of expertise (as discussions with my science minded lawyer friend consistently elucidate). But it seems to me that Jann is in agreement with you Midwesterner. She is saying:

          That is the standard for contributory negligence – what a reasonable person would do – and contributory negligence is not applicable in fraudulent misrepresentation lawsuits, because it is an intentional tort.

          That contributory negligence does not play a role in what she is talking about. The way I understood her point in bringing it up was to illustrate that a higher standard of evidence and plaintiff duty/defendant defense is not necessary for fraud claims, only for contributory negligence… which does not apply here.

          1. Jann Bellamy says:

            That is correct — I am saying that contributory negligence is NOT a defense to an intentional tort such as fraudulent misrepresentation.

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              Yay! I understood law stuffs!

              I often get emails back from my lawyer friend that start like this:

              I think your understanding of tax exemptions is logical, and it frames this article’s intention accurately, but unfortunately has a fatal assumption: that the tax code has a coherent structure of justification behind exemptions

              I think too much like a scientist to understand WTF is going on with law. LOL.

  9. Jason Heyward (not THE Jason Heyward) says:

    Does anyone know whether the Cleveland Clinic submits the cost of these sessions to patients’ insurers for reimbursement? If so, any idea how the Clinic codes these treatments? Perhaps as some type of physical (or metaphysical) therapy?

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I’m not sure but I have to ask – are you THE Jason Heyward?

  10. Thomas says:

    A bit tangential to the ongoing discussion, but consider this:

    We have many Reiki practioners in Western Oregon. We have a lot of pollen allergies, too. Thanks to today’s column I’ve come to suspect that misanthropic Reiki practitioners have been messing peoples’ energies fields – regionally – thereby inducing mass immune dysfunction. Another possibility is that there is no malice involved, just an unfortunate confluence of highly concentrated well-intentioned Reiki but directed at the wrong angle with regard to the Cascade Subduction Zone planetary influence.

    1. Iolaire says:

      Yeah. And talking of tangential, what happens if reiki practitioner X is sending distant reiki to someone, and reiki practitioner Y is simultaneously transmitting to someone else at an angle to the first pair, and the two streams of universal energy go through the same point? What happens when they intersect? What would happen to a person who was standing right there? Yikes.

      (This is not a serious question btw.)

      1. jennbeau says:

        I just pictured in my mind the scene from Ghostbusters “Whatever you do don’t cross the beams”!

        1. Chris Hickie says:

          To paraphrase “If someone asks you if you are a reiki master, you say ‘yes'”.

      2. Richard Abbott says:

        Crossing streams of Universal Energy ?

        Why 30 years ago the Ghostbusters taught us that was bad.

        (shame I cannot insert a funny Staypuft marshmallow man image)

      3. Thomas says:

        That person will be later found — exchanging recipes late at night on Respectful Insolence.

        Seriously, though, I might expect woo & silliness in the post-hip New Age crowd, but the Cleveland Clinic et al.? I’ve been reading posts re Quackademic Medicine on RI and on this blog, and it all boggles my mind. Recently I learned that (a few years ago) a veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School had referred my mom’s dog to a veterinary acupuncturist. And, trusting that school & its faculty, she had taken the dog to the vet-acu-quack. She told me that the “procedure” seemed to do nothing other than hurt the dog, so she did not do any follow-up appointment. I was…sad.

        1. goodnightirene says:

          Eeeekkk! I took my dog there (UW Vet College) at great expense to have her dental problem evaluated. Now I have reason to wonder about anything they told me.

          1. Thomas says:

            In general my mom is satisfied with UW-Madison veterinary treatment and I hope this was an anomaly. I believe whoever it is that suggested that acupuncture has moved on, and the acu-quack was not actually associated with the college. I learned of this incident when I was prattling on about acu-woo, chiro-quackery & placebo effects to my mom (who very much respects science) and one of her pals who, it turns out, goes to a chiro.

            My Ph.D. was from McArdle Labs inUW- Madison , and, of course, I was sad to learn of quackery infiltration and, oh shirt, looky here, integrative “medicine” at U of Wis hospital.

  11. yogalady says:

    Until the big drug companies see a reason to fund large RCTs on reiki, there probably won’t be much evidence for its effectiveness. So you’re safe — the research won’t ever be done.

