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Third Party Prayers Have No Effect On Patients, The Latest Harvard Research Suggested

Over the last several years, psychologists and academics have begun to study the possible links between prayers and speed of recovery. A recent Harvard research which covered 1,800 patients found no links between the two, and in some cases, patients who were aware others were praying for them fared worse than controls.

The research, known as STEP (Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer), was the largest study to date on this topic. The primary goal of this research was to evaluate whether intercessory prayer or the knowledge of receiving it would influence recovery after bypass surgery. 1,802 patients participated in the study, among them were Catholics, Protestants, Jews and people of no particular religion background. The patients were divided into 3 groups, and each group received prayers from either one of the two Roman Catholic religious communities or a Missouri based Unity Church group. No connections were found between prayers and post operation complications. Ironically, the patients who knew others were praying for them had MORE complications than their no-prayer counter parts.

The research had generated heated discussions between religious groups, and in some cases, academics. Dr. Yaron Brook of Ayn Rand Institute, had written a letter to BoingBoing’s editor in which he wrote: “Every minute these doctors spend conducting this sort of faith-based study is one minute less spent on reality-based research--research that actually has hope of leading to real medical cures.”

Dr. Larry Dossey, editor of journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, believed that a single negative research finding was not definitive, and the latest research was hardly the death knell for this area of research. “A single negative study, or even two or three, does not make or break a field. To assume so is to erect a double standard for prayer experimentation that is not applied to other areas of clinical research.” Dr. Dossey said. “It is unknown how best to administer prayer, and what qualities count for successful prayer. As a result, at our current level of understanding, even a study that is carefully done may embody serious flaws that escape notice.”

One thing that can be certain is that over reliance on prayer, religious rituals and faith could contribute to serious harm or even death, previous studies suggested. The journal Pediatrics identified 158 children who died because of reliance on faith healing and religion-motivated medical neglect.

Jamie Kepcher is the Self Discovery Editor at alittlebreak.com, a home and wellbeing community.

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