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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK
Prayer 'works as a cure'
Praying for someone can aid their recovery, it is claimed
Praying for somebody who is ill can make them better, research suggests.

A study carried out by the University of Maryland in the US has found prayer and spiritual healing may reduce pain and speed up the recovery of patients.

To continue to haul the notion that there is nothing to these interventions is not really tenable

Dr John Astin, University of Maryland
Researchers analysed the results of 23 clinical studies which examined the effect of prayer, spiritual healing and other unconventional treatments on patients' health.

More than half of these studies - 57% - found a positive impact on patients.

The highest number of positive results was found in studies which examined spiritual healing, in particular a technique where the "energy field" around a person's body is treated.

As part of this therapy, a practitioner moves their hands over a patient's body to promote healing.

Dr John Astin, who carried out the study and describes himself as an "open-minded sceptic", described the results as "intriguing".

Of the 23 studies he analysed, 11 examined therapeutic touch, five the effectiveness of prayer, and seven tested a variety of other unconventional treatments.

Dr Astin, an assistant professor on the university's complementary medicine programme, said all the studies included placebo controls and were chosen for the scientific quality of the research.

In one study of nearly 1,000 heart patients, those who were being prayed for without their knowledge suffered 10% fewer complications.

'Conservative interpretation'

"The results are very intriguing. In some respects the findings are surprising in that we attempted to look at the strongest studies and came away with the conservative interpretation that the findings suggest there may be benefits."

He said the effect of prayer and spiritual healing could not be dismissed.

"To continue to haul the notion that there is nothing to these interventions is not really, in my mind, tenable. I think more work needs to be done in this area."

But he said the results were not conclusive and should be interpreted with caution.

A spokesman for the UK's National Federation of Spiritual Healers welcomed the findings.

"We welcome any sort of research like this. We know that spiritual healing works because of clinical evidence like this and also because of its results.

"Spiritual healing is increasing in popularity all the time because people are hearing about evidence like this."

The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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12 Nov 99 | Health
Praying 'aids mental health'
26 Aug 99 | Health
That spiritual touch
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