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A Different Way to Heal
Body on a Bench

Photo of Rosa Emily Rosa
E-mail Your Questions Before June 18th

In 1998, the results of Emily Rosa's Therapeutic Touch study appeared in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), making her the Guiness World's record holder for youngest person to publish serious medical research in a major medical journal. Since then, she has won her division at the Colorado state science fair for an ambitious experiment that attempted to measure the circumference of the earth with measuring units and instruments of her own design. Emily, now 15 years old, lives in, Colorado, where she likes to go to movies and hang out with her friends. She is thinking about becoming a primatologist, or pathologist because she likes to solve medical mysteries.


For links to Emily Rosa's home page and other related infomation please see our resources page.

Rosa responds :

Eric asks:
Great work on the TT experiment. I want to know whether you performed similar experiments (revised version?) since then? Also, have you tried to reverse the situation so that the test subjects are normal people detecting the energy "feelings like tingling, warmth, etc." from the TT practitioners?

Rosa's response:
Thanks! I regret to say that now living a life of a busy bee teeny-bopper, I have not performed a revised test of my original experiment. I may in the future, but right now I haven't given much thought to it. I never tried a reverse study of my experiment, yet I have received TT before and never felt any sort of sensations along with them or any change in health.

David asks:
What exactly is a "double-blind" experiment? What other double-blind experiments could one devise to prove or disprove TT? Is it the placebo affect that accounts for people's belief in it?

Rosa's response:
A double-blind experiment is when, in an experiment, the patient and the researcher both do not know who is getting the placebo and the test treatment. It is hard to say what experiment could prove TT. I think if my experiment was repeated over and over again and came out with the same results that would show even more reliable evidence against the practice. Your last question is a difficult one, but yet I think that, yes, you are dead-on on your one point that an account for beneficial results from TT is the belief people have that the remedy will help them. Close contact can also help a person feel better. Placebo along with the direct attention that is given when one receives TT is why I think the practice has come so far.

Sarah asks:
Congratulations on your work, Emily. What other sorts of pseudo-science would you like to subject to such a simple and elegant experiment? Why, in the face of hard evidence, do people still flock to therapies like this?

Rosa's response:
Thank you very much. It is nice to be appreciated! I would like to eventually conduct an experiment on the effects of "healing magnets" on the human body. This is also another remedy for various aches and pains that has not been clinically proven. I do not consider my TT experiment to be proof against the therapy but only good evidence that TT practitioners can't do what they claim. Some do not take my experiment seriously, and yes, they still go to their local TT practitioner or a related "energy medicine" therapist. People still visit these types of practitioners because of the personal attention that the patient receives, i.e. a long visit and the chance for the patient to talk at length about what's bothering them. Some patients complain that medical doctors are not as caring as they should be and turn to others who seem more sympathetic. Then there are people who do not get results from basic medical help and they turn to these other possible remedies for help. Others are desperate for a cure. If a little girl did a science experiment debunking TT, it hardly would effect the dozens of other "energy medicine" practices around. But it should, because they are based on similar theory.

Jill asks:
First, I think it is wonderful that you are investigating scientific vs. alternative medicines so early in your "career", and the "touch" method is a very interesting subject to start with. Have you begun investigating the healing capabilities of certified hands-on methods such as certified therapeutic massage therapists?

I want to offer this experience to your information: I've been treated by a massage therapist for over a year who combines therapeutic massage with acupuncture, and sometimes herbal medicine. He is licensed and certified in all three fields. He was recommended to me by a highly qualified spinal physical therapist (PT) who also is treated by him periodically. This massage therapist is very disciplined and knowledgeable about our anatomy and uniquely connected physiological/ psychological systems. He spends +/- 2 hours per patient session. This therapist has delivered amazing results for me and many friends and suffering acquaintances I have referred to him. Most patients (he calls us 'clients') begin going for chronic and debilitating pain conditions caused by older nerve injuries (mostly spinal) which conventional doctors (orthopedic and neurological surgeons, physiatrists) or physical therapists could not help or even made worse. Once he relieves the patients' conditions to very acceptable levels (usually over several weeks or months) we have found that he continues to bring results for many other physical problems. This therapist is highly educated (post graduate) and passionate about the work he does. His clients know it. Yet he is not expensive.

This kind of quality is what patients deserve from our conventional medical and scientific community but are not getting. As with all practitioners, there will be bad, good, and even the fraudulent, including the subjects you wrote about. Possibly the reason so many patients and MD's are fleeing the traditional Medical Doctor approach to "healing" is a growing perception by patients (and MD's) that the "western/conventional health community" is more and more impersonal, arrogant, and hard to communicate with, in a highly personal situation for the patient.

Another reason people are fleeing conventional medicine is that the side-effects of western medicine "cures" i.e. drugs and surgery, is often no better than the original problem. The scientific (i.e. western) world of medicine needs new doctors and insurers who will pay MUCH more attention to optimum nutrition and healthy/ appropriate exercise for strong immune systems and bodies, rather than pharmaceutical drugs, sedentary lifestyles, and toxic environments that destroy our natural immune systems. Allowing and maintaining an active quality of life to the end can be done without major intervention in the vast majority of cases. Many educated people now believe that the medical community as a whole has become highly commercialized and has totally lost sight of its subjects' well being.

Turning the tide of growing skepticism and convincing the public that the scientific and medical community cares about the well-being of individuals, will be a major challenge for western (scientific) medicine in the near future. Best wishes for your future endeavors in these and related fields.

Rosa's response:
Thank you and I have not done any experiments relating to hands-on methods. I have not investigated this, but I do believe that these fields are very similar. My experiments objective was to see if the practitioners could feel my "human energy field." Since the two therapies are so similar I find that now after having completed my experiment, that therapeutic massage therapy may not be everything it's cracked up to be. Perhaps what you may be experiencing is the "placebo" effect. This is in which a practice, that may have no evidence to prove its positive effects, gives a patient a feeling of relief either physically or emotionally and is caused by the patient having extreme faith in its benefits. I am glad if these therapies have helped you but you may also want to consider remedies that have been scientifically proven to help. I think that the scientific medicine today doesn't want you to pay them for attention and caring words. When you go into the doctor's office, you should expect a diagnosis and possible treatment/medication. If you want to be touched, go to a salon to get a massage. If you want someone to talk to, you should call a friend or get a psychiatrist.

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A Day with Wally SampsonHerbal HopeAdjusting the JointsNeedles and NervesHealing Touch

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