    Many people experience life energy, and there is plenty of alternative science research on it (which of course you will never read, because you only trust research funded by big drug companies, or the government which does anything the big drug companies want).

    There was only one small study that supposedly disproved reiki.

    The 20 subjects who happened to participate in the study could not feel the energy of the one experimenter.

    Well “skeptics” were satisified with that.

    Vitalism was rejected by mainstream medicine, simply because they found it too spiritual. There was no evidence against vitalism, but who needs evidence when you have ideology?

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Welcome back yogalady!

      Until the big drug companies see a reason to fund large RCTs on reiki, there probably won’t be much evidence for its effectiveness

      Funny that. When I do a pubmed search on Reiki I get 2,079 results. And the NCCAM has done studies on it and says:

      Available research has examined the use of Reiki for conditions such as fibromyalgia, pain, cancer, and depression, and for overall well-being. Although some small studies suggest that Reiki may help with symptoms related to these conditions, others have not found Reiki to be helpful.

      And their own study showing Reiki does not help with fibromyalgia symptoms.

      Many people experience life energy, and there is plenty of alternative science research on it

      Many people also experience alien abductions, demonic possessions, near death experiences, psychedelic hallucinations (both pharmacologically and meditationally induced), and all sorts of other random things. And there is plenty of alternative research on those as well. The one thing they all have in common – including Reiki – is that they are imaginary and that all good research regardless of where it comes from shows this.

      There was only one small study that supposedly disproved reiki.

      Well, besides the majority of the 2,079 PubMed studies, the NCCAM study I linked above showed Reiki to be useless and it was a reasonably sized study at 100 with 81 completing the trial. Which sort of completely proves your assertion came straight out your backside.

      Well “skeptics” were satisified with that.

      Actually we are pretty satisfied with the thousands of other studies and the prior plausibility which is nearly zero.

      Vitalism was rejected by mainstream medicine, simply because they found it too spiritual. There was no evidence against vitalism, but who needs evidence when you have ideology?

      Actually it was rejected because there is not only zero evidence for it, but plenty against it. Including, most recently, the confirmation of the Higgs boson and the standard model of physics. Here, you can even watch a great 10 minute video by Sean Carroll that explains precisely why there absolutely and unequivocally cannot be any sort of vital energy, soul, or any forces that act on the human body at a distance that we have not yet discovered. It is 99.99999999999999999999% certain that this is the case based on the entirety of physics. Not ideology, not a rejection of spiritualism*, not anything except absolutely irrefutable science. The same science that lets you yammer away with your keyboard on the internet.

      *As a matter of fact Carl Sagan himself was very spiritual and talked about it a lot. I myself am pretty spiritual and have recently gotten back into vipassana meditation. Even my fiance (an aerospace engineer at Lockheed-Martin/NASA) thinks I am a bit too “hippie” for her tastes in that regard. Science and spirituality are not at all mutually exclusive. But you mean spirituality in the sense of “magical BS” rather than “awe and wonder at the natural world and deep self exploration.” The former is not actually spirituality – it is just magical hippie woo-woo thinking. The latter is actual spirituality and is not only compatible with, but enhanced by science.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        What’s spiritual about vipassana meditation?

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Same as any other genuine spirituality. It gives me insight into the inner workings of my own mind and body, which I couple with my scientific knowledge. Provides me the awe and wonder of “seeing” the ways in which my mind actually operates.

          I like Sagan’s version of spirituality. Which is the original meaning of the term, co-opted and bastardized by religion and woo-woo. And I am happy to make the effort to take back the term. Which I think is a little more defensible a term to take back than this (NSFW audio)

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Meh, I guess I would just consider that psychology over spirituality. For me spirituality always encompasses belief in the irrational and unprovable, inherent to the term is an acceptance in a nonphysical universe. Perhaps that’s an idiosyncratic definition that Sagan didn’t believe in. Even an irrational feeling of attachment to the world and the interconnectedness of your mind – for me that still falls into the “psychological” bucket, unless you go beyond to think that this is actually meaningful outside of your own head. In which case I would call that “spiritual”, but in a pejorative way.

            Sounds like it’s different definitions of the same word (or I simply don’t understand yours, having read insufficient Sagan).

