Faith healings from Christian prayer groups healed Cancers, AIDS and Barren Wombs (infertile women).
Hoax or Fact:
These claims widely promoted across world say that Faith healings from Christian prayer groups have healed many serious health ailments like Cancers, AIDS and Barren Wombs (infertile women). Surprisingly, there are number of believers of these spiritual, faith healings. Faith can move mountains they say, but is this really possible? Let us analyze in detail and find facts about these 'miracle' claims.
About Faith Healing
Faith healing is a practice that attempts to cure a wide range of health ailments primarily through prayers and sometimes augmented by faith-based rituals. Faith healing stemmed from the belief that certain people or places have the ability to connect to the higher power (God) to heal injuries and eliminate diseases.
Most of us are aware of the public shows where a group of religious people or the head of a particular missionary appear on Television to demonstrate their 'magical' connection with god and their miraculous cure of faith healings. Commonly known as Televangelists, they were widely popular till 1980s until skeptic James Randi debunked popular myths of Reverend Peter Popoff from his own show in 1986.
Peter Popoff was a German American televangelist, a self-proclaimed prophet and faith healer, who used to conduct revival meetings and had a national television program through which he became very popular in the 1980s. He even claimed to have visited Heaven for some weeks and that he personally spoke to God. In the video shown, you can watch James Randi explaining how he debunked the false faith healing claims of Peter Popoff. During his TV shows, Popoff's wife Elizabeth Popoff used to interact with him secretly through a wireless headphone backstage and convey him all the necessary information obtained from "prayer cards" filled out by the attendees. It was from this information Peter Popoff used to address the crowd and convey them as divine messages from God. Furthermore, skeptics James Randi and Alexander (Alec) Jason also found that he used con artists with nonexistent diseases in his public shows to pretend he has cured them. According to James Randi in 1987, Popoff took in almost $4 million per year.
Stephen Barrett (M.D.), an American retired psychiatrist, author and co-founder of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) details in his website QuackWatch.org that over the years skeptics who have investigated these miraculous claims through prayers and faith did not find any strong evidence.
Leading to Deaths
According to a Oct 2011 BBC report (bbc.co.uk), at least three people in London with HIV had died after they stopped taking life saving antiretroviral drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors who said God would heal them.
In March 2011, the Oregon House approved a bill that would remove legal protection for parents who choose faith healing over medical intervention when treating their children. This happened in response to an Oregon City church that has a long history of child deaths even though the conditions from which the children died were medically treatable.
American Cancer Society
According to the American Cancer Society (Cancer.org), a review published in 1998 which studied 172 death cases of children treated by faith healing instead of conventional methods has shown that if conventional treatment was given, the survival rate for most of them would have been more than 90 percent. Another study conducted on adults in 1989 suggested that Christian Scientists, who use prayer rather than medical care, have a higher death rate than other people of the same age. It is to be noted that Christian Scientists do not use medicine, as they believe that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs and that spiritual prayer will heal them.
'Miracle' Study Scandal
On 2 Oct. 2001, the New York Times (nytimes.com) reported that researchers at prestigious Columbia University Medical Center in New York had discovered something extraordinary - scientific researchers had demonstrated that infertile women who were prayed for by Christian prayer groups became pregnant twice as often as those who did not have people praying for them. The study claimed to have found that distant prayer by anonymous prayer groups increased the success rate of IVF (In vitro fertilization) in women by an astounding 100 percent. The prayer groups were thousands of miles away from the study subjects, and prayed over photographs that were faxed to them. The study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine came as a shock to the researchers who could only describe it as miraculous.
After the study got wide media attention, there were investigations checking into the authenticity of the miracle study of prayers. The three authors of the study were Kwang Cha, Rogerio Lobo and Daniel Wirth. Kwang Yul Cha (M.D.) was the director of the Cha Columbia Infertility Medical Center at the time of the “miracle” study, who apparently cut his relationship with Columbia soon after the study was published. Professor Rogerio A. Lobo (M.D.) also stepped down as chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University.
After one year of the study was published, in October 2002, Daniel Wirth, along with his former research associate Joseph Horvath, was indicted by a federal grand jury and were later charged under many fraud cases including mail fraud, interstate transportation of stolen money and making false statements on loan applications. Wirth conducted several studies earlier involving Christian faith healing, evaluating patients for conditions ranging from ovarian cysts to AIDS and even cancer.
In December 2001, after being alerted by media coverage, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) launched an investigation into the lack of informed consent in the Columbia study. Subsequently, Columbia University acknowledged noncompliance with its Multiple Project Assurance and its own policies and procedures. Specifically, they said Dr. Lobo never presented the above research to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center (CCPM).
Furthermore, Columbia University Vice President Thomas Q. Morris informed the DHHS that Dr. Lobo first learned of the study from Dr. Cha six to twelve months after the study was completed and that Lobo primarily provided editorial review and assistance with publication. Surprisingly, Lobo was also mentioned as the report’s lead author in a news release posted for two years on the Columbia University website and also in news reports.
Following these investigations and revelations, the press release was removed from the Columbia site, and also the study from the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, which published an editorial clarifying their author requirements and suggesting the study was flawed.
Promoted for Use
The proponents of faith healing say there is little that it cannot do. Many of them claim faith can cure blindness, deafness, defective speech, developmental disorders, anemia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, skin rashes, total body paralysis, and even cancer and AIDS among various other injuries. Some religious groups, in fact, believe that illness is just an illusion that can be healed through prayer, either for oneself or by trained practitioners.
People go to healers when they believe something about their body is not right, i.e. when they suffer pain and fear. In most cases, psychological exploitation is what happens, as the faith healers often ask people for large donations or charge money for their healing sessions. A somewhat related scam that was widely believed is the Magical Healing through Spiritual Psychic Surgery.
Faith healing may reduce stress, promote peace of mind, relieve pain and anxiety, and strengthen the will to live. It is also possible that faith healing may work as a “placebo effect” that might help in remission of certain ailments. It can even act like a useful hypnosis to elevate the mental status of a person, but the magical claims that it can heal serious diseases like Cancer, AIDS and even Barren Wombs do not have any valid, verified proofs.
People who come up with such false claims should be seen as irresponsible and dangerous; it can sometimes end up as criminal offense. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, AIDS or other serious diseases may have serious health consequences. This is more dangerous in case of children, which is why many organizations around the world are working to create laws to protect children from inappropriate treatment by faith healers.