George Wald, Higgins Professor of Biology, yesterday urged a committee of the Massachusetts state legislature to consider legalizing the practice of acupuncture in the state.
Wald, who witnessed five different acupuncture operations and experienced the procedure himself during a recent trip to China, told the Social Welfare Committee that he believes that acupuncture as a pain remover has a clear physiological basis in medicine.
Two Kinds of Acupuncture
Few people realize, Wald said, that there are two different kinds of acupuncture procedures--acupuncture "therapy," the cure-all procedure practiced in China for thousands of years, and acupuncture "analgesia," a newly-developed technique for eliminating pain. Both procedures involve inserting and twirling needles in the skin, he said.
Wald commented that although he knows of no physiological evidence that explains acupuncture therapy, the method does appear to work.
"Acupuncture therapy may well be a form of 'soul' or psychological medicine, just as a surprising amount of western medical technique may be considered more as 'soul' medicine than as actual physiological treatment," Wald said. He cited morphine as one of the western world's 'soul' medicines.
While in China, Wald learned that over 500,000 successful acupuncture analgesia operations had been performed with a success rate of 90 per cent, he said. Wald added that it would not be long until acupuncture analgesia is commonly used throughout the western world.
Wald had an acupuncture needle inserted between his thumb and forefinger, he said, to better understand the effects of acupuncture analgesia. He added that as the needle was twirled in his skin for several minutes, he felt an odd sense of numbing and tingling traveling up his arm, but felt no pain.
Although Chinese surgeons prefer acupuncture analgesia as a method of controlling pain, drugs are always made available in case the acupuncture does not work, Wald noted.
Several other speakers addressed the Committee yesterday on the legalization of acupuncture. William J. Bicknell, state Commissioner of Public Health, several state legislators and a physician from Boston State Hospital who said he had been practicing acupuncture for the past six months also appeared.