          2. Windriven says:

            Perhaps it is a tussle over nothing but semantics but how can their be spirituality without some kind of spirit? I don’t even really know what the word is supposed to mean outside a religious context – and I say that with all due respect to Carl Sagan. Apparently I am not alone in this. I just revisited the definition in my go-to source: Merriam Webster. The definitions offered were either based on religion or were entirely circular, i.e. “the quality or state of being spiritual.’

            This has been a bugaboo for some time and I delight in asking those who claim to be spiritual, not religious, just what exactly that means. I’ve gotten everything from blank stares to some dry heave inducing variant of this. In the middle are attestations to awe at the mind-boggling size and beauty of he universe and the ineffable complexity and precision of life and the staggering variety of forms in which it is expressed. But this last only tells me that one is intelligent, observant, and not entirely self-absorbed. Congratulations. But I fail to find spirituality there.

            If spirituality is wonderment, then I am spiritual. If it is awe of mathematics and the delicate precision of physical laws, then I am spiritual. I will take the embrace of an interesting woman, the raucous majesty of the final movement of Saint-Saens 3rd symphony, a well turned phrase in a book, as my sacraments.

            But I still can’t find no stinkin’ spirits in there.

            1. Windriven says:

              And whenever someone tells me that they are spiritual, not religious all I can think of is James Bond ordering a martini: shaken, not stirred. Hey Jim, I’ll make a couple of martinis. I’ll stir one and I’ll shake the other. Then you tell me which is which.

            2. Andrey Pavlov says:

              If spirituality is wonderment, then I am spiritual. If it is awe of mathematics and the delicate precision of physical laws, then I am spiritual.

              That’s really it. And is the original meaning. It comes from spiritus which is the old Latin for breathing. This is distinct from anima which is the soul. Those are the latin words. In Greek pneuma is breath and psyche is soul.

              Obviously over the centuries it has changed, adapted, been co-opted, and so any dictionary these days would be remiss to not include the metaphysical and magical meanings of the word (particularly since they are, sadly the common meaning these days).

              I also agree that most people who say “spiritual but not religious” still mean it in a metaphysical woo-woo way. Hence why I want to take back the word, as Sagan did.

              As WLU says you can decide to call that “just” psychological and put it all in the same bucket. I’m not trying to deny that, of course, it is all internal, material, and arising from the physical processes that create and sustain our bodies and give rise to the mind. I hope you guys both know I am very firmly a materialist and think dualism is utter BS.

              But what spirituality means to me (and to Sagan) is the description of that feeling of awe and wonder you get from that psychology. When you look up at the stars and think that they are just points of light stuck up their by the god of your choice it is less profound, IMHO, than looking up and being taken on a voyage through the cosmos in your brain; trying to imagine the vast distances, the billions of galaxies, the giant nebulae, the supermassive black holes ejecting the entire energy of our sun every second, and wondering if there is something else out there thinking those same things, yearning to meet it and show it what a nice IPA is like. I got goosebumps 3 times while writing that alone.

              Sometimes I pause while walking through the park (I live 3 streets over from Audubon park) and I can “see” the photons of light streaming down, hitting photosystem II and then the electron cascading down to photosystem I, creating energy to fix carbon and create glucose, the green chloroplasts pumping away as a bee flies over and sucks nectar from a flower, and I imagine the pollen falling on its head, traveling to the the next flower where the grain extends down the pistil and inseminates the ova to create a seed. I “see” the flow of genes leading to such mutualistic evolution, shaped over billions of years and yearn to see what the flora and fauna of epochs past were like and try to imagine what life on earth will look like in epochs future, because I know that it will be very, very different than today. And more goosebumps writing that.

              And sometimes I peel away the layers of my own consciousness and marvel out how the modules of my brain function in unison to create the limited depiction of reality I perceive around me. How hyperfocus on a single sense can amplify it to extremes, dimming the rest around me. How even the very feeling that I am inside my own body is actively produced by specific parts of my brain, which can be dimmed or even turned off. I lay in bed every night before sleep and allow myself to slip into a semi-meditative state and literally feel “myself” swell outside my body which I can only describe like when Neo bends the matrix around him. I realize how automatic certain behaviors and thoughts are, and then remember the research on Drosophila that showed how their wing cleaning behavior is mediated by a specific set of neurons and that once triggered it must go to completion since it is a small predefined neural circuit. And understand that we are the same, just massively more complex and massively more parallel, but the state of my brain (and thus my mind) evolved from exactly those same predecessors.

