Report on the Jan 7 meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

January 25, 2010

The President’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology, PCAST, met at The National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC on January 7,8, 2010. The session on January 7 was open to the general public. Morning and afternoon talks by invited speakers were followed at the end of the afternoon session with six presentations from non-council commentators. These public comments were limited to two minutes and distributed to PCAST members. I was one of the public commentators. My comment is included at the end of this report. The morning session included a briefing on Health Policy with Dr. Gwande author of A CHECKLIST MANIFESTO: How to Get Things Right (Henry Holt 2010). His theme was insuring the best in medical care by using data. He presented statistics showing declines in infection rates and hospital readmissions when check lists were used to educate patients, physicians and hospital management. During the day was clear from members’ comments and choice of speakers that science, science education and health care delivery founded in science based data are major themes for PCAST. However none of the comments or questions of council members indicated any knowledge of provisions in our current health care bill which require insurers to pay for non-evidenced (non-science) based medicine. These congressional mandates stand in direct opposition to the science education themes which council members voiced. The dichotomy is clear. On the one hand PCAST will ask for our science educational system to embrace the best. On the other hand we are ignoring the challenge and turning a blind eye to health care delivery which has no foundation in scientific fact or theory.

Contact with PCAST members is provided at pcast@ostp.gov. The meeting was recorded and can be viewed at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/pcast/100107/

My comment of two minutes presented at the end of the afternoon session “picking up on Dr. Gwande’s theme of evidenced based medicine---

Mandates in the Health care bill present a flawed medical paradigm: Provisions force insurers to cover state licensed alternative medicine practitioners. One example: health care providers licensed as distance healers, Therapeutic Touch and Reiki practitioners. They believe when they wave their hands over the body healing occurs. Some quotes advertising these services from the web sites of eminent academic and hospital clinics: “A Reiki treatment may: increase the vibrational frequency of the client on physical mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.” “Healing Touch is performed by registered nurses who recognize, manipulate and balance the electromagnetic fields surrounding the human body” “With level one Reiki course you will be able to do healing on yourself, friends, family and pets. “ In March 2008 a paper published in the peer reviewed Journal of Orthopedic Research stated that distance healing practitioners were able to diminish the growth of cultures of cancerous bone cells, and increase those of normal bone cells. The research was funded by NIH. The claim from this paper was subsequently published on web sites of licensed wellness clinics, stating it gives hope to cancer patients. Estimates of the cost of covering Alternative Medicine come in at about 50 billion. It is inexcusable to squander scarce resources by funding unsubstantiated, non-evidence based protocols that have no foundation in scientific fact. The mandate that American taxpayers cover alternative medicine practice is inappropriate for the 21 st century.

The examples presented: were from websites of the Cleveland Wellness Clinic, the Scripps institute, the Harvard Osher clinic “

Comment submitted by Eugenie V. Mielczarek Emeritus Professor of Physics George Mason University is part of the report: A Fracture in our Health Care: Paying for Non-Evidence Based Medicine ; Mielczarek and Araujo, published by Center for Inquiry

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