Psychic Healing - Miracle Cure or Dungeons & Dragons?

Imagine being treated for cancer, burns or high blood pressure without the aid of medication or surgery. Imagine even being cured of those maladies simply by someone willing you to be cured. That's the premise behind psychic healing, laying-on-of-hands, therapeutic touch and/or distant healing. custom miniatures 

In my third novel, which is still in the idea stage, the psionic officer Doug possesses psychometabolic powers such as are described in D&D's Complete Psionic's Handbook (1), including healing, adrenalin control and cell adjustment, which means he could heal someone's illness or wounds.

Does such a phenomenon actually exist, opening the doors to miracles cures? Or is it still firmly confined to the realm of Dungeons and Dragons?

Research on the topic is staggering with nearly as many proponents for as there are debunkers against. Even the Catholic Church has entered the fracas, taking a firm stance against Therapeutic Touch (2). In his paper to the Catholic Medical Association, P. Guinan states that "therapeutic touch" (quotations used by Guinan) is not a practice employed by the Catholic Hospital Pastoral Practice, after an extensive review of scientific literature.

While the term "therapeutic touch" is used interchangeably with "laying-on-of-hands" throughout his article, it appears that research in general has actually been splitting hairs and going in different directions, producing noticeable gaps between the various idioms.

An article in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (3) reported that therapeutic touch (TT) "claims are groundless and that further use of TT by health professionals is unjustified. " The authors state that TT was renamed as such because the original name, laying-on-of-hands, was considered inappropriate for modern society. Therefore they limited their research to articles that included keywords such as TT or touch therapies.

However, a close inspection of the JAMA article reveals some interesting revelations. The initial point is that the first author listed under the title was a sixth-grade student at Loveland, Colorado at the time, and was only 9 years old when she completed her first trials. It was she who designed and conducted the tests cited in the article. The methods she developed were simplistic (i. e. which 'healing' hand is closest to the subject's hand) in relation to the research conducted by advocates for psychic healing, who employed a variety of scientific techniques, such as electrocardiography (EKG), ultrasound (4) and even polygraphs (5).

The second notable aspect of the article is that nearly twenty percent of the references cited were doctoral dissertations or master's theses. As a Ph. D., I know first-hand the intense scrutiny a student's research receives from the faculty group and the advising professor. I also am aware of the omnipresent politics and bureaucracy that a student must endure and defer to during the journey and hopefully completion of graduate school.

The third and most interesting feature is the absence of articles referencing names ubiquitous to psychic healing (as I have found in my research review), such as Oskar Estabany, Dr. Bernard Grad, William Braud and Marilyn Schlitz.

According to the web-site williamjames. com, in 1959 Dr. Bernard Grad conducted studies on Oskar Estabany, a former cavalry officer in the Hungarian army. Estabany was reported to have extraordinary healing powers, discovered while treating army horses. Dr. Grad's research showed that mice who had a portion of skin removed were healed significantly faster by Mr. Estabany's treatment than the wounded mice who were not treated by him.

Further demonstrations of the Hungarian healers' abilities were studied by Smith (6), who discovered the healer's ability to stimulate the activity of the enzyme trypsin as measured on a known substrate in vitro. Statistically significant stimulations of the enzyme activity were repeated consistently over a period of three weeks.