              And the understanding that science gives us a way to break out beyond those limits of our physical selves and see the rest of the physical universe in every way imaginable, that knowing these things and understanding how they work gives us the greatest power of all: to change them; in the world around us and in ourselves. That is a greater power than any metaphysical god could hope to have. And it fills me with awe and wonder and excitement. And even sadness, knowing I will not live long enough to learn even a tiny fraction of it or see the world and universe of future epochs. And it is that wonder and sadness that give me reason, purpose, and motivation as well as allow me to appreciate the work of others, particularly very different work than mine like art and music.

              And, of course, it leads to anger and frustration when people try to actively (intentionally or not) undermine these greatest of human endeavors. Though at the same time it gives me the understanding that they cannot do otherwise which allows me to modify my own thoughts and behaviors to minimize (though admittedly likely never eliminate) those feelings of anger and frustration.

              If you want to call that “psychology” or think that spirituality needs a “spirit” like the Christian “spirit” then so be it. To me that simply fails to describe what is actually going on. Maybe “spiritual” is too loaded a term these days and unsalvageable. Maybe we can come up with a better word. But I think that just calling it “psychology” does it a disservice. Even Dawkins calls it “the magic of reality.”

              I’ll finish with Sagan from Demon Haunted World:

              “Spirit” comes from the Latin word “to breathe.” What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word “spiritual” that we are talking of anything other than matter (including the matter of which the brain is made), or anything outside the realm of science. On occasion, I will feel free to use the word. Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

              (and I get goosebumps every time I read that passage)

              1. n brownlee says:

                Yes- that’s a wonderful passage from Sagan. And recently- I ran across this, from Neil deGrasse Tyson:

              2. Andrey Pavlov says:

                A great one as well. Sagan also said that we are the universe observing itself. And Krauss said “Forget Jesus, the stars died for us.”

                All of it is profoundly spiritual. To me at least.

              3. Windriven says:

                As I noted Andrey, perhaps we are just dancing to different semantic voices as we explore the toccata and fugue of reality.

              4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                See, all that complexity makes me despair. I want to understand, at least on a superficial level, everything. I don’t even have chemistry, Egyptian history or Romanian architecture down, and I haven’t even touched post-Harappan India. There’s too many books :(

                Also – yeah, I would call that psychology, but I think we agre where the supernatural plays a role.

                Windriven – MW? Seriously? Have you ever seen the Compact OED? It comes with a magnifying glass. You could beat a medium-sized donkey to death with it. I have two copies.

              5. goodnightirene says:

                I agree with you, and Sagan, in general,but alas, no goosebumps. Wonder, satisfaction, joy, perhaps, but no goosebumps. I think I’m more in Windriven’s camp on this one.

              6. Andrey Pavlov says:


                Agreed. But I hope I made at least a somewhat thought provoking case for why I think spirituality is a great word for it and psychology simply doesn’t evoke the same meaning. After all, connotation and implied meaning are important or else “slimy” chocolate chip cookies would be just as tasty as “gooey” ones.

                And yes, we certainly agree on where the supernatural plays a role.


                I guess that means I’m just more spiritual than you are :-P

                I also got goosebumps listening to N Brownlee’s link to NdT. And I’ve heard that one before a number of times.

                But this spirituality, as I call it (in good company with Sagan, I might add yet again), is also what makes me so excited about it. I can (and do) talk endlessly on these topics in social settings. Somewhat surprisingly most people seem to like the excitement and have and ask me to go on. In Costa Rica my fiance and I spent a few hours, each holding court in our own fields, with the group of groomsmen and friends which culminated in us walking down to the beach to watch the meteor shower*. Everyone was fascinated and had their own stories to tell and got more and more excited as they linked together experiences and thoughts of their own with the threads we provided.

                To me, this feeling I get is what I imagine it must be like for a religious believer to “feel” god and want to spread the word (as they are wont to do). It’s weird, but I get it. I am so excited and enthralled and see the wonder and power and beauty of it and I just want everyone else to have that experience and knowledge and feeling. The difference is what I am talking about is real. LOL. But that lends me even further insight into why these believers act the way they do. It is perfectly rational, just based on false premises.

                Which – to go off on another tangent since I have the time – is why I so vehemently disagree with Peter Moran. This sort of non-wave making humble and plain presentation of the facts will not win the day. In fact it will lose the day. Because people don’t operate that way. They don’t get excited about and internal dry facts and hedged statements. And the people who truly believe feel the way that I do and want others to believe (for myriad reasons). Telling grand stories and putting our scientific foot down to curb those who’ve adopted the false premises is the only way to move ahead.

