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December 9, 1998

An Even Closer Look at Therapeutic Touch

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;280(22):1905-1908. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-22-jac80017

To the Editor.—As a clinician, I am surprised that THE JOURNAL elected to address the important and controversial issue of Therapeutic Touch (TT) with such a simpleminded, methodologically flawed, and irrelevant study. The experiments described are an artificial demonstration that some number of self-described mystics were unable to "sense the field" of the primary investigator's 9-year-old daughter.1 This hardly demonstrates or debunks the efficacy of TT. The vaguely described recruitment method does not ensure or even suggest that the subjects being tested were actually skilled practitioners. More important, the experiments described are not relevant to the clinical issue supposedly being researched. Therapeutic Touch is not a parlor trick and should not be investigated as such. Rather, it is a therapeutic technique that may be discovered to require active involvement by a genuinely ill patient, as the authors themselves convolutedly acknowledge in their citation of Krieger's work. Thus, to demonstrate a child's participation in a magic trick hardly represents an investigation of a clinical phenomenon. It is not yet clear if TT will be proven to be effective and for which, if any, indications. A serious and appropriately designed clinical study is needed to determine its efficacy, not an elementary-school science project.

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