CFI Report Objects to Taxpayer Funding for Therapeutic Touch, Alternative Medicine Therapies

September 28, 2009


In a climate of spiraling health care costs and swelling ranks of uninsured, you would think that Congress would want to spend its resources smartly – say, by covering therapies that have a proven track record of actually improving health, or at least therapies we have a reasonable basis for believing will work.  Not so for the U.S. Senate.

Over the past several weeks I have had the pleasure of working with Jean Mielczarek, Emeritus Professor of Physics at George Mason University, on a report exposing the push to include coverage for bogus alternative medicine therapies in the Senate’s health care reform bill .  An amendment backed by Senator Tom Harkin and others would prohibit "discrimination" against state-licensed practitioners of alternative medicine.  That would guarantee taxpayer funding for non-evidence based treatments, such as "Therapeutic Touch," that have no grounding in experiment or in our understanding of basic scientific facts.

Senator Harkin has argued that it is "time to end discrimination against alternative health care practices."  He has also been a driving force behind federal funding for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institute for Health, which has spent $2.5 billion over the last decade only to find that most alternative medicine "cures" work no better than placebos. 

Among the so-called treatments that would be covered under the amendment is Therapeutic Touch, in which a therapist moves his or her hands over the patient’s "energy field," allegedly "tuning" a purported "aura" of biomagnetic energy that extends above the patient’s body.  Somehow, this is thought to help heal the patient.  Therapeutic Touch practitioners claim that this biomagnetic field has a strength of 2 to 3 milligauss – less than one percent of the strength of Earth’s magnetic field.  As Professor Mielczarek shows, a biomagnetic field of this strength is billions of times smaller than that needed to affect biochemistry.   Taken over a volume of atomic dimensions, the energy content of a 3 milligauss field is billions of times less than the energy your eye receives when viewing even the brightest star in the night sky.

The United States faces an enormous challenge in attempting to make quality health care available, while also reining in the ballooning cost of medical care. It is inexcusable to squander scarce resources by funding unsubstantiated, non-evidence-based medical techniques that have no basis in theory or experiment.  We can ill afford to continue wasting precious resources on unproven – and often disproven – medical techniques.

To access CFI’s report and for updates and related news, visit www.centerforinquiry/touch