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Editor's Choice

Evidence debased medicine

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 13 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5715

The Nobel Prize in Medicine should go to Dean Ornish

Ornish deserves the Nobel Prize for his important research in
clinical holistic medicine (1).
Ornish has focused on heart disorder and on cancer; first he did "The
Lifestyle Heart Trial" and after that the Prostate Cancer Trial.

In the Lifestyle Heart Trial Ornish documented that the most
efficient and lasting way to cure a patient with a heart disorder is by
life-style intervention(2,3,4). Dean Ornish intervenes, not only on the
physical level, but also on the emotional, mental and spiritual levels,
with love and spirituality being the most important (5).

The tradition of holistic medicine goes all the way back to the
Hippocratic physicians (6), and Dean Ornish seems to work in this

In the same way as the traditional holistic doctors of Europe Ornish
believes that love and sexuality are the major healing powers: "I happen
to think that healing energy and erotic energy is just two different forms
of the same thing." (1)


When the patients understand the association between life-style and
health and change the way they think, feel and live, they heal. Ornish has
shown us that it really is that simple, also when it comes to the most
severe physical diseases like coronary vessel stenosis in the heart and
prostate cancer.

It normally takes the heart patients less than a month to reopen an
almost closed coronary artery (2,3,4), which is lightening fast! How
efficient is his medicine then? Well, according to the published
statistics, about 80% of his heart patients are cured by the intervention,
both in short term (1-3 month) and in long term (3 years) (1,4).

If you look at his prostate cancer patients you find the same pattern
(1,7). So if you accept the documentations Ornish has published of his
holistic healings of extremely ill patients in the Lancet, JAMA, and other
highly esteemed journals, there can be no doubt: Ornish and his team has
found the key to fast and efficient healing.

According to most of the published statistics 80% of the patients are
clinically cured and pain free in only one month after the initiation of
treatment (4)... and that is truly miraculous medicine. The Number Needed
to Treat in Ornish clinical trials is one, both in his heath trial and in
his cancer trial (NNT=1) and this is truly remarkable.

Dear Ornish holistic medicine is so good, actually, that most people
out of USA do not believe in his results.


USA believes in Dean Ornish. MEDICARE has now acknowledged his
method, which means that US citizens can be cured by holistic medicine
paid by the US government. And in the academic world, a CAM revolution is
happening now.

Numerous hospitals have launched CAM programs. George Washington
University in Washington DC has a CAM clinic, and UCLA has had a CAM
clinic for a decade. The integrative hospital programs at Columbia-New
York Presbyterian utilize mind-body medicine. Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center in New York has developed an integrative medicine center.
Other academic medical centers that offer integrative clinics include
University of Arizona, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, the University of
Maryland, the University of Minnesota, Stanford and Tufts (8).

Interestingly what drives this development seems to be... money (8).
One angioplasty costs $31.000 and one bypass surgery $46.000, and these
procedures will often have to be repeated, while a life-saving holistic
medicine intervention costs at Dean Ornish own clinic costs only $7.000 -
once and for all.

The cost in Europe of a chronic patient being treated again and again
is often hundreds of thousand EUROs. Wouldn't we like to get cured for
5.000EUROs in Europe? Of course we would. But we are in general not
informed about this possibility.

So huge national savings, and not appreciation of the magical results
for the patients, seems to be what has made Dean Ornish become
acknowledged and highly respected in the USA.


We all know that surgery has side effects like infections in wounds,
and sudden deaths from reactions to anesthetics. In general we know that
drugs always have some adverse effects.

It is therefore also remarkable that holistic mind-body-medicine the
way it is practices by Dean Ornish - at least according to all the
research Ornish has published in the field - has no known significant side

Well, holistic medicine is not really Ornish's invention. It has been
used for two millennia (6). It was actually the great medicine every
physician in Europe used before the industrial age. And holistic medicine
is known to have no side effects; the Hippocratic doctors found this very
important as said: "First do no harm".


