Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD
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Kaptchuk TJ. Distant Healing. Ann Intern Med. 2001;134:532. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-134-6-200103200-00025
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2001;134(6):532.
TO THE EDITOR:
The thoughtful systematic review of the efficacy of “distant healing” by Astin and colleagues raises many questions (1). For me, the most interesting conundrum is not whether distant healing works (I'm highly skeptical) but how such a discussion reveals the contradiction within medicine between a rational perspective, exemplified by laboratory-based scientific knowledge, and the clinical–empirical approach currently based primarily on randomized, controlled trials (2). Will more trials of distant healing with increased methodologic rigor be helpful? If the results of such trials are negative, there is no problem: Rational and empirical knowledge agree. If the results of such trials are positive, would the evidence be persuasive for the medical community? I don't think so. The situation resembles the predicament with homeopathy trials, another seemingly implausible intervention, where the evidence of multiple positive randomized, controlled trials (3) will not convince the medical community of its validity (4). Additional positive trials of distant healing are only likely to further expose the fact that the underpinning of modern medicine is an unstable balance between British empiricism (in the tradition of Hume) and continental rationalism (in the tradition of Kant).
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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