In Japan, DAT is still a newcomer.

"The world of medical treatment here is very conservative, which is making it difficult for DAT to be accepted," says Shigeru Deguchi, a 44-year-old physician. "However, it has begun to spread because of the recent trend toward complementary and alternative medicine."

For two years from 1996, Deguchi led a research team looking into DAT with financial support from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. He is now the director of the Oceanic Wellness Foundation, an Okinawa-based, government-approved association that has taken over the research group's DAT study.

"There are still very few facilities that practice DAT in Japan," says Deguchi. "Of course, one of the reasons for this is the cost. If you were to buy and raise a dolphin for DAT, there would be very little possibility of making a profit since it would would require at least a few hundred-thousand yen a week."

Although Deguchi is committed to exploring the therapeutic potential of DAT, he says that up until now he fears its image in the public's mind has exceeded its proven effects.

"The media are making up stories about DAT," says Deguchi. "They talk as if dolphins have magical healing powers, which is untrue. The aim of DAT is not to effect a cure directly, but to improve a patient's condition." (M.I.)