Omission

Barrett L. Dorko, P.T.

 

 

 I have a quote in the notebook I always carry with me. Itís from Voltaire; I donít have a sword, but I have a pen.  A bit pretentious for me perhaps, but thereís certainly something very powerful about the written word.

 

This brings me to my next subject; a new book by Richard Gerber entitled Vibrational Medicine for the 21st Century: A Guide to Energy Healing and Spiritual Transformation (Eagle Brook 2000). Larry Dossey and C. Norman Shealy, two physicians and luminaries in the alternative medicine community, review this very favorably. Publisherís Weekly refers to it as ďThe cutting edge of the whole health movement.Ē

 

I picked it up at the bookstore today and found it to be pretty much the same as Gerberís previous effort (Vibrational Medicine: New choices for Healing ourselves Bear and Company 1988) A few things have happened in the years since though, and one series of studies in particular really interests me. In 1990, Daniel Wirth studied the effects of Therapeutic Touch (TT) on full thickness dermal wounds. In this study the results were remarkable for TT. By day 16, half of the wounds treated with TT had completely healed, while none of the control groups had. Wirthís study became perhaps the most commonly cited among TT proponents. I saw that Gerber quite dutifully reported Wirthís 1990 study on page 307 of his latest book.

 

Itís at this point that a book like Gerberís truly becomes interesting to me. I say interesting because Iím familiar with what Wirth did over the next few years in an effort to replicate his original study. He did four subsequent studies, tightening his controls each time, and published his findings in 1995 (Complementary Healing Intervention and Dermal Wound Reepithelialization: An Overview International Journal of Psychosomatics, Vol. 42: 48-53, 1995). I feel certain that Gerber must know of these studies.

 

Guess what. Wirthís research eventually demonstrated that ďÖthe overall results of the series are inconclusiveÖnon and reverse significance results for the control group (occurred) in the final three experiments.Ē Did you get that? In the most tightly controlled studies, TT seemed to actually retard improvement. Is it any wonder that Gerber didnít mention them?

 

I donít think that this sort of omission is especially rare in the alternative medicine literature. When it happens in the midst of a book that claims to present all the relevant evidence about alternative care, you have to wonder about the rest of the book. No one is going to convince me that Gerber was unaware of Wirthís work beyond his first study or that it was done too late for admission into his latest book. He has many references dated later than this.

 

When something is written, published, reviewed favorably and referenced extensively it gains a certain power. Omitting the whole story when it comes to health practices is inappropriate, to say the least.

 

Anybody out there have a defense for Gerberís omission?