Past life regression therapy is used by some physicians in cases with some mental diseases. Anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and gender dysphoria have all been treated using life regression therapy by some doctors on the assumption that they reflect problems in past lives. Although it is not supported by psychiatric associations, few medical associations have actually condemned it as unethical. In this article, I argue that past life regression therapy is unethical for two basic reasons. First, it is not evidence-based. Past life regression is based on the reincarnation hypothesis, but this hypothesis is not supported by evidence, and in fact, it faces some insurmountable conceptual problems. If patients are not fully informed about these problems, they cannot provide an informed consent, and hence, the principle of autonomy is violated. Second, past life regression therapy has the great risk of implanting false memories in patients, and thus, causing significant harm. This is a violation of the principle of non-malfeasance, which is surely the most important principle in medical ethics.
Key Words: Past life regressions, Psychiatry, Reincarnation, Medical ethics
Past life regression is a technique that attempts to use hypnosis in order to recover memories from previous lives. According to past life regression therapists, many mental health issues that patients experience may have their origins in traumatic experiences of past lives. Thus, through hypnosis, practitioners take the patients back in time (regression) (1). This regression could be to periods of their infancy, but also to periods of their gestational development, or periods before they were born with their current body, but their soul may have been embodied in another body, i.e., past lives.
Past life regression therapy, therefore, assumes the reality of reincarnation. Based on this assumption, practitioners believe that various mental disorders can be treated by addressing the events that an individual went through before he or she was born in this life.