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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.—I critiqued the study on TT1 and was amazed that a research study with so many flaws could be published. First, the authors list 129 references of which approximately only 50 are primary research studies. Of these studies, the majority are master's theses or dissertations from the 1980s, and only 9 references are reports of quantitative studies from the 1990s. A closer look at the methods is even more alarming. Possible confounders include the wide range of experience of the 21 practitioners, demographic characteristics of the participants, and lack of evidence of the depth of their training in TT. Although the subject was able to "center," the researcher, a young girl who simply held her hand over the upturned palm of the practitioner, violated the entire premise of TT. The procedure was conducted in different settings with no control of environmental conditions. Even though the trials were repeated, the subjects did not change, thus claims of power based on possible repetitions of error are inappropriate. The true numbers in groups are 15 and 13, thus making a type II error highly probable with a study power of less than 30%. Another concern is whether participants signed informed consent documents or at least were truly informed as to the nature of this study and that publication of its results would be sought beyond a report to the fourth-grade teacher.