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Prayer as placebo.

 
 
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 08:21 am
I put this in the "General" category as I couldn't decide between "Health" or "Spirituality" and I wanted to hear from both sides.

I woke up early this morning and browsed through an old issue of Newsweek, coming across an article I had missed before called "Placebo Nation: Just Believe" Here's a blurb but I recommend reading the whole thing (online at: http://www.newsweek.com/id/120094?tid=relatedcl).

Quote:


And:

Quote:


Then my newspaper arrived with an update on Ava Worthington, the 16 month old baby that died from an easily treatable infection because her parents wanted to pray her into good health.

Quote:
A 16-month-old child who died at home this month in Clackamas County could easily have been saved by basic medical treatment, according to the state medical examiner's office.

Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner, said today that Ava Worthington died from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and sepsis, both easily treatable with antibiotics.


(Read all about it: http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2008/03/clackamas_child_died_for_lack.html)

Seeing the two articles smacked up together made me really wonder if studies showing prayer is ineffective in health care take the placebo effect into account.

Could prayer be a placebo?

I'm also wondering how someone's faith could be so strong that they could watch their child die without even investigating medical options. I can't begin to comprehend that kind of faith. Can anyone explain this to me?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 3,354 • Replies: 52
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:08 pm
Hmmmm....

Perhaps "prayer" carries too much symbolism. What about "positive thinking" as placebo or "good vibes" or "ommmmms" as placebo? Does that change anything.

I promise this isn't a trap. If you belive in prayer over medicine I am truly interested in hearing why and wondering if there are any circumstances where you would look outside your faith for answers.

Speaking only for myself, I promise to respect your thoughts. If someone comes along and starts a fight I'll ignore them if you will.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:12 pm
For your evaluation:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/23/AR2006032302177.html
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:17 pm
I remember reading those studies a few years back. But really, they weren't testing the placebo effect. I have no idea how they would design such a study but I think it would be very interesting.
0 Replies
 
Diane
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:27 pm
Boomer, when the group of people were kidnapped by Iraqi's, the ones who were religious seemed to withstand the experience better than the others.

Being nonreligious, I can still believe this quite easily. I do think that meditation whould also work if the meditator were experienced and able to go into a deep state of meditation.

As for the baby's death--it made me wonder if the placebos were ever given to anyone with a serious viral or bacterial infection? It seems to me that there are certain afflictions that would need medication.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:32 pm
Re: Prayer as placebo.
boomerang wrote:
I put this in the "General" category as I couldn't decide between "Health" or "Spirituality" and I wanted to hear from both sides.

I woke up early this morning and browsed through an old issue of Newsweek, coming across an article I had missed before called "Placebo Nation: Just Believe" Here's a blurb but I recommend reading the whole thing (online at: http://www.newsweek.com/id/120094?tid=relatedcl).

Quote:


And:

Quote:


Then my newspaper arrived with an update on Ava Worthington, the 16 month old baby that died from an easily treatable infection because her parents wanted to pray her into good health.

Quote:
A 16-month-old child who died at home this month in Clackamas County could easily have been saved by basic medical treatment, according to the state medical examiner's office.

Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner, said today that Ava Worthington died from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and sepsis, both easily treatable with antibiotics.


(Read all about it: http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2008/03/clackamas_child_died_for_lack.html)

Seeing the two articles smacked up together made me really wonder if studies showing prayer is ineffective in health care take the placebo effect into account.

Could prayer be a placebo?

I'm also wondering how someone's faith could be so strong that they could watch their child die without even investigating medical options. I can't begin to comprehend that kind of faith. Can anyone explain this to me?



I think prayer is a classic placebo...except that it presumably normally causes no discomfort to the person being prayed for, and placebos work best if they involve some sort of discomfort.


And I think placebo effect is great!!!!


Prayer likely only has bad side-effects if you refuse to take other sensible steps as well as prayer, or if the person being prayed about is made to feel that they are bad or evil or something, and need to have their evil cast out.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 05:35 pm
with the mind perception is reality. For instance, the exact same stimulation can be pleasure one time but pain the next. It is easy to see how the placebo effect would work on depression and pain. Zen teaches that positive mental energy can heal the body, in exactly the same way the Christians do except for them the healing comes from believing in God (the same positive energy just now focused on the concept of God). This teaching is nearly universal in religion, there is surely something to it.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 06:33 pm
I have a complicated relationship with faith. I wish I could believe there was method to the madness, I wish I could believe there was a grand design or plan or what have you.

