Faith Healers - Praying or Preying?
I was hoping that this would have slipped under the radar as I'm from Christchurch and I have to say, this is just embarrassing. Which radar? That of the esteemed PZ Myers. We're a small country wanting to make a decent contribution where we can. We have our share of rational thinking people, but this article isn't how I'd want people to think of my home town. Thanks to the New Zealand Healing Rooms for that mud on our collective faces.
I read the article with trepidation and couldn't believe what they were reporting.
A Christian faith-healing clinic has opened in Christchurch offering to cure cancer, broken bones and mental illness through prayer.
A little digging turned up http://www.healingrooms.co.nz/. While the branch in the article isn't listed on their locations page the name and content of the site leads me to believe that this is the business they are part of.
This is just scary. The testimonials in the article are credulous; one report of dyslexia being cured in a single 20 minute session, another of someone suffering from stroke paralysis recovering after 16 days in hospital. Finally they also report "very high results" in the treatment of cancer.
I'd love to see the studies that back up these claims because to date the literature shows no positive or negative impact on the healing process through prayer. The bulk of the articles I could find in a quick search on the topic were mostly from biased (religious) sources and even those reported that there was no measurable evidence.
I was pleased to see that the article wasn't entirely one sided. GP and former New Zealand Medical Council chairwoman Pippa MacKay and Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences Associate Professor Dee Mangin got a few words in on the side of rationality. MacKay said the claims about curing cancer were "mischievous" but I'd personally think they should be illegal. At least until the studies show otherwise.
In my opinion until the anecdotes encourage some form of study to be set up and that study proves under reasonable experimental conditions that there is actually a statistically significant effect then there is no real basis for the claims these people are making.
They are dangerous and preying on those that have lost hope or are just to gullible or ignorant to know any better.
For the record I don't consider "gullible" or "ignorant" to be a bad thing when describing a person. Both are easily cured with education.