Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mainstream promotion of woo is unethical

New York Times Magazine ethicist Randy Cohen gets it right in response to a question from “name withheld”, a St. Louis hospital worker who’s witnessed promotion of therapeutic touch and related energy healing methods:

Something needs to be adjusted here, but it is the nurses’ behavior, not the patients’ energy fields. These nurses, however well intentioned, should not perform unproven therapies — if these are unproven; opinions differ passionately — on unwitting patients. To do so is to tell a kind of lie to patients, who reasonably assume that their care meets hospital standards.

I would go a step further and say that patients reasonably assume that hospital standards line up with the standards of science. When woo is offered by a hospital, Cohen maintains, it “carries a sense of official approval”. That adds a whole new level of ethical problems over and above the non-mainstream offerings of woo.

H/T to the Health Fraud List.


DK said...

As a Student Nurse I find it very disappointing that any professional nurse would be promoting such treatment (if you could call it such).

Nursing interventions must be based in science and good research in order to be truly useful. Otherwise we waste time, give false hope, or even cause harm. None of these things are acceptable. Promoting this kind of woo just tosses out any credibility nursing has gained over the years.

pixelrn said...

This is much ado about nothing here. I'm an ICU nurse and we use soothing touch all the time. Why? Because it's soothing to the patient. I certainly don't claim that I am "healing an energy disturbance" and have never met a fellow nurse that would make that claim to his/her patients.

Randy Cohen's purpose is to write columns that catches the readers attention. Let's not be fooled into thinking that this is some sort accurate account of what nurses are actually doing.

R. W. Donnell said...

pixel rn,
You don't need a scientific study to know that soothing touch is---well, soothing, and maybe good for the patient. Nothing wrong with it if you strip it of the woo based claims.

Be glad you haven't witnessed such fraud but its existence in the medical and nursing professions is well documented.