Really, who’d have thought it was worth testing.
I have a lot of respect for several of the authors of this trial, but I can’t for the life of me understand why they did this study. Celeste Johnston, Marsha Campbell-Yeo, Francoise Filion and I have been co-authors on a couple of studies together, and they have all done good things improving pain control in the NICU.
But this study should never have been done, and should never have received a penny of grant money. They were testing the idea that ‘therapeutic touch’ (which they start to describe as follows:
Therapeutic Touch does not involve direct tactile stimulation, but is based on a trained therapist working with energy fields)
might be analgesic in preterm babies. At that point, they should have been laughed out of town, and the grant application thrown in the waste basket. In order to be ethically valid there has to be a valid scientific rationale for doing a study. There has to be some prior plausibility to the intervention. Manipulating non-existent ‘energy fields’ is not plausibly effective at anything, no matter what kind of training the therapist has!
The intervention is described in more detail as follows:
For the Therapeutic Touch intervention, the therapist used her hands to assess and rebalance the energy field of the patient using the following steps: (1) centering her state of awareness; (2) assessing the energy field of the patient; and (3) modulating the energy field. The average time for this was 5 minutes. Both therapists were nurses and had several years of experience in Therapeutic Touch.
How on earth could the authors write that paragraph without laughing themselves silly, like I did when I read it!
Why on earth would a good journal publish such drivel? How on earth could you convince an ethics committee to allow this nonsense, and why would anyone give grant money to a team who proposed wasting it on this inanity?
The only reason I can think of for doing this, (as I said I know several of the authors, and I know they have the best interests of their patients, and of promoting good research and good patient care at heart: I hope they will still consider me a friend and colleague after my critical remarks) is that some misguided individuals are already doing such stuff, and they wanted to prove that it was ineffective, and that you should use real pain control when doing painful things to babies.
My response to that would be that anyone who is prepared to modulate a babies energy field is unlikely to be convinced with an actual scientific study. They should just be told to stop it, or go work in another environment, perhaps in a homeopathic Emergency Room.
(BTW not surprisingly, modulating the energy field, even after centering the state of awareness, didn’t do squat).