Unevidence Based Medicine

[BPSDB]I have received a reply to my Freedom of Information request to the University of Westminster for “research papers or other documents” that support claims made by their School of Life Sciences for the qigong tuina course they offer.

You can read the reply here. As I have mentioned previously I was somewhat surprised that a university biology department was making claims about the usefulness of qi in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions so I made the following request:

I would like to see copies of the research papers or other documents that support the following claims made for the qigong tuina diploma course offered by the School of Life Sciences:

1. When combined with qi gong (the study of qi or vital energy) these techniques give a deep and effective means of diagnosing and understanding illness on many levels.

2. Case taking, diagnostic skills and treatment techniques are enhanced by the practice of qigong, which gives the practitioner the ability to understand both their own and the patients qi.

This request was ignored so I submitted a FOI request via the What Do They Know website.

As a minor point, the reply was later than it should have been as laid down by law. Westminster try to claim otherwise but I submitted my requst on 10 December and according to the website I should have received my reply on 13 January (21 working days or four full weeks later). I did not receive it until today.

The response starts by defining the terms qi, qigong and tuina. Well, deinfing your terms is good science but:-

…In the field of medicine, qi refers both to the refined nutritive substance that flows within the human body as well as to its functional activities.

A Chinese speaker on Bad Science once said that qi could be translated as “wind” or “gas”, in which case there is a substantial quantity of qi flowing through my abdominal regions right now. On a serious note, one wonders why medics and anatomists in the West have failed to detect qi. After all, Europeans, Africans and Asians are all the same species so if Chinese have qi then we all do.

A reading list is provided which “The University feels … should be helpful in giving you a fuller understanding of the description of the Qi Gong Tuina Course and the statements made by the University on its website”.

None of the suggested publications are peer-reviewed medical or scientific journals so there is in fact no evidence that supports the medical claims made quoted above. If the statements were from a course in Chinese Philosophy offered by a school of Oriental Studies this would not be a problem but this is not the case. A University School of Life Sciences is making unevidenced medical claims; science is being conflated with magical thinking and this is deeply disturbing.

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3 Responses to “Unevidence Based Medicine”

  1. dt Says:

    A weasel-worded response indeed.
    Is it worth responding to indicate your dissatisfaction with their response and trying to pin them down precisely on the question of scientific evidence for the claim?

  2. jaycueaitch Says:

    Looking at the wording of my request, they have actually complied. If there was any scientific evidence I am pretty sure I would have had it pointed out to me.

  3. A Third Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    [...] by the University of Westminster, woo still has a place in Higher Education, covered here and here. The worst of it is that the life sciences faculty of a British University see no problem [...]

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