Reiki? Really?

In the foothills of Mount Kurama a man meditates. He has been there for 21 days. Suddenly, he has a revelation.

From this quiet beginning in 1922 the practice of reiki was born. Since then, it has evolved and found itself keeping company with treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture in modern complementary medicine. The practice of reiki involves the practitioner transferring healing energy, or ‘ki’, to the subject through their palms. Those who support the treatments claim that this can help a wide range of conditions, including depression and anxiety as well as improving immunity. Contrary to these claims, reiki and other complementary medicines have been widely studied and the scientific consensus is that they have minimal, if any, clinical benefits. Despite this, reiki and its allied medicines are, shockingly, still afforded a place in the medical treatment establishment.

This acceptance of alternative medicine can be seen specifically at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, Essex, where they employ a “Reiki Therapist/Spiritual Healer”  in a breast cancer ward. The position is funded by an alternative medicine charity, but its location within an NHS hospital has drawn criticism. Professor Edzard Ernst, the world’s first, and only, professor of complementary medicine said comma “We have published a systematic review of reiki…the evidence is simply not there. There are a number of studies, they are flimsy and the ones that are rigorous don’t generate a positive result. In my book the evidence is even negative,” he added.

The way in which this post has been advertised raises some serious questions about the medical validity of the job. The criteria state that the practitioner must “demonstrate the benefit and activity of the post”. Philippa Dooher, Macmillan Lead Breast Care Specialist Nurse and supervisor of the position, outlined how this is judged: “Before and after treatment the practitioner engages in a core evaluation of how the patient is feeling. There is also the option for patient feedback.”   Considering the analysis of medical benefits of the treatment, she admitted that the success of the post is “not based on the effect on prognosis”. This stance is problematic according to Professor Ernst who described the attempts to justify the job as “ridiculously funny”.

Thankfully, it appears that this practice is not common in the NHS. Professor Ernst commented that the post seemed “exceptional”. But, he went on to add that outside of the National Health Service “…the use of alternative medicine in Britain is fairly widespread. About 20% of the general population use these treatments; with cancer patients the percentage is much higher.”   Dooher agreed with this saying that the only alternative practitioners in the hospital were the reiki therapist, and a reflexologist on the same breast cancer ward.

The role in the hospital has been occupied for a year. The way through which patients are recruited to the scheme is another interesting addition to this tale. As well as being given forms, the patients are approached in the waiting room and offered reiki by the practitioner themselves.

It seems highly illogical that an institution that should make decisions based on evidence and critical observation should offer this therapy to an oncology ward. This is a view also expressed by Professor Ernst, who said that it is “Truly, truly embarrassing that an NHS trust should advertise for a reiki healer … [the position] discloses a total lack of critical regard to what they are doing, and I think it’s ridiculous, dangerous, and undermines everything that evidence based medicine and rationality stands for.”

Whilst the creation of reiki in the mountainous regions of Japan may be a nice story, it is disconcerting that almost one hundred years later “spiritual healing energy” can still be found within the NHS.


8 thoughts on “Reiki? Really?

  1. I totally agree with every issue this article raises. Medics in this country are legally required to commit to act in a patient’s best interest in terms of treating the with curative therapy, or therapy which is alleviating or palliative, It should therefore be against the medical code of ethics to offer a non-proven “treatment” (and in fact proven to be non-effective) to patients within the NHS. There is a duty to provide patients with the best care available. There should be no room for an individual or group with money to fund a position offering quackery as an alternative and put patients’ health and wellbeing at risk in this way. It is high time the government listened to scientists on this critical issue and make a stand towards ensuring a patient’s right to scientifically accurate treatment advice at all times on the NHS.

  2. Reiki does work, it can never harm and yes I have scientific proof! I consider proof to be very important also. So I certainly don’t blame your views, always wise to be sceptical ( which does not mean a closed mind, merely an enquiring mind ), which in my opinion is a healthy mind!

  3. Reiki converts negative energy (illness) to positive energy (health). It can heal the cells, organs, muscles, brain waves, glands, bones etc. The list is quite literally endless. Reiki is a very gentle and powerful form of healing.
    All diseases stem from emotions! This is the core of reiki healing.
    On a scientific level, reiki uses the transmissions of photons.
    The dictionary meaning of a photon is as follows: ‘quantum of electromagnetic radiation energy, proportional to frequency of radiation’. It stems from the Greek word phos (light) and the word electron, hence pho-ton.

  4. Hi Bengood,

    I found your article just now through a google search, and feel compelled to comment. My authority on Reiki comes from studying and practicing it for over 20 years.

    The first thing that occurs to me is to ask you, have you any personal experience of Reiki through receiving a treatment?

    You reference to “revelations on a mountain in Japan” is very poorly researched and/or presented history of Reiki. I hope that the rest of the information in your article has more integrity. If you were so inclined to properly research and understand how Reiki has come to be utilised in our modern western society you would discover that a Dr Hayashi, a medically trained naval doctor, was far more instrumental in this, than Mikao Usui.

    Your claim that “reiki and other complementary medicines have been widely studied and the scientific consensus is that they have minimal, if any, clinical benefits.” and only give one source of evidence suggesting so. This shows no consensus, and suggests you are exaggerating the truth to fit your own agenda. This is far from sound and solid evidence based scientific thought, and quite ironic as you are attempting to invalidate the worth of Reiki because of the lack of scientific evidence to support it.

    Here’s a more updated list of other NHS hospitals offering Reiki in the UK:

    Bishop Auckland Hospital, Co Durham, Pains Clinic
    University College London Hospitals NHS, London
    Southampton University Hospitals NHS, Southampton
    Aintree University Hospitals NHS, Liverpool
    Wallace Cancer Care (works with Addenbrooke’s Hospital-Cambridge University Hospitals NHS), Cambridge
    South Tees Hospitals NHS, Middlesbrough
    Newham University Hospital NHS, London
    Great Ormond Street Hospital, London

    Far from being disconcerting that Reiki is found in hospitals, this growing list of hospitals shows that there is increasing awareness and acceptance of it’s value and worth with in the NHS. Now this is a nice story… Really!

  5. Hi I have just came across this article and felt compelled to leave a comment which i do not normally partake in.

    As some of the above postings have mentioned, first and foremost I cannot understand why you would dismiss something that you obviously have no real experience with and the reason why the NHS have recognised it is because in actual fact it has bought a lot of positive results and results that could not be denied! The NHS do not just willy nilly put there name against something in hope that it will work out for the best, this has been well thought about, including the risks of being ridiculed by people like yourself.

    It is a treatment that is available and is not forced onto patients so what is the harm when it CAN DO NO HARM!

    My suggestion is to book yourself into a session and then make your findings known……we were once dead set on the fact that the world was flat, at that point we had no proof that it was round, but now we know its round due to somebody opening there mind to possibilities outside of the norm!

    I hope you manage to open your mind also to possibilities outside of mainstream knowledge.

  6. Yes, we should always be sceptical, the word comes from the greek, I believe, the root meaning is ‘think’. When we think, we are open to new learning, to research, to science. I have been using Reiki since 1999, and am delighted to find so many scientific studies now confirming it’s efficacy. The Harvard Medical school is just one of many bodies around the world using Reiki to improve the lot of humankind.

  7. your argument seems to be based on the fact that reiki ” does no harm”. thats not a strong claim for something supposed to be beneficial.
    it’s still a service that has to be paid for

  8. Yes and what exactly is the problem with that? It does no harm and it can help so whats wrong with it being paid for?

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