"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Biological repair men or healers? Our over burdened doctors

"Doctors are not merely biological repair men, people who know how we work and people who can twiddle knobs or replace faulty parts when they threaten to go wrong. A doctor must be a healer in the fullest, most spiritual sense, someone who accepts that human beings are congenitally lonely and dissatisfied but who may be able to reconcile them to the difficulties of their condition...to share the journey [of pain or anxiety or grief] with the patient." (1)

The renowned Austrian Psychiatrist Viktor E Frankl survived four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz, during the holocaust. ‘Man lives in three dimensions,’ he wrote, ‘the somatic, the mental and the spiritual. The spiritual dimension cannot be ignored, for it is what makes us human.’ (2)

The early links between spirituality and healthcare in the history of American medicine were just about abandoned entirely with the Flexner Report of 1910. It was not until the 1960s that any links between spirituality, religion and healthcare began to re-emerge, primarily it would seem driven by the charismatic movement and the neo Pentecostalism churches.
the chapel at the Burrswood Christian Healing Hospital

But the movement to bring the soul back into medicine had started in the 1950s with psychiatrists such as Jung and Rogers, together with the work of Methodist Minister Leslie Weatherhead. Real growth in this field, however, really only came about in the late 1980s and the 1990s and started with what is probably the most famous experiment of all on the healing power of prayer. In 1988 Byrd, a cardiologist at the San Francisco General Hospital and also a devout Christian was struck by a conversation with a colleague about a terminally ill cancer patient. All medical avenues had been exhausted and the physicians really did not know what else they could do for the patient. We could try prayer, said Byrd (3). Thus began the prayer study that has inspired so many subsequent experiments into non -local healing phenomena, but at the same time has been ridiculed by many. The scientifically designed and double blind trials produced more positive responses in those groups of patients who were prayed for, when compared with the control groups. Although the sample was small and the statistical interpretation of the results controversial, there have been many more studies since then that have corroborated in different ways the principal of that pioneer experiment; non local intervention such as prayer can give a positive outcome. Byrd’s work certainly proved to be a catalyst for physicians such as Dossey who was interested in exploring the spiritual questions of medicine within wider parameters beyond the known interaction of mind and body.
The Burrswood Christian Healing Hospital 

In a paper published by the Fetzer Institute in 1993 David Aldridge noted the need to ‘recognize that patience, grace, prayer, meditation, hope, forgiveness and fellowship are as important to many of our health initiatives as medication, hospitalization, incarceration or surgery.' (4)

As I look around and see our overburdened health services and our seeming reliance on drugs and new technology, have we made very much progress in 2014? 

(1) from Kaptchuk, Ted and Michael Croucher, The Healing Arts, BBC Publications, 1986, pp. 26, 37, cited in Michael Mayne, A Year Lost and Found, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1987, p. 38.

(2) Viktor Frankl, (1905 to 1997), 1973, p.16, latest edition, Souvenir Press Ltd (April 19, 2004). A 2008 Kindle edition is also available.

(3) Story related by Larry Dossey, in his Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing, Shaftesbury, Dorset, Boston, Massachusetts: Element Books, 2000, p. 53 et. seq. followed by his critical analysis of non local studies and positive responses obtained from non local prayer and healing intentions.

(4) Aldridge, David, Is There Evidence for Spiritual Healing? Advances 9(4): 4(1993) cited in Michael Lerner, Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: MIT Press, 1996, Chapter 9 p. 135: an excellent and comprehensive textbook in this field.

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