                *That shower was overall a bust, but we actually saw about 10 meteors including one fireball which was big enough that my fiance logged it with NASA.

              7. n brownlee says:

                I think the ‘supernatural’, or the ‘spiritual’, in the usual, religious sense – are the apprehension of our own emotional reaction to the recognition of the great and joyful profundity of existence.

                I have no belief in any world other than a material one, but I think I get it. Or is this too obvious? That when we recognize that profundity, our emotional reaction is so immediate and strong that it MUST be important, probably, y’know, like, god.

                I had a great argument with a philosophy teacher once. Told him I understood, I thought, why believers believed, and described my own brilliant, subjectively transcendent experience of Shiva’s dance, that sometimes happened when I was (mindlessly) working the garden, or the bees, or both- that unthinking immersion in the NOW, the air thick with legs and wings and motes of golden light. He insisted that was god. I insisted it was not; it was me, drunk on existence.

              8. Harriet Hall says:

                “the apprehension of our own emotional reaction to the recognition of the great and joyful profundity of existence.”

                Beautifully stated. Why not use that definition for spirituality with the understanding that it is an epiphenomenon of brain cell activity and doesn’t imply any immaterial or supernatural phenomena?

              9. n brownlee says:

                Oh, that was a particularly clumsy and anecdotal post of mine. Sorry.

              10. Andrey Pavlov says:

                He insisted that was god. I insisted it was not; it was me, drunk on existence.

                You are then more intelligent than your professor. Either he was playing shady semantic games or not cognizant enough of reality to realize he was making stupid assertions.

                But I agree with you overall. I think we are all (more or less) on the same page. I just like the word spirituality because it has a long standing history separate from metaphysical nonsense* and it resonates with people. It also provides a stark juxtaposition. I get double takes when it comes up and I say specifically I am spiritual. It gives people pause and prompts the to listen to what I, the pedantic materialist medical scientist, have to say on the matter. It gives them another way to feel the feeling that they already do and want to, without having to continue believing in ghosts and gods and demons.

              11. Windriven says:


                ” I have two copies.”

                I have one. What I lack is the giveashit (or perhaps the upper body strength) to lift the sucker off the bottom shelf where it lives so as not to pull the bookshelf down.

              12. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                The Compact OED is also borderline-useless as a dictionary – it’s all etymology with very little text actually given over to the definitions. I’ve got a soft spot because of how I acquired both copies, and because I read one of Simon Winchester’s book on the topic – which everyone should do.

              13. n brownlee says:

                Thank you, Harriet and Andrey, for understanding me.

      2. Frederick says:

        Excellent post. I gonna watch this video right now!
        Since I’m commenting on your comment, as promise ( It does add the the subject those our my thought ) :

        Le plus drôle dans toute cette spéculation à propos « d’énergie vitale » c’est qu’on l’aurait détectée ou son interaction avec le corps : un excès dans la chaleur émise par le corps par exemple. Les astrophysiciens ont bien découvert l’existence de la matière sombre et de l’énergie sombre, malgré le fait qu’ils n’en connaissent pas leurs natures et qu’aucune détection directe n’a pu être faite jusqu’à maintenant. C’est leurs interactions qui ont été observées.
        Je crois que l’on peut être spirituel, même en voyant le monde d’une façon purement matérialiste. J’écoute Le Podcast de Dr Novella (SGU) depuis une semaine, j’en suis au #450, et à chaque fois qu’il explique une partie du fonctionnement du cerveau, c’est totalement fascinant. Que quelque chose d’aussi complexe, bourrer de qualité et de défaut, simplement existe… Pas besoin d’inventer des trucs magiques pour être fasciné par la vie, l’existence, la réalité et l’univers. Quand je me mets à pensé à tout le hasard et les immenses périodes temporelles impliquées, BOOM ma tête veut exploser. lol

        1. goodnightirene says:

          Merci beaucoup Freddy! :-)

        2. Andrey Pavlov says:

          LOL. Very nice Frederick. I actually almost missed this comment because it simply never showed up in my RSS feed (it seems that randomly some small percent don’t). Thankfully GNI’s comment did, which prompted me to check and see what she was responding to.

