Hospitals need to be more than just landlords

Omega Laser

Last month I had a meeting at the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus. On my way through the hospital I passed by something called the Omega Laser Stop Smoking Clinic. According to their literature,

laser therapy treatment is a non-invasive method used to balance the energy flow between meridians“,

and is reported by them to work in a manner comparable to acupuncture on smoking cessation.

Look to the medical literature on both acupuncture and laser therapy for smoking cessation and you’ll likely find your way to a 2014 Cochrane review on both which among their findings note that,

Acupuncture was less effective than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and not shown to be better than counselling.“,

and regarding the use of lasers,

The evidence from two trials using laser stimulation was inconsistent. The seven trials of electrostimulation do not suggest evidence of benefit compared to sham electrostimulation

That this clinic operates out of the Ottawa Hospital is especially odd given the adjacent Ottawa Heart Institute is home to Dr. Andrew Pipe, who is justifiably described as one of the world’s foremost experts on smoking cessation (and he definitely doesn’t advocate for the use of lasers).

But it gets stranger.

According to the literature I picked up in the clinic, for an extra $100 (on top of the $300 treatment cost) Omega Laser,

will target an extra set of acupuncture points which will boost your metabolism as well as help to suppress your appetite.

and according to their voice message they also provide a bottle of “True Craving” described as

supplements which will help you to reduce your sugar and carbs in your body.

Which of course is just nonsense.

This all leaves me scratching my head.

Should hospitals be providing a tacit health halo to practices and products that don’t have an evidence base to support them? Don’t hospitals have a responsibility to the public to be more than just landlords?

This piece was originally published on Yoni’s blog Weighty Matters.

The comments section is closed.

  • Cynthia Johnston says:

    I agree that hospitals need to be more diligent and values-centric in their decision-making about revenue generating options. Not just to avoid appearing to endorse this type of service that is making claims that are not supported by evidence. I would also add though the practice that I see in/at many hospitals of renting to food vendors that clearly are not healthy choices – e.g., French fry poutine trucks in the parking lot of a cardiac centre?

  • Rob Sargeant says:

    ‘Should hospitals be providing a tacit health halo to practices that don’t have an evidence base to support them’?

    Probably not. Then again, I’d hate to have to hold all of the products that are for sale and available by prescription in hospital pharmacies to that same standard, wouldn’t you? How many prescriptions for antibiotics, analgesics, respiratory inhalers, anxiolytics and sleeping aids, to name a few, are backed by ‘evidence’; or worse yet, are prescribed and sold in direct contraindication to ‘evidence’? Don’t even get me started on the harm caused by adverse drug reactions or by polypharmacy in the elderly. The laser therapy in question is almost certainly useless, outside of the magical benefits of placebo, but it causes little harm. I wish the same could be said for narcotics and benzos.

    • Kieran Quinn says:

      I have to agree with @RobSargeant. I often shudder at the thought of the salty fried gruel our hospital cafeterias sell that most certainly are not beneficial for diabetics, those with atherosclerotic heart disease or congestive heart failure among other conditions; yet we live in a society where people should strive to be informed about the choices they make, and not have them made for them.

      Who would lead the censorship over such hospital tenant policies?

  • Maureen Taylor says:

    I agree with you Yoni. Having this “alternative” clinic in hospital gives it a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve and will only confuse patients. I’m all for patient-centred care, but I have a problem with these attempts to integrate non-evidenced-based therapies with medicine right in our own public hospitals.


Yoni Freedhoff


Yoni is a family doctor and the founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute – a multi-disciplinary, ethical, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre. He blogs at Weighty Matters.

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