Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 121–122 | Cite as

‘Laying on of hands’: magic or medicine?

  • E. Ernst

In this issue, Pohl et al. [1] report the results of a study which suggests that cancer patients’ well-being improves through the ‘laying on of hands’. Magic (faith, paranormal, or spiritual) healers who claim that the ‘laying on of hands’ generates positive health effects believe that they are mere instruments who channel (cosmic or divine) ‘energy’ into patients’ bodies which, in turn, activates or enhances the body’s own capacity for healing. Some healers claim to achieve very specific effects (i.e. cure of a disease) others, like the healer employed by Pohl et al. [1], say they can generate positive non-specific effects.

Spiritual healing, the term I think is neutral and therefore best suited for this type of approach, has a long history. In the Bible, both God and holy people are reported to heal, and in medieval times kings were believed to heal through touch [2]. Survey data show that today spiritual healing is in the US amongst the fastest growing complementary/alternative...


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Complementary Medicine Peninsula Medical SchoolUniversities of Exeter & PlymouthExeterUK

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