What's Wrong with Healthcare?

Thinking inside and outside of the healthcare box. After 41 years of family practice, what's happened to Canada's healthcare system?

Friday, March 31, 2006


A study published in the American Heart Journal suggested that prayer has no benefit to patients who have undergone bypass surgery. Eighteen hundred patients were included in the study and divided into three groups: the control group was not prayed for, another group was prayed for and were not aware of this situation, and the third group was prayed for and was told that they were being prayed for.
The group that were not prayed for and the group that was not aware of being prayed for did the best, with no difference in complication rates in these two groups. The group that knew they were being prayed for did the worst with a complication rate 7% higher than the other two groups. It was reported by the Main Stream News Media that the researchers felt this was possibly from pressure on the group by knowing that they were being prayed for and therefore had more pressure on them.
Now I’m not sure if the researchers ONLY put this forward as a possibility, or if this was an example of the MSNM doing some selective editing. I would suggest that there are several other possible reasons for these results, and good researchers would allude to them if they were in a state of mind to do any alluding at all. The article I read stated clearly that the researchers stated that this in no way inferred there was no god----and by raising the issue immediately put this on everyone’s mind. What seems an obvious alternative answer never arose in the article, perhaps because it doesn’t fit with the modern thinking of journalists and many editors.
What if knowing you are being prayed for triggers of a feeling of dependency of the patient; ( this would apply to the “believers”) a feeling that “god will do it”, I don’t have to do it. I think there is general agreement that determination and will power helps performance in physical situations. What if this applies also in medical scenarios and that dependency on others takes away from the mental striving we may do if we know we are on our own? Many of us in the medical profession have marveled at those patients that simply push forward in their determination to get better, and beat the odds. Perhaps this study shows that if people rely on others (or god), it interferes in their recovery.
Another possibility would be, for many of the “non believers” in the group that did poorly, should they be doubting the existence of god, the knowledge that other people are praying for them may have raised the question as to whether they are secure in their doubting god, and raised their anxiety levels. Since one of the common complications of bypass surgery are arrhythmias, and stress, stimulants, and anxiety could increase this risk, perhaps the increase in complications were predictable in this group.
And finally for that group of believers who believe, but don’t totally trust, the group that needs their belief for security reasons; could their feelings of dependence raise their anxiety levels? Could they be caught in the dilemma of whom do we trust: medicine, ourselves, or god?
In short, there are many “possibilities” as to why the group that was prayed for, and had knowledge of that fact, did poorly. As the researchers stated, this had nothing to do with the existence or non-existence, of god (which makes us wonder why the research was done in the first place). It likely had much to do with the complex issues of dependency and the negative impacts this can have on human survival. In a society that fosters dependency, and a news media that champions it, is it any wonder that it was not mentioned at all in this article?

My wife, on reading this blog, stated: “So what you are saying is that if people know they alone have the responsibility for doing something (in this case getting better), they are more likely to do it”? “Well, yes” I replied. Which made me wonder why I took so long to state that simple fact.


Blogger michie said...

Do you think that a lot of people are optimistic/in denial about the state of their health?

Telling them that they are being prayed for may make some people think, "wow, this must be really serious!"... Thus removing any protective effect that denial &/or optimism might have had (therefore causing stress, etc., in the process).

Just a thought.

31/3/06 5:30 PM  
Blogger Al said...

It's possible, but these were all people who underwent bypass surgery, one would think that they would have all had the usual talk as to the high risk. It's hard to imagine that praying for them would increase their stress, generally it is supposed to have a reassuring effect.(I know that sometimes we associate someone praying for us as having one foot in the grave)
My experience is kids, being raised in a family where the parents do everyting for them, are much slower to grow up than those where parents give the kids the responsibility and opportunity to cope or deal with an issue. One of the large contractors in Canada (Dominion Construction) said they liked to hire Sask. and Man. farm boys because they were much more reliable and had far fewer errors in the work place. Probably because they already had made their share while working for their parents on the farm.
I think dependancy breeds insecurity and insecurity can show itself in a variety of pathologies.

1/4/06 3:00 PM  
Blogger michie said...

Dependent type people also tend to be people who have underdeveloped coping skills, I find. They turn to "unhealthy" ways of coping with their pain/problems... perhaps this also factors in?

2/4/06 6:38 PM  

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