LOURDES – SOUTH WESTFRANCE In 1858 a 14 year old girl called Bernadette had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary who appeared in a niche in caves at Lourdes, France. Water at this site it is claimed can heal the sick. 5-6 million people, a year flock to Lourdes each year to be ‘healed’.
PSYCHIC HEALING= any method/treatments used to alleviate health problems by purely mental means.This could be face to face, over the telephone or remotely. Methods include faith healing and laying on hands (therapeutic touch).
EXPLANATIONSTherapeutic touch (TT) is explained by supporters in terms of the ability to detect a patient’s aura (energy field) without touching their body. Health is restored by re-aligning the patient’s energy field.TT is a popular method having been taught to at least 10,000 nurses in the US alone.
Wirth (1990) conducted a study of patients with wounds who were either treated with TT or no treatment. The patients were not aware of the treatment they received, thus eliminating placebo effects. Patients treated with TT healed faster. Rosa et al (1998) tested 21 TT practitioners. Each sat on one side of a screen and placed their hands through two holes in the screen. One the other side an experimenter placed on of her hands about 4 inches above the practitioner’s right or left hand. TT practitioners should detect the energy field of the hand but they were correct only 44% of the time (less than chance).
EXPLANATIONS CONT... Placebo effect = Success could be due to placebo (believing you have had an effective treatment when you haven’t). These beliefs are based on the facts that some cases of psychic healing are apparently successful. Success could be due to spontaneous recovery or because recovery is only temporary and later the patient relapses (but relapses are not reported). The effects of prayer = Cha et al (2001) looked at the effect of prayer on infertile women. Researchers arranged for Christian strangers to pray for some of the women. As far as they know no one prayed for the other women and those who were infertile were twice as likely to become pregnant.
AO2 – PLACEBO EFFECT Lyvers et al (2006) suggest that belief in psychic healing may explain at least some of its success. Belief creates positive expectations, acting like a placebo. Lack of support for the placebo effect – Benson et al (2006) studied patients recovering from cardiac surgery. One group were control, other 2 groups were told prayers were being said for them. Only one group had prayers said for them, other group placebo group. There was no benefit from the placebo group. Those who suffered more complications were in fact those who had been prayed for (negative effect – ironic!)
AO2 – TT Rosa et al (1998) has been criticised as it was created by a 9 year old girl, however not so discredible as it was published in a reputable and peer reviewed journal. However, TT supporters have claimed the study invalid because experimenter was not ill, which might affect their aura. Long et al (1999) replicated Rosa et al’s study using ordinary people rather than TT practitioners and found when the experimenters hand was only 3 inches away the results were better than chance. Likely to be due to body heat. Glickman and Gracely replicated study eliminating body heat and found results at chance level, supporting the heat explanation.
AO2 - TT Wirth(1990) failed to replicate his own research on wound healing (1997) and researchers who wished to discuss this with him, failed to be able to contact him. Wirthhas been convicted of criminal fraud with a 5 year prison sentence.
AO2 – THE EFFECTS OFPRAYER Cha et al (2001) conducted her study with Wirth (prisoner) and Cha has been accused of plagiarism in another journal. Yet worryingly the study continues to be cited and taken as evidence for the power of prayer.