The death of two diabetic patients – a seven-year-old boy in Australia and a 71-year-old woman in Britain – have prompted concerns about the safety of “slapping therapy”, a treatment that has been practised in China for thousands of years.
The BBC reported on Monday that Danielle Carr-Gomm, 71, died last month after attending a week-long course run by slapping therapist Xiao Hongchi, also known as Xiao Hongci. Southwest England police later arrested two men aged 51 and 53 and a woman aged 64 on suspicion of manslaughter. The three were released on bail. The Guardian reported that Xiao was one of those arrested.
Xiao was also questioned by police in Australia last year after the death of a seven-year-old boy from Sydney who had attended one of Xiao’s workshops.
In paida, or slapping, therapy, a practitioner hits the patient repeatedly with force, raising areas of red or purple bruises on the body.
In an investigative report by state-owned China Central Television four years ago, Xiao was alleged to have exaggerated the benefits of slapping therapy, which is traditionally only used for a small range of ailments, including diabetes.
Xiao was banned from practising on the mainland and in Taiwan as he did not have a licence but his background at home did not seem to prevent him from running many workshops overseas. Overseas media reports said the deceased had both been instructed by Xiao to fast for an extensive period, and to stop taking their regular medication.
“They were not killed by slapping, but fasting and not taking their medicines,” said a traditional Chinese medicine doctor in Beijing, who requested not to be named.
Theoretically, slapping areas near certain acupuncture points with controlled force and duration helps the circulation of qi, or life force, in the body, with the improved circulation is believed to cure or relieve such ailments as muscle or back pain or temporary insomnia.
“But it may not be effective for ‘internal’ diseases such as diabetes, because the slapping cannot reach the related organs in the body,” the doctor said.