When popular TV dramas feature energy healing, real-life healers tend to run for cover. Or they feel compelled to watch in irritation and frustration at the way their profession has once again been misrepresented or maligned.
So the flaws in a recent episode of the hospital drama "Grey’s Anatomy" – "The Laying on of Hands" – hardly came as a surprise. But it was interesting and somewhat refreshing that the show tried – within its own limited confines – to portray healing without the usual negative nonsense seen so often in the past.
To their credit, the producers enlisted the advice of a Brennan Healing Science practitioner in Los Angeles to get the hand positions right. (Pity she wasn’t able to influence the script). But at least this was an attempt, successful or not, to present energy healing in a better light.
It is viewers these days, rather than stethoscoped, celluloid heartthrobs, who have the power of life or death. And with the networks fixated on ratings, shows like "Grey’s Anatomy" simply cannot afford a dud episode. So did the program makers take an uncommon risk with a subject that generates such polarized views, particularly in the medical world? Perhaps not. The popularity of energy healing and other alternative therapies in hospitals seems to be growing at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago. A recent survey showed the number of U.S. hospitals sanctioning complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has risen from 8 percent to 27 percent in just five years.
In a major cover story entitled "Alternative Medicine Comes of Age," the weekly magazine U.S. News & World Report said recently that all 18 of what it terms "America’s Best Hospitals" have embraced CAM in some form. These include the Mayo Clinic, Duke University Medical Center, the University of California-San Francisco and Chicago’s famed Children’s Memorial Hospital.
The magazine describes the latter as "a hard-nosed, tough-cases, research-oriented emblem of Western medicine" and cited the case of 2-year-old leukemia sufferer Mikey who, his parents said, is responding well to "healing touch" carried out by a hospital therapist.
Mikey’s treatment is part of a clinical trial into whether hands-on therapies can produce medical results beyond simply reducing stress and anxiety. Children having a bone marrow transplant are being divided into two groups, one receiving "healing touch" and the other just being visited by the same therapists who will sit and talk or color with them for the same period of time, but do no healing work. At the end of the trial, the doctors will determine if the group that received healings was better able to integrate the transplanted bone marrow cells and with fewer complications.
The magazine suggested that a major part of the attraction of CAM to teaching hospitals and major medical centers is the ever-increasing volume of research funds. It says: "Until the mid-1990s, most academic centers treated CAM like a pack of scruffy mutts." That attitude changed with a flood of funding – now $250 million a year from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Cancer Institute alone. Tens of millions more come from private foundations.
But U.S. News also says that CAM’s ascendance isn’t entirely money linked and that researchers it spoke to made frequent references to obligation. More and more patients apparently are asking for alternative treatments.
It was this kind of patient power that prompted the last European Breast Cancer Conference to welcome the use of complementary treatments as support for cancer patients. The gathering of leading breast cancer specialists from throughout Europe was told that its delegates can no longer ignore the importance of alternatives treatments in view of their popularity among patients.
The conference adopted new guidelines after hearing that studies had found that up to 90 percent of European women diagnosed with breast cancer now turn to alternative remedies of some kind.
The proving of complementary care and the new funding that will help to achieve it are absolutely vital. Yet, without looking a gift horse in the mouth, not all research is valuable. Money is undoubtedly being spent on minor programs of little consequence or benefit.
I have long called for research into the development of instrumentation that can read the Human Energy Field. I think it is not just possible, but inevitable. Before I became a healer, I was a physicist at NASA where I worked with detectors that measured the different wavelengths of the earth’s energy field. The human energy field contains similar wavelength bands.
Because disease shows up as distortions in the field – sometimes years before it enters the physical body – it doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the impact it would have on the treatment of cancer, heart disease and many of the other major health issues if every health center or doctor’s surgery was equipped with such a machine.
One thing is certain. For every medic won over, there will always be plenty of skeptics or downright opponents, even, it seems, among the CAM fraternity. U.S. News quotes Carrie Cassileth, chief of integrated medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. "Homeopathy is absurd," she says, "and manipulating someone’s energy field is nonsense."
Now that sounds like a good line for a TV hospital soap.