          I can honestly say that I was able to read the whole of it in just about two and a half minutes and understood about 95% of it without difficulty. I wish I could write an equally good response back in French, but alas, it would take me much too much time and still be terrible.

          You are spot on that even if we can’t directly detect energy we can (and do) detect its interactions. And on both counts the idea of vitalism and Reiki fail. We can detect dark matter and – as Dr. Crislip just said today – the energy of a lightbulb from 10 billion miles away, but somehow must fail to detect energy right in front of us that can actually change physiological processes in order for energy healing to have any plausibility at all.

          And yes, learning about the mind and our body will lead to your own mind being blown.

          In any event, it is quite clear to me that you are well spoken and intelligent, from your English but even more so from your French.

          And it was funnily apropos of my other discussions today – I absolutely agree that that material world is magical, spiritual, and mind blowing enough that we do not need to invent or believe in fairy tales.

        3. Frederick says:

          @Irene : ça me fait plaisir :-)

          @Andrey : I just read the Mark Crislip article, He point is out really nicely

          And thank for the the good word, I’m just a Layman, I don’t have fancy degrees, but I Try to learn, I absolutely love knowledge!
          Oh by the way the Sean Carroll video you linked did not work for some reason, at least for me.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:


            Critical thought and a desire to learn and understand is not dependent on specific knowledge.

            As for the Carroll video… my apologies! Apparently the video was taken down. I had it kept as a reference. It was a 10-minute video taking clips from this longer talk that summarized the key points of why and how we completely and fully understand all the forces that act on our everyday lives and that there cannot be forces unaccounted for by physics that have any meaning to our biology.

        4. Harriet Hall says:

          Merci. J’ai tout compris. Thanks for the opportunity to practice my French.

          I have a question. It seemed to me that the pensé in the last sentence should be penser. If I am wrong, perhaps you can give me a quick French lesson to explain.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            I’m curious as well. The best I can come up with is because the sentence is forming a reflexive indicating that he himself is the object of the thought. But it has been much too long since I’ve practiced any serious French. Rather shameful, actually. :-(

          2. Frederick says:

            Yes, You are right, I guess I missed that one. I do a lot of mistake when I ‘mwriting french as well, so i did a correct my comment as much as possible. But yes, it is Penser, because it can be replace by “vendre” (french for to sale) so it is the infinitive. When it can be replace by “vendu” it is the past participle “pensé”.

            Quand je me mets à vendre ( so it should be penser)

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              Wow! It made my day to hear that my self-taught French is good enough to detect a typo. The SBM comments are a source of everything from recipes to language lessons to comedy. Who would have thought?

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                And even better than me! Though I was going on the assumption that he was right, although I saw the same thing after you pointed it out.

                And yes, I do rather like the community here.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Many people experience life energy, and there is plenty of alternative science research on it (which of course you will never read, because you only trust research funded by big drug companies, or the government which does anything the big drug companies want).

      What is “alternative science research”? Is that research where you always get the answer you want, rather than the answer that approximates reality? Because that’s the only way you’re ever going to get support for reiki. Of course, you aren’t doing scientific research at that point.

      Incidentally, why do you invoke big drug companies? Emily Rosa managed to conduct a trial for about $5.25 – $5 for a cardboard screen, and $0.25 for a quarter to flip when deciding which hand to put under it. Youngest author of a JAMA article ever.

      The 20 subjects who happened to participate in the study could not feel the energy of the one experimenter.

      Well “skeptics” were satisified with that.

      Oh, you know about the study! Well that’s good. See the thing is – it seems to be the only bit of published research of it’s kind I am aware of – so we kinda have to rely on it! Has anyone else invested the $5.25 in materials to reproduce it on a larger scale? Heck, you could even do it for $5.01 if your funding was really tight.

      It’s not like TT and reiki practitioners spend a lot of time publishing scientific research in real journals.

      Vitalism was rejected by mainstream medicine, simply because they found it too spiritual. There was no evidence against vitalism, but who needs evidence when you have ideology?

      Oh, quite the opposite – vitalism was rejected because it wasn’t necessary to explain life! Once, it was found out (repeatedly now) that “living” molecules differ from nonliving only really by location, and that “nonliving” molecules move into and out of “living” systems all the live-long day, there was simply no need to posit such a life force. The real problem is the lack of evidence for vitalism, and it is only the ideology of the proponents of vitalism that keeps it alive.

