Believe them or not, healing hands really do work

by Andrew Chapman, Science Correspondent

(UK) Daily Mail
June 6, 2000

Science has always treated the claims made for the power of prayer and healing touch with great scepticism.

But an exhaustive analysis of all the available evidence has come down firmly on the side of the


After reviewing dozens of studies, scientists believe they have found evidence that such unconventional treatments can reduce pain and speed recovery from illness. The results surprised researchers at the University of Maryland, who had not expected to find any spiritual intervention had any effect.

One of the most compelling studies appeared to show that heart patients who are being prayed for do better than those who are not. Researchers examined the condition of almost 1,000

patients attending a coronary unit in Kansas City, Missouri, over a year. Without their knowledge or that of the doctors, they were enrolled in a trial to see if intercessory power – prayer on somebody else’s behalf – could help them improve.

Volunteers from a prayer group, contacted by the hospital chaplain, prayed for those patients

whose medical record carried an even number over four weeks. The 470 patients who were prayed for did significantly better than the 520 who were not, according to the study. They suffered ten per cent fewer complications.

Dr John Astin, who led the study at the university’s school of medicine, examined 22 other studies

that had looked into alleged benefits of ‘therapeutic touch.’

Dt Astin, who declared himself an ‘open-minded sceptic’, said there was compelling evidence for

a positive effect. His findings, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, demonstrate that 57 per cent of the studies showed a positive impact on patients, such as less pain.

‘Statistically speaking, the figure of 57 per cent is highly significant,’ said Dr Astin. ‘This is far more that one would expect to see by chance alone.’ Roy Hutcheson, a spokesman for the UK’s National Federation of Spiritual Healers, said the results offered the first real ‘scientific proof’ for the methods of his 6,400 members.


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