Energy at work; another example of anti-science agendas?

Hi all,

Roger is tied up so I’ll be posting this week, as we settle back into our regular bi-weekly postings. I had an interesting summer writing grant proposals (more on that subject in a later post) and just got back from a conference in the UK. Sadly I have yet to be reunited with my luggage by Virgin Atlantic, but I live in hope.

Upon my return, the latest copy of Canadian Nurse was on my doorstep, and I was interested to find a four page article titled “Energy at work” on new age nursing and the place of alternative therapies in practice. Given this is a supposedly professional journal, I was expecting a balanced and informative article, when in reality I got a thinly disguised article advocating the wonders of therapeutic touch (TT). Granted, it did acknowledge that there was no scientific evidence TT works, or that the human energy fields exist, but overall the article was rather embracing of these alternative approaches.

One of the practitioners, a registered nurse bemoaned the fact she couldn’t use TT in her practice and was not allowed to say “Can I hold you hand and send you a little Reiki?” The fact this would be a very inappropriate thing for an RN to say to a patient seems to go unchallenged in the paper. This is really akin to a physcian saying “Would it be Ok if I inspect these animal entrails to confirm my diagnosis?” An event that would (hopefully) result in a disciplinary action at least:

1) We shouldn’t use or promote any practice that has no evidence of effect on unsuspecting members of the public, and
2) we shouldn’t promote our own personal spiritual beliefs upon others, no matter how well intentioned.

Sadly, articles like this do little to help a balanced discussion, or value the contribution of science in healthcare. Worse still they promote the idea that these alternative practices are just as valuable as evidence based ones. Indeed, some do have value, but this makes nurses look look slightly barmy. I for one, would rather nurses to be promoted as serious health practitioners rather than gullible new age gurus.

Interestingly, the article notes there are currently only 80 members of the Canadian Holistic Nursing association. Which makes me question why the Canadian Nursing Association would publish another paper about these practices (they published a virtually identical paper 6 years or so back) given they are such a minority of the 230 thousand or so RNs in Canada? There are probably 80 RNs in Canada who still believe in alien abductions or that Elvis is still alive, so how about some articles targeted for them from Canadian Nurse if they are aiming to appeal to very small minorities of the profession?

Anyhow, it isn’t just the CNA who seem to be afflicted with an agenda to promote bad science as an equally valid alternative to EBP.On my travels in the UK I came across the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital.


This NHS funded hospital offers homeopathic service as a general service for children and adults with a wide range of chronic illnesses and a complementary cancer care service. It claims on its website that homeopathy is useful in the management of:

  • Rheumatology
  • Allergic conditions
  • Asthma
  • Eczema and other dermatology conditions
  • Menstrual and Menopausal problems
  • Digestive and Bowel Problems
  • Stress and Mood disorders

Well not according to Cochrane, or any other credible sources I am aware of. Fine for individuals to pay for this if they wish, but it did make me wonder why UK tax payers money is being spent supporting this? Maybe there is a surplus of cash in the UK health service I have not heard about…

Anyhow, maybe I am just grumpy given my luggage loss or maybe my Chakras are not aligned, but I promise we will not dwell on complementary therapies too much this year, as 1) plenty of other sites cover this area well (such as FSM), and 2) they represent rather an easy target for scientific arguments to challenge, and 3) those that believe are unlikely to change their views based on the evidence.

So this year we hope to tackle some more challenging arguments and ideas in the philosophy of science.

Onwards and upwards!


Jaimet K. (2012) Energy at Work. Canadian Nurse, 108(7) 33-36