      But please, amuse and entertain us – show us the evidence that supports the existence of a vital force undetectable by man or machine. We eagerly await!

      1. Andrey Pavlov says:


        Emily Rosa managed to conduct a trial for about $5.25 – $5 for a cardboard screen, and $0.25 for a quarter to flip when deciding which hand to put under it

        I’m pretty sure she got to keep the quarter. So $5 flat. :-P

        1. Interrobang says:

          If you salvaged the cardboard from somewhere else, you woudn’t even have to pay the $5 for it. I’m pretty sure you could get a cheap tub of acrylic paint to paint it flat black (if you wanted to be fancy) for less than $5.

  12. qetzal says:

    Although it would certainly make for an amusing case if the patient claimed that reiki actually messed up his “energy distribution,” thereby making him even more ill. How would the hospital defend against that? Would it put on evidence that this energy doesn’t exist and can’t cause any harm, thus proving the patient’s case for misrepresentation?

    Actually, this seems like a very real possibility to me! Patients who pay for Reiki are likely to actually believe that “universal life force energy” really exists, and that it really can be used to “stimulat[e] bone and tissue healing after injury or surgery,” or “stimulat[e] the body’s immune system.” Suppose someone like that paid for Reiki and then developed a non-healing injury or an autoimmune disorder. By their belief system, it would be perfectly reasonable to suspect that the Reiki “master” might have caused their problems through malpractice. If he claims he can channel life energy through himself into you, then it must also be possible for the energy to flow the other way, right?

    I would love to see such a lawsuit, and I’d guess plenty of lawyers would love to pursue it. I can’t see any option for the clinic other than settling. Trying to defend it in court seems like it would be a disaster!

    1. Thomas says:

      Would you need to find another Reiki master to testify the defendant had done it all wrong? Or would they all stick together? Is there a standard of Reiki care? Could there be a career as a Reiki master to be an expert witness in such lawsuits? Let’s see, I have a Ph.D. – maybe I could get Reiki training and fill this unmet need.

      1. qetzal says:

        Great idea! I believe it’s pretty easy to get certified as a Reiki master. Then you’d just need to team up with a suitable personal injury lawyer.

        I can picture the ads:

        “Have you had Reiki and experienced unbalanced energy, decreased vibrational frequencies, or a dampened immune system? You may be entitled to compensation! Contact us now! No cost unless we obtain an award!”

        Feel free to send me 10% of your first fee as a thank you! ;-)

      2. Andrey Pavlov says:

        I’m with you and qetzal. I have an MD and I know that Reiki training is just a few weekends of “courses.”

        Seems like easy money whilst putting Reiki shysters out of business. Might be ethically dubious though.

  13. kathryn says:


    Not only CCF, but also University Hospitals in Cleveland. Aside from a very small handful of other places, CCF and UH are the only two acts in town. I swear, there’s more woo in the States than in Korea (and I saw a lot of woo there in my 10 years teaching).

  14. Dan Covill says:

    My daughter just had a knee replacement. By coincidence, I was visiting her yesterday at the hospital (Sharps, San Diego) when the Reiki practitioner arrived! Her jacket said ‘Volunteer’, so she’s not an employee of the hospital, but she had a staff nametag on that said ‘Reiki’ in large letters. Apparently my daughter had requested the visit. We got to watch the ‘treatment’.
    First, the practitioner explained that she was regulating the ‘life force’, and that it used the same ‘meridians’ that acupuncture did. Then she put one hand on the replaced knee, leaned to the other side, and extended the free hand downward, explaining that this would drain the excess force from the surgery site, ‘by gravity’!
    The main course consisted of basically laying on of hands, on the head, the chest, the abdomen, the legs, and the feet, slowly and silently. She then finished by waving her hands back and forth about 9 inches above the patient, and was done.
    She was very pleasant, friendly, and update. I was appalled!

    1. Chris Hickie says:

      I just found a story on the web site about how reiki healed a post-op wound infection following a breast reconstruction surgery. So….if only surgeons would become reiki masters, they could avoid all that tedious “scrubbing in” by doing reiki from one hand upon the other (and if you can maintain a continuous reiki field, you wouldn’t even need to glove!) . And then intra-op reiki could be done to stave off in advance any possible post-op infection. Of course, if we could all just become reiki masters and heal ourselves daily, we wouldn’t need any of those silly physicians in the first place.

