Global expert on distant and faith healing chaired PACE Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee

mild distance-healing1Paul Dieppe, the initial Chair of Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee for the PACE trial is also renowned as a “leading global voice in the understanding and advancement of energy/ spiritual healing.”

Most of my medical colleagues think I’ve gone completely barmy –  Paul Dieppe

Renowned as a leading global voice in the understanding and advancement of energy/ spiritual healing

Paul Dieppe, the Chair of Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee of the PACE trial of cognitive behavior therapy and graded exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome has had a distinguished career, up to a point. He has emeritus status at the University of Exeter Medical School and is described on the website:

Paul qualified as a doctor in London in 1970. He specialised in rheumatology and became ARC professor of rheumatology in Bristol in 1987, and Dean of the Bristol Faculty of Medicine between 1994 and 1997. He then switched to health services research and was the Director of the MRC Health Services Research Collaboration between 1997 and 2007. After that he spent a short time at the University of Oxford before moving to the Peninsula Medical School to work in clinical education research.

With the formation of the University of Exeter Medical School, he took on the role of Professor of Health and Wellbeing.

Yet a more recent (2016) website gives a different picture of him:

exeter professor discovers

And gives a chance for  Dieppe to describe himself:

Paul, now renowned as a leading global voice in the understanding and advancement of energy/ spiritual healing, said: “My goal is to work towards the greater understanding that we can bridge the gap between biomedical thinking and the world of unexplained phenomena around areas such as healing, which if we placed greater value upon, could play a crucial role in the wellbeing of society.”

A further advertisement for the conference at which Dieppe spoke stated that there would be live demonstrations of healing on stage and describes his talk as:

The incredible power of remote healing across distance:  Paul Dieppe, emeritus professor of health and wellbeing, renowned for being at the global forefront of research into Healing.

faith healer in NHSA press release for “the largest meta-analysis of ever undertaken into the effects of non-contact healing”  states:

In fact, there are many healing practices where healer(s) and the one needing healing never come in contact with one another.  Indeed, they may never even meet, let alone know each other.

Paul Dieppe is identified as a Trustee of the group that produced a meta-analysis and he comments on the findings:

“This is a rigorous, high quality scientific report, and it clearly shows that healing intention can have beneficial effects on living systems, both human and non-human. Now we need to explore questions such as who does it work for and in what circumstances, as well as the how and why questions.”

A 2015 interview shows him rejecting scientific methodology as old fashioned materialism. Instead as he favors  anecdotes  and embraces energy/spiritual healing.

Have you come across many instances of actual healing?

Masses of cases. It’s anecdotal stuff, but it’s extremely impressive and extremely convincing. I’ve experienced it myself. A lot of this stuff happens completely under the radar, people just getting on with it in their back room, not part of any particular body or group, just doing their own thing. I went to see one such person, a little old lady in her front-room, and she said the best way to understand healing is to experience it yourself, and asked if I had anything I wanted working on. I told her I had a bad knee, so she said, OK let’s give it a go. And for what it’s worth, it’s been better since then. That was a couple of years ago.

Do you have a sense of what happens in the brain, does it involves specific neural or nervous networks? What systems does it involve?

Life gets difficult when you talk like that. You’ve slipped into the assumption that our materialist knowledge is the appropriate framework for that. We assume our current materialist science can explain everything, so the default position is ‘how can I explain this physiologically within my own materialist framework?’ I’m not convinced that’s the right way to do it.

No, I don’t have a materialist worldview, but if there is a spiritual dimension (which I think there is) I’m curious as to how it interacts with the body. William James, for example, explored how spiritual experiences interacted with ‘the subliminal self’. I wonder if healing is connected to things like trance states, altered states of consciousness, and so on.

OK, well how might it happen in those terms? Certainly there’s a lot of evidence for our ability to alter things through the Autonomic Nervous System via hypnosis. That can give us clues to a lot of this stuff. Hypnosis certainly affects the ANS, it certainly affects the immune system…probably everything. The mind / body split is of course silly. Everything is connected, everything works together. Although it’s easiest to talk in terms of what we can observe physiologically…I think we can control pretty much all of it probably.

OK, so at the moment we’re at or near the peak of a biomedical conception of health and illness. You, by contrast, espouse what you describe as ‘a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual theory of the transcendence of suffering’. How does that go down in academic medical circles?

Most of my medical colleagues think I’ve gone completely barmy, and this is all absolute nonsense. The dominant model in which we work and teach rejects anything to do with spirituality. If you mention words like spirituality or love, you’re rejected. It’s not acceptable behaviour, you’re regarded as someone who should be quietly taken off to the funny farm. So it’s quite lonely. It doesn’t bother me, I’m at the end of my career, I don’t need a new job or a reference, I don’t need to toe the line. It’s irrelevant to me. But I can feel the group discomfort sometimes around this area. I think the medical profession is a bit out of kilter with the rest of society, which is probably more accepting of the link between spirituality and health.

The interview links to a video featuring Dieppe on a trip to Lourdes, a destination for millions seeking miraculous cures.

The Role of the Data Monitoring and Ethics Committee in a Clinical Trial

As chair of the PACE DMECT, Paul Dieppe was in a unique and powerful position, able to monitor incoming data that was unblinded with respect to the group to which participants were assigned.

A recent Medical Research Council document states


The role of the Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) is to monitor the data emerging from the trial, in particular as they relate to the safety of participants, and to advise the Trial Steering Committee on whether there are any reasons for the trial not to continue. It is the only body involved in the trial that has access to the unblinded (unmasked) comparative data during the trial.

At the time of the fateful shifting of scoring of subjective outcomes and downgrading of the status of objective outcomes, Dieppe more than anyone else was in a position to know how switching would effect results of the analyses of the data already collected. He supposedly reviewed analyses in closed meetings, excluding Principal Investigator Peter White, but he was also meeting White formally and informally.

distasnce healingDieppe knew exactly what was going on in the most recent data, in terms of emerging  patterns of group differences. He would also have attended the meetings in which changes to the protocol were discussed and approved. Did he remain quiet? Refuse to meet with White in private? Maybe Dieppe relied on the unspoken interconnected consciousness of the two men.

We have a mystery akin to that about what when on before the US elections between Trump and his advisers, on one hand,  and the Russians.

The significance of a science-skeptic heading the PACE DMET

 Even before Dieppe’s colleagues would have described him, as he puts it, going completely barmy, he was a believer in the extreme, almost mystical power of the placebo. Perhaps that made him an ideal choice to head the DMET for a trial that created such an imbalance in nonspecific effects between the active treatments and the comparison group. And then boosted the imbalance as part of treatment and even in a newsletter (!).

But seriously, what we make of someone having such disdain for scientific methodology having the responsibility for ensuring its rigor in a major clinical trial?