Think Tank Objects to Taxpayer Funding for Therapeutic Touch, other Alternative Medicine Therapies

For Immediate Release: September 28, 2009
Contact: Nathan Bupp, Vice President of Communications - (207) 358-9785

Health-care reform should prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to cover non-evidence-based medicine, says CFI report

(Washington, D.C.)–The Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy (OPP), a group that lobbies for sound science in government policy, today released a report titled

A Fracture in our Health Care: Paying for Non-Evidence Based Medicine
. The report is highly critical of an effort underway to amend current health care reform legislation with provisions allowing taxpayer dollars to support unsubstantiated “alternative” medical treatments.

Americans are increasingly turning to various forms of alternative medicine.

The Washington Post

has reported that 38% of adults in the United States have turned to acupuncturists, holistic chiropractors, herbal and homeopathic healers, and various other forms of non-standard treatments. Now senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), along with support from the ranking member on the Senate health committee Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), are sponsoring an amendment to the health care reform bill which would support funding for alternative medicine, and also require all insurance companies to cover state-licensed alternative medicine providers, under the guise of prohibiting “discrimination” against such providers.

“Our report seeks to sound some alarm bells: we are coming dangerously close to having lawmakers legitimize quackery by putting the government stamp of approval on these unproven treatments,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We call upon the legislative branch to follow President Obama’s lead and insist that public policy be informed by sound scientific evidence.”

The CFI report focuses specifically on the lack of evidence for therapeutic touch (TT), an example of the kind of non-evidence-based medicine that would be covered under the Harkin amendment. During therapeutic touch, practitioners purport to massage the patient’s “biomagnetic field” with their hands. The report exposes this as nonsense, revealing that the purported magnetic field is far too weak to affect any biochemical processes, and is billions of times less energetic than the energy our eye receives when viewing even the brightest star in the night sky. The report points out that a study published in

The Journal of the American Medical Association

(JAMA) found that . . . “Twenty-one experienced TT practitioners were unable to detect the investigators ‘energy field’. Their failure to substantiate TT’s most fundamental claim is unrefuted evidence that the claims of TT are groundless and that further professional use is unjustified.”

“CFI strongly opposes the wasting of taxpayer dollars on this and other non-evidence based medicine,” said Dr. Lindsay.

Dr. Wallace Sampson, a well-known critic of alternative medicine and fellow of the

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

, said “Therapeutic Touch, an example of ‘Distant Healing,’ is a scientific absurdity. This is bold foolishness, elected representatives legislating into policy their own personal delusions. This is an abuse of public office; and reason enough for recall or being voted out of office.”

The Center for Inquiry’s specific policy recommendations contained in the report are as follows:

  • Government should spend no taxpayer dollars in support of any alleged medical treatments or healing protocols, such as Therapeutic Touch, that have no grounding in experiment or in our understanding of basic scientific fact.
  • Any health care reform bill Congress passes should prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to cover non-evidence-based medicine.
  • Congress should greatly reduce or eliminate funding for the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), as a decade of study has shown that most alternative cures work no better than placebos.

“The United States can ill afford to continue wasting precious resources on unproven – and often disproven – medical techniques. (In the process of) reining in the ballooning cost of medical care, every dollar of health care funding is needed to provide tested, proven medical treatment to those who require it. It is inexcusable to squander scarce resources by funding unsubstantiated, non-evidence-based medical techniques that have no basis in theory or experiment,” states the report.

“A Fracture in our Health Care: Paying for Non-Evidence Based Medicine,” was authored by Eugenie V. Mielczarek, emeritus professor of physics at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA., with assistance from Derek C. Araujo, general counsel of the Center for Inquiry; Adam Magazine, a volunteer attorney for CFI in New York City; and Lori Sommerfelt, a sociology major at American University in Washington, DC.

A downloadable PDF copy of the full report is available online at

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York committed to fostering a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. The Center’s Web site is

. CFI’s Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington D.C .lobbying arm of the Center for Inquiry. The OPP’s mandate is to lobby Congress and the Administration on issues related to science and secularism. Their Web site can be found at

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at