  15. Bill says:

    Please–What is CCF?

    I do love this site, and Neurologica, too.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Bill –

      CCF is the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Just faster to type out the acronym.

      And glad you like the sites! Welcome!

  16. fxh says:

    I had a sneaky feeling in my Spidey senses I was a victim of stealth healing by reiki handwaving on the train this morning as I felt good on alighting. I wonder who is doing it.

  17. rork says:

    “You may experience the energy as sensations such as heat, tingling, or pulsing”.
    I may be a practitioner and just didn’t know it. Folks even called me “the tingler” in younger days. The whole point is for the person to experience sensations.

  18. goodnightirene says:

    Ms. Ballamy, I am thinking of bringing a lawsuit against one of my neighbors , but I do not trust the legal system and Big Law in general, so I was wondering if you could refer me to an alternative lawyer–or perhaps to an integrative legal clinic so that I can get the “best of both worlds”?

    1. chris hickie says:

      can’t you get in trouble for practicing alternative law–as in there are legal statutes against it?

    2. Jann Bellamy says:

      Fortunately, complementary/alternative/integrative law doesn’t exist!

    3. Frederick says:

      HAHAHA nice one, Yeah I also don’t trust my mechanics… Big mechanica.
      Acupuncture for cars! but with magnets!

  19. Jamie Gegerson says:

    The Center claims that reiki has specific medical benefits. These include:

    Detoxifying the body

    All health information posted on the site is based on the latest research and national treatment standards, and have been written or reviewed and approved by Cleveland Clinic physicians or health professionals unless otherwise specified.

    Since the Cleveland Clinic physicians apparently support the detoxification benefits of reiki and chemotherapy is basically the use of toxins to try to knock out a cancer without killing the patient in the process, they must have some way to account for the use of reiki while undergoing chemo treatments, right? I’d be interested in seeing how they adjust their science based chemo treatments based on the varying amounts of effort put into reiki and the skills of the ‘practitioner’ providing them for each individual patient. They have to be doing that right? If so, we have a basis for trying to scientifically evaluate their methods. If not, aren’t they admitting that there really isn’t anything real there and that their declarations of benefit, review and approval are fraudulent?

  20. Thomas says:

    @21, Pingback: Thanks.

    1. Eugenie Mielczarek says:

      The energy emitted from a hand of a human is 0.0000000000001 times less than the noise level of a cell. This fact is easily calculated using some elementary physics . Healing chemistry requires energies which are billions and billions of times greater Eugenie Mielczarek

  21. LindaRosaRN says:

    Reiki is essentially “Therapeutic Touch” with the main difference being in practitioner training. Both use hands-on and hands-off methods.

    It can be argued that it is unethical to used this practice, regardless of name, The conclusions of Rosa study (JAMA 4/1/98) read:

    “To our knowledge, no other objective, quantitative study involving more than a few TT practitioners has been published, and no well-designed study demonstrates any health benefit from TT. These facts, together with our experimental findings, suggest that TT claims are groundless and that further use of TT by health professionals is unjustified.”

  22. Erik1986 says:

    Wasn’t there a teen/pre-teen girl who did a science experiment for school regarding “healing touch” and showed it was, to put it politely, “baloney?” Something like having the healer put his/her hands through a screen that blocked sight and they were unable to even tell if there was someone/something there to wave their “healing hands” over? It was a while back and I can’t remember the details, but I think the girl got some sort of award, perhaps from JREF?

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      That was Emily Rosa.
      Youngest person ever to have a study published in a major medical journal.

  23. joseph says:

    hi,my estranged brother is a “reika master”he hates my guts because i told him that reiki is rubbish, make me feel safe by telling me he cant do anything by using reiki on me, he lives about 1000 miles away, i believe he cant do anything to me but a little assurance from you would help me. thank you.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      It doesn’t matter if your brother is 1,000 miles away or touching you, he can’t harm you with reiki. Reiki is nothing more than wishful thinking that costs a lot of money. It’s about as useful at helping or harming someone as shoving pins in a voodoo doll.

      Though I suppose you could throw the doll at somebody and hope it jabs them with a needle.

      1. joseph says:

        hi, thank you for your comment, you have put me at ease, i believe you are right, reiki is a load of crap. thank you.

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