In my state it is a criminal offense to not seek medical treatment for a sick child. For a doctor to treat such an affliction with a placebo would certainly be criminal. So here such a scenario would never happen, Diane. I can't imagine that it would anywhere else either.

But your comment really makes me wonder -- what degree of awarness or intelligence would make one suceptable to the placebo effect of prayer or a pill? Wouldn't you have to have some degree of understanding for it to work? Would a little kid benefit from the placebo effect?

I like the placebo effect too, dlowan! Today was a perfect example for me. I have been doing a lot of physical work, hard work and I woke up this morning with everything aching. But the darn mutt needed a walk. We geared up, I stuck on Mo's iPod and off we went. Soon I found myself walking and singing -- I didn't even realize I was signing until I saw all the people smiling at me. I felt better. Really better. Total placebo.

Hmmm..... "perception is reality".... hmmmmm.

I've used that before but I've come to understand that it is not true. My mind can ignore or imagine all kinds of stuff -- that doesn't make it "real". Otherwise I agree with your statement about the universality of belief -- there must be something to it. That's why I want to have faith. I don't know why I can't.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 06:41 pm
boomerang wrote:
I've used that before but I've come to understand that it is not true. My mind can ignore or imagine all kinds of stuff -- that doesn't make it "real". Otherwise I agree with your statement about the universality of belief -- there must be something to it. That's why I want to have faith. I don't know why I can't.


I was speaking of the self.....if you believe about yourself you become what you believe you are to be, in line with wayne Dyer's book "the power of intention"
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 06:48 pm
boomerang wrote:
I have a complicated relationship with faith. I wish I could believe there was method to the madness, I wish I could believe there was a grand design or plan or what have you.

In my state it is a criminal offense to not seek medical treatment for a sick child. For a doctor to treat such an affliction with a placebo would certainly be criminal. So here such a scenario would never happen, Diane. I can't imagine that it would anywhere else either.

But your comment really makes me wonder -- what degree of awarness or intelligence would make one suceptable to the placebo effect of prayer or a pill? Wouldn't you have to have some degree of understanding for it to work? Would a little kid benefit from the placebo effect?

I like the placebo effect too, dlowan! Today was a perfect example for me. I have been doing a lot of physical work, hard work and I woke up this morning with everything aching. But the darn mutt needed a walk. We geared up, I stuck on Mo's iPod and off we went. Soon I found myself walking and singing -- I didn't even realize I was signing until I saw all the people smiling at me. I felt better. Really better. Total placebo.

Hmmm..... "perception is reality".... hmmmmm.

I've used that before but I've come to understand that it is not true. My mind can ignore or imagine all kinds of stuff -- that doesn't make it "real". Otherwise I agree with your statement about the universality of belief -- there must be something to it. That's why I want to have faith. I don't know why I can't.


A little kid could benefit from a placebo if they were capable of understanding that what was being given/done to them would cure them. Think of all the "charming warts" stuff that kids used to have as part of their culture.

I don't know that your walking experience was placebo......walking would have warmed you up and got your blood moving the toxins out of your stiff muscles....music can have a very uplifting effect, as does exercise.


You could try having faith in the great and mercifil Goddess, Placeba, after whom the placebo effect was named! :wink:
0 Replies
 
Tai Chi
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 06:51 pm
My sister-in-law was horribly car-sick as a child. Nothing they did brought her any relief, until one day her father gave her a "magic" rock. As long as she held it tightly in her fist she wouldn't feel any nausea when riding in the car. It worked like the charm it was -- until the day she couldn't find her rock.
0 Replies
 
Diane
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2008 11:19 pm
Quote:
...until the day she couldn't find her rock.


That's just it, tai chi. We, humans, seem to need something to hold onto that we believe in, whether it is 'real' or not. For those who do believe in the medication or the charm, the effect is healing.

Medicine men, here in Albuquerque you can go to a curandera, a sort of healier that many Mexicans go to, educated or not.

Like you, Boomer, I have always wondered at the power of faith. I know why I'm not religious, but the power of faith, religious faith or not, is soemthing that is very real.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2008 06:16 am
In the first place, prayer is not a placebo by definition. With a placebo, one is physically "dosed" with something which the person prescribing knows is not a specific for the condition, usually a sugar pill. You give someone a pill, and, it appears, the power of their belief that they have been given something efficacious leads them to psychologically muster their body's resources to effect the "cure."

