Surgeon Studies Effects of Prayer on Healing
Can prayer aid in the healing of surgery patients?
Allan J. Hamilton, MD, chairman of the University of Arizona Department of Surgery, is leading a clinical study examining the effects of prayer on patients recovering from cardiac bypass surgery. He and other researchers will try to determine whether these non-invasive, alternative techniques can actually reduce complications, decrease stress and pain, and facilitate wound healing after surgery.
The research is part of a $1.3 million grant awarded to the University of Arizona for a Center for Frontier Medicine in Biofield Science by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The study led by Dr. Hamilton, a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, focuses on Johrei (pronounced, "Jo-Ray"), an ancient practice originated in Japan and now used worldwide. Johrei practitioners transmit energy through prayer to a recipient and believe that by "channeling spiritual energy," the spirit is healed, and it in turn heals the physical body.
About 35 million Americans undergo surgery each year and recovery can be long and painful, Dr. Hamilton says. Johrei practitioners claim that the practice can serve as a complementary medicine modality to enhance recovery from surgery. "Our project is designed to determine if Johrei has effects that can be documented scientifically," explains Dr. Hamilton. "This is the first randomized, double-blind clinical trial to evaluate the potential effects of biofield practices on recovery from surgery."
Dr. Hamilton says this scientific research on alternative medical practices mirrors a trend among medical schools all over the country to try to understand the mechanisms that lead to the connection between mind and body, and spirituality and healing.
Americans spend billions of dollars on spiritual healing and alternative medicine therapies, despite the fact that little data or clinical research exists demonstrating the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of these approaches. The National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine at the NIH is supporting rigorous scientific investigation of alternative medical therapies.
In the future Dr. Hamilton plans to conduct a research study that will look at spiritual healing at a genetic level. This will include a basic science study on how prayer affects the growth of cell cultures, Dr. Hamilton says. "This research will apply mainstream methods to mind and body questions."