Ornish has declared himself a "non-drug non-surgery doctor". We would
describe him as a "quality of life doctor", as he heals his patients
through making them happy. More correctly he helps them to improve their
own happiness, because holistic medicine is about self-awareness, self-
knowledge, and self-insight.

Among doctors and experts in Europe few seem to know what Dean Ornish
has accomplished. Most national health authorities in the European
countries seem to know little about the great benefits and safety of
holistic medicine, documented by Dean Ornish.

Therefore: Make Ornish's work visible to them. Give Dean Ornish the
global acknowledgement this man's work truly deserves. Let his medicine be
known to everybody, and let it be used by the millions of patients who
needs it urgently.

Ornish showed us all that this medicine, the classical medicine of
Europe, is not obsolete, is not old fashioned and tired. It is super-
powerful, highly efficient and totally safe for the patients. It is the
kind of medicine we need today and in the future.

So - please give Dean Ornish the Nobel Prize for making the medicine
work, in a time where nobody believes in healing. The world needs his
effective and safe medicine urgently.


The Danish Quality of Life Survey, Quality of Life Research Center
and the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine, Copenhagen, was from 1987
till today supported by grants from the 1991 Pharmacy Foundation, the
Goodwill-fonden, the JL-Foundation, E Danielsen and Wife's Foundation,
Emmerick Meyer's Trust, the Frimodt-Heineken Foundation, the Hede Nielsen
Family Foundation, Petrus Andersens Fond, Wholesaler CP Frederiksens Study
Trust, Else and Mogens Wedell-Wedellsborg's Foundation and IMK Almene
Fond. The research in quality of life and scientific complementary and
holistic medicine was approved by the Copenhagen Scientific Ethical
Committee under the numbers (KF)V. 100.1762-90, (KF)V. 100.2123/91, (KF)V.
01-502/93, (KF)V. 01-026/97, (KF)V. 01-162/97, (KF)V. 01-198/97, and
further correspondence. We declare no conflicts of interest.


1. Dean Ornish: "Lecture on Natural Wonders". TED. Ideas worth
spreading.. 2004 (Accessed

2. Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Armstrong WT, et
al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The lifestyle
heart trial. Lancet 1990;336(8708):129-33.

3. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Brown SE, Gould KL, et al.
Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease.

4. Ornish D. Avoiding revascularization with lifestyle changes: The
Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Am J Cardiol. 1998 Nov
5. Ornish D. Love and survival. The scientific basis for the healing power
of intimacy. Perennial, NY: HarperCollins 1999.

6. Jones WHS. Hippocrates. Vol. I-IV. London: William Heinemann, 1923

7. Frattaroli J, Weidner G, Dnistrian AM, Kemp C, Daubenmier JJ,
Marlin RO, Crutchfield L, Yglecias L, Carroll PR, Ornish D. Clinical
events in prostate cancer lifestyle trial: results from two years of
follow-up. Urology. 2008 Dec;72(6):1319-23. Epub 2008 Jul 7.

8. Faass N, ed. Integrating Complementary Medicine into Health
Systems. Maryland: Aspen Publishers Inc. 2001

Soren Ventegodt, MD, MMedSci, EU-MSc-CAM (1,2,3,4,5) and Joav
Merrick, MD, MMedSci, DMSc(5,6,7,8)

1 Quality of Life Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark; 2 Research
Clinic for Holistic Medicine and 3Nordic School of Holistic Medicine,
Copenhagen, Denmark; 4 Scandinavian Foundation for Holistic Medicine,
Sandvika, Norway; 5Interuniversity College, Graz, Austria; 6 National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 7 Office of the Medical
Director, Division for Mental Retardation, Ministry of Social Affairs,
Jerusalem, Israel and 8 Kentucky Children's Hospital, University of
Kentucky, Lexington, United States

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 December 2010
Soren Ventegodt
Joav Merrick
Quality-of-Life Research Center, Copenhagen