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The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit

Miracle Healer or Wordsmith?

Investigative reporter Vicky Nguyen examines claims made by Dr. Eric Pearl during his recent visit to the Bay Area.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dr. Eric Pearl says he has healed people from cancer, cerebral palsy and AIDS symptoms, simply by placing his hands near their bodies. He has built a multimillion dollar business promising to teach others how to do it too. Investigative reporter Vicky Nguyen examined his claims during his recent visit to the Bay Area. Originally aired 8/16/2012 at 11 p.m.

    Can you heal someone from cancer without ever touching them? That's one of the claims made by Eric Pearl. He’s a charismatic chiropractor turned traveling healer. While his promises may sound outrageous, his seminars draw in people from all over the world, including right here in the Bay Area. 

    “I can promise you this won’t be another seminar where nothing happens,” said Dr. Eric Pearl to a room of about 300 people during a recent weekend seminar at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose.  To demonstrate how his healing techniques work, he asked the audience for people who had trouble raising their arms. He invited a man on stage who said he’d had arthritis and injury in his shoulders and appeared unable to raise his arms higher than a “T” position.

    After placing his hands near and away from the man’s body, Dr. Pearl asked what sensations the man felt.

    “Is it cool, is it warm?” asked Dr. Pearl. The man responded, “It feels cool.” Within moments, Dr. Pearl raised the man’s arms and he was able to put his hands over his head, a seemingly dramatic healing that had audience members oohing and aahing. You can see it for yourself in our video story above.

    “Look at the freedom now in this arm. He’s got his full range of motion in this arm,” said Dr. Pearl.
     
    Dr. Pearl’s marketing package is polished—his books, DVDs, Facebook pages plus a savvy publicity team help draw the masses to his seminars all over the world.

    Dr. Pearl promises you will leave his course with the same abilities to heal that he has, and if you complete the training, you’ll be certified as a ‘Reconnective Healing Practictioner.’ For a fee, he’ll even provide a download to print out your own business cards. He says to date, he’s trained over 35,000 healers.

    The Beverly Hills-based Pearl says he has healed people suffering from polio, scoliosis and AIDS.
    “Healing is about returning to a natural state of balance,” said Dr. Pearl. We asked, “When you return to a natural state of balance, can your legs become the same length if one was shorter than the other?” Dr. Pearl answered, “Apparently. From experience with patients that’s been exactly what’s going on.”
    Dr. Pearl also said it was true that “one patient after another healed from cancer, epilepsy, cerebral palsy simply when he placed his hands near their bodies.”

    Not so fast says Daniel Palay of ConsumerWatchDog.org, a non-profit that pushes for consumer protections. He referred to the title of this New York Times article profiling Dr. Pearl when he first started his seminars.

    “Prophet or profiteer? I think it’s a valid question in any situation like this,” said Palay. He says the energy healing industry operates in a gray area that is unregulated. “Consumers should really read the fine print before they get involved. As you read on his materials, the disclaimer is very wide.”
     
    The fine print on Dr. Pearl’s paperwork says, “Dr. Pearl makes no promises, claims or guarantees.” He said, “You can take it like the ultimate cop out if you want to. This is not easy for me to have to say something like this…Not only can’t I prove it, I don’t even feel compelled to.”
     
    We showed the seminar to board certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Anderson to ask for his medical opinion on whether we witnessed a healing on stage during the seminar.

    “No,” said Dr. Anderson. He believes what happened to the man with arthritis and injury had more to do with the power of suggestion than the power of healing.

    What’s more—he says simple mechanics could be at play. The man’s hands were palm down when he was in the audience, but palm up on stage. Dr. Anderson said the position of the man’s hands, and the removal of his heavy leather jacket could easily account for the sudden improvement in his range of motion.

    “The more you externally rotate your hands the more you can usually get them over your head,” said Dr. Anderson.

    He says it’s the appearance of healing that could lead to false hope. “Sometimes these alternative treatments will delay or prevent people from seeking treatments they may need,”

    So while Dr. Pearl promises to unlock your inherent healing power, he also tells you to see a doctor in all matters regarding your health, and to never delay medical treatment. His carefully choreographed presentation has allowed him to build a lucrative business. His staff says he does 24 seminars a year, with an average attendance of 250 people. At a $650 entrance fee per person. That's nearly 4 million dollars a year.

    The CA Board of Chiropractic Examiners calls Dr. Pearl’s claims questionable but told us because he is not a practicing chiropractor, his claims are not subject to their regulations.  They suggested if a consumer has a complaint, they should file it with the California Attorney General.  For now the office tells us it appears Dr. Pearl is a motivational speaker whose claims are protected under the First Amendment.