Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Usui Reiki system of "natural healing"
Looking through the list of past ASA adjudications, I was quite astonished to find that Reiki, the quasi-mystical system of Japanese hands-on healing, didn't feature in any of them.
Luckily, the Reiki Centre - also known as Hjalmar Jonsson, of East Grinstead, West Sussex - has produced a brochure which has fallen into my hands (available here and here).
Hjalmar makes various odd claims, from the oft-repeated one that reiki is an ancient healing practice (it was actually invented in the 1920s), to the thoroughly irresponsible claim that reiki can "[treat] any dis-ease, even chronic ailments".
ASA complaint follows.
"I write to complain about a flyer I picked up at the "Mind, Body & Spirit" festival, in London, in May this year.
The flyer, for the "Reiki Centre", promotes the "Usui [Reiki] System of Natural Healing".
I suspect that the flyer may be in breach of seven sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code. I can provide the original flyer by post, if necessary.
1. "Usui Reiki" is a form of hands-on healing developed in Japan in the 1920s .
2. According to a 2008 Systematic Review , "Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials":
"In conclusion, the evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of reiki remains unproven."
3. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove the following claims, and I challenge whether the claims are backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people:
(i) Reiki is "an ancient form of healing" which "spread through Tibet, China and India a few thousand years ago"
(ii) A Reiki treatment "[activates] the body's natural ability to heal itself" and "increases the body's ability to heal itself"
(iii) Reiki "[releases] blocked energies" and "[cleanses] the body of toxins"
(iv) Reiki can "[treat] any dis-ease, even chronic ailments"
(v) Reiki "will complement and increase the effectiveness of other kinds of natural treatment and medication"
(vi) Reiki can be used to "heal plants" and "animals"
(vii) Reiki treatments are effective when used as "absent or distant healing"
(viii) The practice of Reiki "enhances and increases your natural ability to heal"
(ix) In order to "channel Reiki" it is necessary to "attend a First Degree Reiki course", after which "you will be able to channel the healing energy to those who wish to receive it"
4. Under Section 6.1, I challenge whether the flyer's claims "exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers", who cannot reasonably be expected to be aware of the 2008 Systematic Review .
5. (i) According to The Royal College of Veterinary Science:
"The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practise veterinary surgery. 'Veterinary surgery' is defined within the Act as encompassing the 'art and science of veterinary surgery and medicine' which includes the diagnosis of diseases and injuries in animals, tests performed on animals for diagnostic purposes, advice based upon a diagnosis and surgical operations which may not necessarily form part of a treatment. These restrictions are in the interests of ensuring that animals are treated only by people qualified to do so." 
(ii) The flyer claims that Reiki can be used to "heal...animals".
(iii) Therefore, under Section 2.1 of the CAP Code, I challenge whether the flyer is "legal, decent, honest and truthful".
(iv) Under Section 2.2, I challenge whether the flyer has been "prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society".
(v) Under Section 4.1, I challenge whether the flyer is legal, and whether it may incite consumers to break the law.
(vi) Under Section 6.1, I challenge whether the flyer exploits the "credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers" by not mentioning that, under the Act, only registered veterinarians can treat animals.
(vii) Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the flyer is likely to mislead by omission of any mention of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.
5. I confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser or the alternative medicine industry in general. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser.
 Lee, MS; Pittler, MH; Ernst, E (2008). "Effects of Reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials". International Journal of Clinical Practice 62 (6): 947. doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2008.01729.