Faith Healing; It's Not a Drug or a New Surgical Technique, but Some Doctors Believe It Could Help to Improve Your Health. We Investigate Whether Prayer Really Does Have the Power to Heal
Byline: CHRISTINE MORGAN
IN THE not-too-distant future, patients may receive more than drugs to help them recover from life-saving heart surgery.
If studies to be carried out shortly in 20 American hospitals are successful, patients in intensive care units may also be prayed for by people who don't even know them.
Research already shows that patients with heart disease may suffer fewer complications and need fewer drugs to help them get better when they are prayed for, compared to those who don't get prayers said in their names.
If new studies into prayer and healing go to plan, they could change the way some cardiac units are run, according to neuropsychiatrist Dr Peter Fenwick of the Institute of Psychiatry at London University.
Dr Fenwick presented a paper analysing several existing studies on prayer and healing at last year's British Association Festival of Science.
He became interested in the idea that prayer could help to heal after being involved in studies on the effect meditation has on the brain.
"There have now been more than seven randomised, controlled trials of intercessory prayer - that is, praying for somebody from a distance," he says.
"Some of these have shown that patients who are unaware they're being prayed for and are in hospital - either with heart disease or having infertility treatment - can be significantly helped by prayer."
THE first scientifically-controlled study of intercessory prayer was carried out in 1985 at San Francisco General Hospital.
Almost 400 patients agreed to take part in the trial, though none of them knew whether or not they would be prayed for.
Half were prayed for by a group of strangers, while the other half received no prayers.
Amazingly, the prayed-for patients recovered more easily and left hospital earlier than the group that wasn't prayed for.
"That study really set the cat among the pigeons," says Dr Fenwick - who confesses, like many others, that he only goes to church once a year.
"It's difficult to argue that prayer wasn't having some effect because the trial was so well done.
"If they'd been testing a drug, and not prayer, that drug would have been proclaimed highly effective."
A MORE recent study, which took place in Columbia University, New York, in 2001, is even more startling.
It involved people in Australia, Canada and America saying prayers for a group of Korean couples having IVF treatment in Seoul. Again, half the group were prayed for while the other half was not. The prayed-for
patients turned out to have double the embryo implantation rate, as well as double the pregnancy rate, compared to others who didn't receive prayers. …