Isn’t it ridiculous that proponents of so-called alternative medicine rarely ever own up to the risks? Nothing in medicine is risk free. Nothing! But believers in pseudomedicine from acupuncture to Z Wave technology want to have their alkaline electric zucchini cake and eat it too.

Last time I wrote about a bogus energy healer who has scored a spot on the TLC schedule and some false legitimacy thanks to gullible academics at NYU. During a discussion on Twitter, I asked Goldsmith if there were any risks to manipulating a patient’s energy. Could he, I wondered, choose to unbalance their energy and cause symptoms. He didn’t respond, but it got me thinking.

What if energy healers, Reiki practitioners, and therapeutic touchers could use their powers for evil? What if they simply were having a bad day and gave someone gout? What if a novice trainee got in over his head? It’s absurd of course, but still.

That’s right! It’s time for more science-based satire.

Wait, alkaline electric zucchini cake?

Alternative medical adverse events on the rise according to new study

Bethesda, MD – A new report out of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is calling into question the safety of Reiki, a technique which was developed in Japan in the early 20th century as a way to manipulate innate human energy fields in order to improve health.

The report, which will be published in the upcoming issue of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Amazing Wellness magazine, reveals that the number of Reiki related deaths have increased by almost a quartile since the last assessment in 2007. Lead author Lance Unglesby, a Level IIB practitioner of Therapeutic Touch, estimates that as many as three to four thousand people and animals are injured each year at the hands of poorly trained Reiki practitioners.

Mittensby J. Ticklepaws III, shown here mere seconds before suffering catastrophic cardiopulmonary failure during a botched veterinary Reiki session

“Many of these deaths occur in July, when new Reiki trainees are starting programs all over the country,” Unglesby explains. “People go to a healer expecting to be healed. This is a crisis and something needs to be done about it.”

Featured in the report is 10-year-old Louisiana child Timmy C., a boy whose life was tragically cut short when he was brought to a Reiki training facility for help managing his ADHD, which had been diagnosed earlier that week by the lady who cuts his hair. Timmy’s mother describes in chilling detail how things turned from miracle to mayhem.

We had a coupon for a free session and I figured it couldn’t hurt, and at first it seemed to be working. The student meditated and then placed his hands over Timmy’s body. It was like a light came on in his eyes and I could just tell that his ability to focus was returning. But something went wrong. I heard the Reiki student muttering something about how this shouldn’t be happening. He called for help and two Master Teachers rushed in but it was too late.

Only after a full alternative medical autopsy was performed did an explanation for Timmy’s death emerge. Parish Coroner Frank Grimes DC, who performed the examination in the basement of his clinic, found a number of vertebral subluxations and a touch of adrenal fatigue, but the true cause of death only became apparent when he hooked Timmy up to an Electro Interstitial Scanning (EIS) system and found a complete absence of resonance. “If you had asked me what killed him before the exam, I would have absolutely said it had to be Acute Severe Subluxation Syndrome, because that is the cause of 99% of non-traumatic deaths. But Timmy was one of those one in a million cases.”

What Dr. Grimes discovered allowed him to piece together Timmy’s final moments. During Reiki therapy sessions, a practitioner sends his own healthy energy into the patient in order to correct imbalances. Unfortunately, the normal flow of energy reversed during Timmy’s session. While a well-recognized complication, and one that countermeasures have been developed for, such as counting backwards from ten or crossing the big and second toe of the dominant foot, the unskilled student working on Timmy was unaware of these techniques because he had not started chapter 4 (“Management of Energy Flow Reversal and Energy Stream Crossing Emergencies”) in his Clinical Reiki textbook.

Devoid of any human energy, his body became riddled with dis-ease and he died, right there in his mother’s arms. Sadly, had Timmy’s mother been trained in Emergency Energy Replacement (EER) she might have been able to save him. An investigation by local authorities revealed that the Reiki training facility did not meet safety code, as it did not have a functional automated energy delivery device (AEDD) on site.

Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician practicing at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, MA, and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @skepticpedi and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey.