Reiki invades an operating room

I’m a scientist, but I’m also a surgeon, which means I’ve spent quite a bit of time in operating rooms. In the OR, teamwork is critical, and each member of the team should be using science- and evidence-based medicine to inform their judgment regarding what to do. If there’s one kind of practitioner in the OR that relies heavily on SBM, it should be the anesthesiologist. Surgery is a combination of science and technical skill, and sometimes deciding what to do in the operating room is more a matter of judgment based on experience than science. For instance, if I encounter bleeding, what I do next is less a matter of science and more a matter of skill in finding what’s bleeding and fixing it. That’s not to say that science isn’t very important in surgery and during surgery. Science tells us what operation to do, and science helps us as surgeons refine our technique and determine which operation works the best. However, there is still an “art” to actually carrying out the operations. Anesthesia, on the other hand, is pretty much pure pharmacology.

That’s why I was very disturbed to find a blog called Doctors with Reiki, which is written by someone who goes under the pseudonym Reiki Doc. Reiki Doc, you see, is apparently an anesthesiologist and describes himself thusly:

I am a medical doctor who works in a hospital. I do anesthesia. While I do anesthesia, I also give Reiki Healing to my resting patients. They do not know, nor does anybody else in the room. I have quite a following at work. Many request my services. Recovery room RN’s love me. All of my patient report the same thing: they felt no pain. One friend’s spouse actually made her take two of her pain pills at home because he absolutely could not believe she felt no pain after gallbladder surgery!

No wonder this guy blogs under a pseudonym. Reading his profile, I’m torn between thinking that Reiki Doc is about as unethical as can be. He is, after all, doing something to patients for which he does not have informed consent. On the other hand, what he is doing is basically nothing. That’s because reiki is basically faith healing. Let’s just put it this way. The idea behind reiki is to channel “healing energy” from what reiki masters call the “universal source.” Substitute “God” for the “universal source,” and it becomes apparent that there really isn’t any difference between reiki and faith healing other than the belief system undergirding each one: Eastern mysticism versus Christianity. It’s actually an interesting question in medical ethics. Is is ethical to do reiki on a patient without informed consent, given that reiki is nothing more than magical thinking and does nothing? Reiki masters like Reiki Doc do not shoot “healing energy” from their hand into patients, as much as they might like to believe that they can channel energy from the “universal source” and use it to heal. They just don’t. On the other hand, clearly Reiki Doc intends to do something that he thinks is having an effect on patients even without the patient’s informed consent. Does it matter that reiki doesn’t actually do anything if the practitioner thinks it does?

Questions, questions. It’s enough to make one’s brain explode. I wonder if reiki can help that?

But back to Reiki Doc. What first caught my attention from him was a post entitled Lightwork in the O.R.: a Case Study. Yes, it’s a “case study” of Reiki Doc’s use of reiki in the OR. He begins by noting that the patient who would be his first case of the day had passed out when her IV had been inserted. We see this from time to time. Some people have a real aversion to needles and are so keyed up because she’s about to undergo surgery. Sometimes patients have a vasovagal reaction to being stuck. It happens. Amusingly, as Reiki Doc went out to see the patient to make sure he was OK and that the case could proceed, he mentioned putting on his “reiki game face,” which rather amused me. What is a “reiki game face”? Does the universal source help? Inquiring minds want to know! My questions aside, Reiki Doc recounted looking at the patient’s EKG and reassuring him that he had simply had a vasovagal reaction, and then he noticed something:

Anesthesia, technically, was uneventful. It was a short case, and everything went well.

Reiki-wise, this was one of the most unusual cases in my career. I gave Reiki, lots of Reiki, way more than usual. It was like water in a desert. It just kept going in. The solar plexus, or yellow chakra, sucked it in. So I gave it. I felt the spirit of this individual wanting to heal, very much so, and I allowed the energy to ‘connect’ to him in the process. I gave Diksha, balanced chakras, and gave Reiki complete with symbols while pretending to fix the Bair hugger warming blanket and do anesthesia-related activities. (I can do anesthesia and teach, I can do anesthesia and tell jokes with the surgeon; anesthesia is a lot like driving a car, yes?) I actually was guided to attune him to Reiki 1, as I do sometimes, smiling inwardly with my guides at the thought he is going to wake up psychic!

Oh, great. Reiki Doc was directing reiki energy to the surgeon too. Let me just say this right here. If you’re the anesthesiologist doing the anesthesia for one of my cases, keep your damned reiki energy to yourself. I don’t need it. I’m perfectly capable of doing the case without your magical thinking or your fantasies that you are sending me some sort of mystical energy from your fantasy god/universal source.

It turns out that Reiki Doc thought he perceived something in his patient’s girlfriend, who told him that she saw something in his “energy.” Yes, she was a bit of a kindred spirit, it would seem:

I took that as a go. I shared with her my findings on the Intraoperative Reiki. They were spot-on. (She had just graduated from a local Energy Healing program, and had her Tarot Bible with her things!)

Her surprised relief from being able to share her perceptions about her boyfriend gave me joy as a healer–when everything ‘works right’ it is a beautiful thing to watch. I was doing way more than giving anesthesia at this point. I was being a doctor, a specialist in Energy Medicine, at this time.

She asked me for my contact information, exchanged hers, and asked me to find out what his past life trauma was, and fix it.

Ah, the beauty when two woos meet and their energies connect! The patient’s girlfriend was so thrilled to meet Reiki Doc, and Reiki Doc ended up texting her what her past life trauma was and how to fix it, “from an energy healing perspective,” of course! So grateful was she that she texted him back and pointed out how she had asked God to send her a spiritual teacher.

Reiki Doc concluded from this particular anecdote:

Impression: Intraoperative Reiki is a powerful tool. It helps to establish rapport. It helps to address the underlying conditions, both on an energetic level and a deeper soul level, that result in the manifestation of physical disease. It is non-toxic, safe, and does not need to be documented or charted or even discussed with the patient at the time it is given. People come to us for healing, in the hospital. It would be remiss to leave something clearly in need of treatment, untreated, when we have the ability to treat it at the same time that other work is being done. Anesthesiologists and CRNA’s are the perfect providers for this purpose because we are at the head of the bed in surgery, and our anesthesia weakens the aura in the first place. Why not take the opportunity to shore it up and strengthen the aura at the time patients are most vulnerable?

Yes, just what I want in an anesthesiologist: Someone so prone to magical thinking that he thinks that he can “address the underlying conditions, both on an energetic level and a deeper soul level”! Nor do I particularly want an anesthesiologist who thinks he can communicate with Michael Jackson after he died, who believes in reiki, and thinks that reiki can help victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Sadly, magical thinking is alive and well in the medical profession, and Reiki Doc is slam dunk evidence of that.