Clinical trials of magic


I’ll partially apologize here. The reason is that I said I’d be back to business dishing out the Insolence as usual, be it in the form of my usual 2,000 word gems, or slightly shorter, or a lot longer. However, fate intervened. First, there were new developments in the Frank Arguello threat machine. Go back to this post for updates. More importantly, a really cool thing finally happened. Steve Novella and a person regular readers of this blog know and love managed to do something that we need to do more of: Get the viewpoint of science-based medicine published in high impact biomedical journals. And that’s just what’s happened.

Even better, at least for now, you can read it too, because it doesn’t appear to be behind a paywall. (I’m at home as I write this, and I can read the whole thing on my wifi, no VPN needed.)

The article is entitled Clinical trials of integrative medicine: testing whether magic works? There’s also been a fair amount of news coverage on the article, and I’ve been frantically doing interviews over the last couple of days, including:

There are likely to be at least a couple more, given what my “inside” information tells me. In any case, one quote that particularly caught my attention was this one by reiki advocates in this story:

When it comes to treating patients, traditional physicians and spiritual healers often butt heads. Long Island-based mother-daughter spiritual healers, AnnMarie Citarella, a Reiki master teacher, and Theresa Citarella, a Reiki practitioner, explained to Medical Daily their feelings on Gorski and Novella’s proposition. “I’m disappointed because I think that with clinical trials that they can actually prove the benefits of Reiki. They will prove that this is such a wonderful and positive way to deal with people who are sick,” AnnMarie said.

Regardless, her daughter, Theresa, added that she doesn’t feel a lack of clinical trials on the alternative healing would seriously affect Reiki’s popularity. “Obviously the science will help it if there is solid research backing it. There are people in this world that need that science,” she said, adding that even without trials, “Reiki will continue on.”


“If they do stop the trials, reiki will never stop,” concluded AnnMarie, alluding to an aspect of her healing that is simply immeasurable in scientific terms. “You have to experience it. You can’t talk about it. Everyone should at least experience it just once to understand.”

In other words, reiki don’t need no steekin’ evidence!

In any case, Trends in Molecular Medicine is good in that it published our article and it’s a pretty high impact review journal, but it doesn’t have a section for comments. So consider this a comment section for the article.