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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 physician, I remain skeptical about TT as an effective technique. As a scientist, I appreciate the efforts by Ms Rosa and colleagues1 to ascertain the validity of some fundamental claims of TT practitioners. But as a medical historian, I think it is essential to remember that many interventions now universally regarded as useful were originally proposed at a time when their fundamental basis was not only unknown, but in some cases unknowable. To consider only a single example, when Ignaz Semmelweis proposed handwashing as an intervention to combat disease transmission in the mid-1800s, there was no consistent theory of disease causation by microorganisms, and there did not exist the technological processes necessary to demonstrate the existence of those microorganisms now considered a major cause of human disease.