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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

“Spiritual healers” using up scarce NHS resources

The University College London Hospital is to spend £80,000 on testing whether “spiritual healers” can have an effect on cancer.

“Healers” – who wave their hands over the patient and claim to transmit some kind of undefined ‘energy’ – want to find out whether their efforts increase the number of white blood cells in cancer sufferers.

Astonishingly, UCLH has a dedicated team of 10 “healers”, who cost the hospital around £80,000 a year to maintain. They are the idea of department manager Angela Buxton who first became interested in “spiritual healing” after the death of her seven-year-old son from leukaemia. She told the local paper: “Science has not caught up with how it works. Anecdotal evidence shows it works but we need hard evidence.”

The trial will need 50 volunteers who have had chemotherapy. “We want to know if the white blood cells are increasing after we give the patient healing,” Mrs Buxton said.

Dr Michael Irwin, co-ordinator of the Secular Medical Forum commented: “What a ridiculous way to waste £80,000. Surely the ten ‘helpers’ at UCLH could be financed by those, outside the hospital, who believe in this hocus-pocus? £80,000 could pay the salaries of four nurses for a year - a much better use of anyone's precious resources.”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said: “This ‘healers’ project is self-indulgent claptrap. There are many scientifically-proven cancer treatments available that health authorities cannot afford to prescribe. This rubbishy pseudo-science should be kicked out of the hospital immediately.”

See also Secular Medical Forum website

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Published Fri, 18 May 2007