When I am ill, I go to a doctor because they are more qualified than I am in areas relating to my health. Of course, nothing about that does (or should) stop me trying to find out more about what ails me. That allows for a more thoughtful exchange of information with my doctor in the time they have available to deal with me. It helps that my degree, though as old as the hills, is relevant to medicine, meaning I should understand enough to understand more than the average patient. That I often don't is probably down to laziness as much as any other factor. Whatever, I regard the doctor as the specialist. That I understand means I can review the diagnosis, there being both good and not so good doctors. That said, my experience of medical care at my current medical practice is almost uniformly excellent.
DiscussionThere exist many alternative medicines or therapies and, by choice, I remain open-minded; over time, many have been shown to work. Many, however, remain not merely unproven but espousing mechanisms that are nonsense, e.g. homoeopathy. So, I understand the potential value of "alternative" therapies and welcome the medical profession's cautious acceptance of some. I understand that there might be potential value in alternative therapy and, while I welcome the medical profession's cautious approach to some complementary and alternative treatments, I still consider the medical profession the authoritative guide to medicine. A qualified medical doctor is always my first point of contact in the event of illness. Enter the faith healer. A faith healer is one who claims to use the power of god(s) or some other non-demonstrable entity to be able to cure ills without medical intervention. The illnesses they claim to heal may be ones that the medical profession cannot presently cure but are often ones for which there is a known treatment. Still, many people around the world believe in spiritual cures such as visiting shrines, sprinkling holy water, performing spells and that visiting faith healers will heal them. Perhaps it doesn't matter overmuch with those who are considered incurable. Maybe such "cures" will give them peace of mind and allow them to pass from this life more peacefully. I could even accept that a positive frame of mind (such as might be generated by a faith healer) might positively affect some conditions. However, it does matter if people get persuaded that a faith healer will heal them when there is a recognised cure for their illness. If the faith healers are right and they can cure the ills of a given individual then they can do no harm but if they cannot then they stand to do a great deal of harm to an individual as that person may not then seek the aid of a conventional medic and perhaps increase then damage the illness is doing to them. There are reasons to be sceptical of such claims:
- Firstly, that a force or person, invisible to us and undetectable to science is capable of materially affecting us or our universe. Some things are invisible to us, perhaps even undetectable, but such forces are explicable and a necessary part of some explanation for a given phenomenon.
- Secondly, faith healers often gain out of administering their cures. By that, I mean they gain money, goods or status. In that respect, my scepticism is little different than it is to the cynicism I have for private health services or systems. Why? Because I cannot verify that a suggested treatment works best for me or the financial health of the individual/company concerned.
- Thirdly, every faith-based or magical cure I am aware of has been unverifiable. I have watched documentaries on faith healing where "healers" pull bloody tissue from a person with no puncture in that person's skin. I have listened to healers claim they "felt" a tumour shrink beneath their hands as they prayed over a person and laid their hands upon them. I have heard astounding, though unverifiable, stories of cancer remission. I have seen footage of people who use wheelchairs who then stand, throw their crutches and walk. However, I have never, ever seen a visible wound or disfigurement healed in front of my eyes and, call me cynical if you will, but that is a problem for me.
- Fourth and finally, every time faith healing falls under the spotlight, it is found to be flawed or fraudulent.
ConclusionFaith healers claim to be able to heal a patient, often one who appears to be past hope when it comes to conventional medicine. In many cases, such "healers" persuade people away from conventional medicine, offering the only treatments shown to work and can result in deaths involving considerable pain and often profoundly impacting those around them. No faith-healer has ever verifiably healed an amputee so one has to wonder why that might be leading one to wonder if the gods have something against amputees. Imagine a one-legged man throwing his Zimmer aside and crying, "Glory be! I'm healed!" would that not be amazing? Only it doesn't happen! It NEVER happens! Moreover, the simple fact that it doesn't lead me to suspect that something is awry, that someone is not honest and that things are not really as they are claimed to be. If these people could do what they claim they can, why won't they subject themselves to scientific scrutiny? Arguably better still, why won't they offer their miraculous services to a major city hospital? Would that not be the noble, honourable and genuinely human thing to do if you possess such power? Of course, it would. However, they don't, and I know why! I strongly suspect you do too! Because faith-healing DOES NOT work except as a placebo. Faith healers are fakes and frauds! Faith healers are charlatans!
- "Trying to Make a Case for Faith Healing," Kevin Courcey, RN
- "Touched by a Feeling and High on Believing," Kevin Courcey, RN
- "Does Jesus Dislike Amputees?" Lazy Philosopher