What alternative health

practitioners might not tell you

 

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Ask for evidence

 

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Includes a look at intercessory prayer, fraudulent spiritual advice, and Christian Science. A brief list of recommendations is also included. Article by Stephen Barrett, M.D. (Quackwatch)

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The second episode of the 2005 BBC2 'Alternative Medicine: The Evidence' series highlighted a study in which an actor pretended to be a faith healer. The study was conducted by Dr Jennifer Cleland of the University of Aberdeen. It set out to discover how much of the healing effect came from the interaction with the healer rather than any 'subtle energy' the healer might be sending the patient. In order to imitate the healer the actor was of a similar age and appearance and for the purpose of the study both the actor and the healer wore similar clothes both were called 'Fred' both used the same music and both said and did the same things. Both men worked with chronic asthma sufferers who hadn't had much improvement with conventional treatments. All the patients improved and there was no statistical difference between the groups, although there was a slight tendency for the actor's patients to improve more.

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Includes Christian faith healing, the proposed sociobiological basis for faith healing, criticism, and ethical issues posed when conventional treatment is refused. (Wikipedia)

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The Skeptic's Dictionary

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Transcript of a talk given by Sue Mayer to the South Place Ethical Society, London, on 9th April 9th 2006. It looks at faith in relation to physical health and superstitious beliefs, mental health, and alternative therapies.

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CONCLUSIONS: In patients with CFS, distant healing appears to have no statistically significant effect on mental and physical health but the expectation of improvement did improve outcome. Walach H, Bosch H, Lewith G, Naumann J, Schwarzer B, Falk S, Kohls N, Haraldsson E, Wiesendanger H, Nordmann A, Tomasson H, Prescott P, Bucher HC, Psychother Psychosom. (February 2008)

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"To call the role of praying in healing 'controversial' in the scientific community it to give it far too much credit. There is little if any scientific evidence that the prayers themselves are making a difference." Article by Rebecca Goldin PhD, STATS (27th March 2006)

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"The placebo effect on which healing relies is one which most other medical treatments generate as well — so we don't need an ineffective therapy in order to profit from this effect….If we allow mystical conjecture to infiltrate our thinking, we are in danger of abandoning rationality in favour of superstition. It is easy to see how this could rebound on us." Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (15th February 2005)

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"It is often claimed that faith healing may not work but at least does no harm. However, as will be demonstrated in this article, reliance on faith healing can indirectly cause serious harm and even death." Bruce L. Flamm, MD, The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (Fall/Winter 2004-05)

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Concludes "Since the publication of our previous systematic review in 2000, several rigorous new studies have emerged. Collectively, they shift the weight of the evidence against the notion that distant healing is more than a placebo." E. Ernst, Wien Klin Wochenschr (2003)

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"When faith healing is used to the exclusion of medical treatment, the number of preventable child fatalities and the associated suffering are substantial and warrant public concern. Existing laws may be inadequate to protect children from this form of medical neglect." Pediatrics (4th April 1998)

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Christian Scientists who received an undergraduate college eduation at a liberal arts college for Christian Scientists had a significantly higher death rate than that of the control population. Journal of the American Medical Association (September 1989)