1. Rosa, Linda RN

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To the Editor:


In her article on Reiki "Reiki Therapy: A Nursing Intervention for Critical Care" [CCNQ 2011;34(3):213-217], Dr Robin Toms jumps the gun on recommending that this practice be incorporated into ICU standard care.


Before we start loading down ICU (intensive care unit) nurses, or any other nurses, with metaphysical distractions, we'd better be sure there are good grounds for doing so. That means validation by science, and there Reiki falls wide of the mark.


In a 2008 systematic review of Reiki,1 the authors concluded that "evidence is insufficient to suggest that Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of Reiki remains unproven."


In her article's section on "Evidence for Reiki Therapy," Toms gives a rather rosier interpretation of Reiki studies, for example, Gillespie et al, than does the 2008 systematic review. Where Toms claims significant clinical improvement reported by the Wardell study, the systematic review discounts the study entirely for not meeting their inclusion criteria.


Before taking on more clinical studies, researchers should be reminded of a preliminary task, and that is, establishing the existence of the postulated "life force" (aka "human energy field" [HEF]). So far there is only anecdotal evidence from the Reiki practitioners themselves that they are able to sense this entity, and this claim can be more easily explained by the power of suggestion.


Because Reiki is essentially identical to therapeutic touch (TT), we can reasonably look to basic research done with that practice where TT practitioners there also claim to sense the HEF (which both TT and Reiki also describe as ki, qi, and prana). Both practices also claim to be able to assess the flow of this mysterious energy and direct it to patients. Both work with hands on or off the patients, as the practitioner prefers. The difference between the two practices only appears to be in training and in whether or not patient agreement is necessary.


In a study published in 1998, TT practitioners did not demonstrate that they were able to reliably sense the HEF.2 The study's conclusion, unrefuted since that time, holds for Reiki and other "energy medicine" practices that make similar claims, as well as TT:


"To our knowledge, no other objective, quantitative study involving more than a few TT practitioners has been published, and no well-designed study demonstrates any health benefit from TT. These facts, together with our experimental findings, suggest that TT claims are groundless and that further use of TT by health professionals is unjustified."


As the 1998 article's results have yet to be overturned by subsequent data, its conclusions remain the definitive assessment of intentional energy healing. Therefore, the practice of both TT and Reiki in 2011 is professionally indefensible.


-Linda Rosa, RN


Loveland, Colorado




1. Lee MS, Pittler H, Ernst E. Effects of Reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Int J Clin Pract. 2008;62(6):947-54. [Context Link]


2. Rosa L, Rosa E, Sarner L, Barrett S. A close look at therapeutic touch. JAMA. 1998;279(13):1005-1010. [Context Link]