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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.—In describing the theoretical background of TT, Ms Rosa and colleagues1 note the similarity to the "animal magnetism" healing techniques of the controversial 18th-century physician Franz Anton Mesmer. Indeed, Mesmer's mysterious and magical cures gained such notoriety in Paris that in 1784, King Louis XVI appointed a blue-ribbon panel from the prestigious French Academy of Sciences to formally evaluate this "magnetism." The panel, which included such well-known scientists as Lavoisier, Guillotin, and Benjamin Franklin, verified that some patients indeed had benefited, but they dismissed this as having something to do with the "imagination," and concluded that "magnetism" was not a real phenomenon.2 Unfortunately, this prestigious panel missed the opportunity to gain further understanding of the potential of the patient-physician relationship, the power of suggestion, and recognition of the closely related power of the placebo effect.3