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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

In our last discussion on prayers and placebos, a very important insight:

it is also important to study prayer as an adjunct—not a replacement—to standard medical care, to make sure it is safe.

Which from a recent ABC News report, appallingly is farther and farther from common sense these days:

A Clackamas County, Ore., couple accused of letting their infant daughter die by relying on prayer, rather than medicine, today asked that the charges be dropped, arguing that they infringe on their freedom of religion and their right to raise their children in their own way.

Carl Worthington, left, and Raylene Worthington of Clackamas County, Ore., were charged with second degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment charges March 28, 2008, after their 15-month-old daughter died from what the state medical examiner said were easily cured illnesses.

Carl Worthington, 28, and his wife, Raylene, 25, belong to a church that believes in faith healing, and police said that, instead of going to a doctor when their 15-month-old daughter Ava got sick, they turned to prayer.

The infant girl died March 2 from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and an infection, both of which could have been cured with common antibiotics, the medical examiner said.

The salient question to this sad affair: if you pray for your sick child and ignore medical care and your child dies, are you responsible for the child’s death? Freedom of religion does not mean you can commit criminal negligence in the name of faith. Or does it?

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A placebo is something that produces a positive or improving effect on a person’s health but having no relation or root on actual physical or medical treatement. The effect is also referred to as placebo effect and has been well documented in the past years. One notable study (Response expectancies in placebo analgesia and their clinical relevance) conducted in the University of Torino Medical School in Italy describes how verbal instructions can act as a placebo in relieving pain.

 Thoracotomized patients were treated with buprenorphine [a powerful pain reliever] on request for 3 consecutive days, together with a basal intravenous infusion of saline solution. However, the symbolic meaning of this basal infusion was changed in three different groups of patients. The first group was told nothing about any analgesic effect (natural history). The second group was told that the basal infusion was either a powerful painkiller or a placebo (classic double-blind administration). The third group was told that the basal infusion was a potent painkiller (deceptive administration). Therefore, whereas the analgesic treatment was exactly the same in the three groups, the verbal instructions about the basal infusion differed. The placebo effect of the saline basal infusion was measured by recording the doses of buprenorphine requested over the three-days treatment.

We found that the double-blind group showed a reduction of buprenorphine requests compared to the natural history group. However, this reduction was even larger in the deceptive administration group. Overall, after 3 days of placebo infusion, the first group received 11.55 mg of buprenorphine, the second group 9.15 mg, and the third group 7.65 mg. Despite these dose differences, analgesia was the same in the three groups.

These results indicate that different verbal instructions about certain and uncertain expectations of analgesia produce different placebo analgesic effects, which in turn trigger a dramatic change of behaviour leading to a significant reduction of opioid intake.

There is an opposite phenomena to the placebo effect in which adverse or harmful symptoms are caused by something that should have no established effects. This is called the nocebo effect but is not as widely documented as placebos due primarily to ethical considerations (i.e. what scientist or doctor would intentionally administer something that can cause harmful symptoms or effects to a patient?). However some studies exist which may illustrate the effect:

“Japanese researchers tested 57 high school boys for their sensitivity to allergens. The boys filled out questionnaires about past experiences with plants, including lacquer trees, which can cause itchy rashes much as poison oak and poison ivy do. Boys who reported having severe reactions to the poisonous trees were blindfolded. Researchers brushed one arm with leaves from a lacquer tree but told the boys they were chestnut tree leaves. The scientists stroked the other arm with chestnut tree leaves but said the foliage came from a lacquer tree. Within minutes the arm the boys believed to have been exposed to the poisonous tree began to react, turning red and developing a bumpy, itchy rash. In most cases the arm that had contact with the actual poison did not react.” (Gardiner Morse, “The nocebo effect,” Hippocrates, November 1999, Hippocrates.com)

I briefly brought up the above discussions as a springboard to appreciate the interesting findings of a 2006 study funded by the John Templeton Foundation and published in the American Heart Journal. The study was to find any noticeable effects that prayer had on the recovery of some 1,800 heart bypass patients. (more…)

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Ran across a couple of interesting articles on an online forum, both highlighting an attack on Christians by “gay activists”. The newsbites are quite graphic. Here’s the first article.

Hundreds of homosexual activists rushed out of bars and swarmed a group of Christians who were singing songs in San Francisco’s Castro District – and some even threatened to kill the worshippers.

A group of Christians had been singing and praying in the “gay” district for several days, but they never expected an angry mob would run them out. However, that’s what happened Friday night.

Another article, just as graphic:

Worshippers at a Bible-teaching church in Lansing, Mich., were stunned Sunday when members of a pro-homosexual, pro-anarchy organization named Bash Back interrupted their service to fling propaganda and condoms around the sanctuary, drape a profane banner from the balcony and feature two lesbians making out at the pulpit.

Of course, the veracity of the events notwithstanding, what immediately throws one off are the subtle references to Obama in both articles: (more…)

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