**************************************

The notion that prayer can "cure," can, however, lead to a placebo effect. It requires, however, that the victim . . . er, the subject, knows that he or she is being prayed for, and that they accept and believe in the superstitious underpinning of the exercise. They have to believe that there is a deity who will intervene in human affairs to their own personal benefit. To that extent, an infant, for example, who is not capable of understanding the concepts involved, would not benefit from any placebo effect, because they would lack that crucial element of belief. The person given a sugar pill is affected because of the belief that they have been given something which will "cure" them.

That leads to the question of whether or not prayer is efficacious absent the placebo effect. Does prayer work for those who don't know they are being prayed for? Here you run into the application of the statistical fallacy of the enumeration of favorable circumstances. All of those who believe that prayer is efficacious will assert that they know of prayer having worked a "cure," because they will only refer to those cases in which it appears to have worked, and will ignore those in which it does not work. Every time a religious person prays for someone, and they die anyway, they don't write that down in a little black book to compare to the number of instances in which they prayed for someone who then "got better."

Even in those cases in which someone with a morbid condition was prayed for, and that person's condition subsequently improved, there is no effective control. Was prayer the crucial factor in effecting a cure, or was it medication, or therapeutic treatment? Those who assert the power of prayer to "cure" people will only look to "successes," and without giving any weight to the possibility that other factors were determinant.

Remember folks, four out of five doctors is not a statistically significant sample.
0 Replies
 
TheCorrectResponse
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2008 06:39 am
There is a lot I'd like to comment on but this is just too big an area. Some points that I would note in the discussion.
Set Wrote:
Quote:

With a placebo, one is physically "dosed" with something which the person prescribing knows is not a specific for the condition, usually a sugar pill.


It is important to note that the administrator of the placebo must not know it to be such or the study is not properly blinded and the results invalid.

You would be surprised to know how much research big pharma has put into placebos. Even the shape of the pill and its color can affect patient response to the placebo. Just off the top of my head…so I won't swear to it… little white pills have a low end effect, multi-colored capsules (I think blue and red is best) have a high-end placebo effect.

Hmmm…I wonder if a drug team ever used that information to select a placebo form that would tend to be towards the lower-end expected effect to give that extra 5% spread between the placebo and the drug to get FDA approval…naaaaa.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2008 08:30 am
The person who prescribes a drug (including a placebo) and the person who administers it are not only not necessarily the same person, they are likely not to be the same person.
0 Replies
 
TheCorrectResponse
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2008 08:38 am
Yes that's correct. If they ARE both the same person a protocol that keeps them from knowing which is being given is required. I was pointing out the correct precision in your terms. I just didn't want people to think that this could somehow come into play relative to the results derived, i.e. that the studies are blinded to prevent coaching.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2008 08:40 am
Certainly, and the term i used was "prescribed," not administered.
0 Replies
 
rockpie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 05:33 am
personally, i don't understand why, if there are readily available and effective medical treatments, someone would refuse for any reason.

it brings a certain joke to mind.

a man is in the sea drowning, he starts praying for god to save him.
after a few minutes, a boat drives past and asks if the guy wants help, he says ''no, god will save me.'' 10 minutes later another boat passes and offers the guy help, but he refuses.

eventually the guy drowns and dies. in heaven, he sees god and says, ''why did you just et me drown? i prayed!''

god replies, ''i sent you 2 f*cking boats!''
0 Replies
 
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 05:42 am
I do not believe in prayer. I have no interest in calling forth "forces" that are outside of me. I do believe though, in the mind/body connection, and for the devout, prayer can be powerful "medicine".

When I was going through my bout with cancer, I was involved in a support group where meditation and imagery were taught. I found it very helpful, as the meditation helped quiet me, and enabled me to cope much better with the treatments.

I had this running argument with Mr. P. who is pure scientist, and thinks that this meditation stuff is a bunch of nonsense. I agree with him that it was the treatment was what helped me beat the disease, but that the meditition helped me handle the stress. I would suspect that lowering my stress enhanced my immune system.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 06:24 am
Re: Prayer as placebo.
boomerang wrote:
Seeing the two articles smacked up together made me really wonder if studies showing prayer is ineffective in health care take the placebo effect into account.

If the studies are sound, they do. Richard Dawkins mentions a few of them in "The God Delusion", and they do account for the placebo effect with double-blind studies and similar precautions.

boomerang wrote:
Could prayer be a placebo?

Absolutely!
0 Replies
 
 

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