Is healing an option to aid sustainable healthcare futures?

Spring 2015
Paul Dieppe & Chris Roe

As a doctor I have always been interested in the power that caring for our patients seems to have.Therefore as an academic I investigated the so-called ‘placebo response’ to try to understand that phenomenon. Now I think of it is a part of a much bigger, more important phenomenon that should be central to all healthcare delivery – the ‘healing response’.
Paul Dieppe
During my training as a research psychologist I was dismayed to find that some of the beliefs and experiences that the general public have that seem to offer the greatest insight into the human condition were being casually dismissed by the mainstream. ‘Extraordinary claims’ concerning a variety of exceptional experiences required extraordinary evidence if they were to be taken seriously, I was told; yet those experiences were remarkably ordinary for the majority of people on the planet, and in fact the scientific evidence that had been accumulated wasn’t even considered, let alone evaluated disinterestedly and found wanting. Much of my career has been concerned with taking such extraordinary claims seriously enough to subject them to scientific test, and surprisingly often finding that – in muted form – the claims could be replicated in the laboratory.
Chris Roe


Healing is an inexpensive, low-tech intervention. Some healing practices involve the therapist touching their clients, but many do not.
A new meta-analysis of non-contact healing on non- humans finds evidence that they have beneficial effects. Many practitioners of healing believe that focused attention with good intention is its main ‘ingredient’. Could ‘healing intention’ be why some healthcare practitioners achieve better results than others? Might ‘healing’ be part of a sustainable healthcare future?

First Paragraph

It is becoming ever more apparent that the current model of healthcare delivery within developed countries is not sustainable. There are at least two major problems: the continuing development of expensive, high- technology approaches to diagnosis and treatment, which are putting an unsustainable economic burden on healthcare organisations (Costa-Fond and Courbage 2009); and the rapidly increasing carbon footprint of modern healthcare delivery systems, resulting in an unsustainable burden on the planet (Limb 2014). Many possible answers to these problems are being considered by medical bodies including the British Medical Association (see working-for- change/international-affairs/climate- change ). In addition, politicians are turning their attention to prevention, and are trying to move the responsibility for maintaining good health away from healthcare workers, and back to individuals and communities.