Is it possible for providers to heal patients without any physical contact or intervention?
Well, a University of Maryland researcher says such therapies certainly can't hurt and just might help.
John Astin reviewed 23 clinical studies involving prayer, noncontact therapeutic touch and other forms of spiritual intervention in which there is no physical contact between practitioner and patient.
His findings, published in the June 6 Annals of Internal Medicine, claim that in 57% of the studies such "distance healing" techniques had a positive impact on patients' health, whether it was a shorter-than-expected recovery time or less pain.
"Statistically speaking, the figure of 57% is highly significant," Astin said in a written statement. "This is far more than one would expect to see by chance alone."
Astin, an open-minded skeptic, says the findings aren't conclusive and should be interpreted with caution: In nine of the studies reviewed, distance healing techniques had no effect.
"On the other hand, there is certainly no evidence that attempts to heal from a distance cause any harm," Astin says.
Outliers wonders what North Carolina state Rep. George Miller would think of that.
Miller wanted to make felons of some alternative medicine providers (we're not making this up) for practicing without a license. He had to kill the provision he was pushing after numerous complaints.
"You deserve an A+ in grass-roots democracy," Miller told a group of 100 protesting his provision at a hearing in Raleigh, N.C., last week.
And you, sir, deserve a D- in open-mindedness.
Y-care. The typical down-on-his-luck resident of a YMCA usually doesn't see a healthcare provider until his problem has become serious.
That's why John Lafley, executive director of the Lawson House YMCA in Chicago, moved to bring healthcare to his Y.
Under Lafley's tenure Lawson has also bought an adjacent Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop to provide job training for some of the 540 residents of the Y, which sits just a few blocks west of glitzy Michigan Avenue.
Thanks mostly to a $1.75 million donation from James Denny, former chairman of Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and his wife Catherine, the Lawson House has set up an onsite health center to offer residents a wide range of medical and support services--including counseling and health screenings.
In its first two weeks, the clinic provided 30 complete physical examinations to residents who would not otherwise have received the care.
"If the clinic wasn't available and (our residents) didn't have insurance, they wouldn't get the exams," Lafley says, adding he hopes the presence of the clinic will reduce emergency department visits at area hospitals.
The clinic is open 40 hours a week; the doctor is in 20 hours; a nurse practitioner is always available.
Lawson House bought the neighboring Ben & Jerry's through a community partnership program offered by the South Burlington, Vt.-based company. Some 30% of the shop's employees are Lawson House residents or are from other Chicago YMCA programs.
"To my knowledge, there's no one else in the country doing this," Lafley says. "I think you're going to find other places attempting to mimic (our programs)."
Kudos to the innovative folks at Lawson House. And here's hoping other programs do flatter theirs with imitation.
The real story. The American Medical Association as a radical political organization?
A strange concept for sure--but not to Human Life International, an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic organization based in Front Royal, Va.
The HLI opposes an AMA policy--adopted at its annual meeting last month in Chicago--against using "reparative" or "conversion" therapy for gays and lesbians. The HLI argues homosexuality is a treatable mental disorder and that such therapies should be used to `cure' it.
HLI spokesman Andresen Blom explains: "There are hundreds of people who define themselves as `recovered' or `cured,' who now identify themselves, in their words, as `normal.' That's enough people to raise questions about whether this is a medical condition."
The AMA's medical student section sponsored the proposal, citing the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The APA and other medical organizations have condemned conversion therapy as well.
According to an HLI statement, the AMA is a "formerly honorable" association on the road to becoming "nothing more than a tool of radical political agendas."
The AMA declined to comment on the HLI's accusations.
Doogie Howser II. A physician in Alaska could have her license suspended for allegedly allowing a teen-ager to provide emergency-room treatment.
A hearing officer has recommended that Grace Shimotsu surrender her medical license for 60 days, pay a $6,000 fine and attend an ethics course. The state medical board is expected to make a ruling on the case at its next meeting in August.
The incident occurred in 1994 when a woman was treated for multiple injuries received in a boating accident. She was airlifted to the former Wrangell (Alaska) General Hospital, where she was met by Shimotsu, the attending physician, and the 17-year-old daughter of the hospital's administrator.
The teen-ager was participating in an on-the-job training program. The state alleges Shimotsu allowed the young woman to cut off the victim's clothes, inflate a catheter, place EKG monitoring tabs on her chest and inject her with a local anesthesia, among other things.
Shimotsu maintains that she did nothing wrong.
Sure. And would Shimotsu want one of her family members to receive emergency treatment from a teen-ager?