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No. 1922:
Mind, Body, and Medicine

John H. Lienhard presents guest johnwprice38 [at] (John Price)

Today, our guest, the Rev. John Price, looks at the mind-body connection. The University of Houston presents this series about the machines, and minds, that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them

In the field of Medical Science, many top-level scientists are studying extensively the link between the mind and the body. Psychosomatic illnesses are the negative side of this relationship, but a few pioneers put their reputations on the line in the last 25 years as they took these insights in the positive direction.

The National Institute for Healthcare Research has published a three-volume work, The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects. This work gives abstracts of hundreds of scientific studies, which show many aspects of the vital link between faith practices and health. The studies overwhelmingly show a serious link between what people believe and act upon, on the one hand, and their general health on the other.

Dr. Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, calls this mind-body relationship the "placebo effect," and broadens our understanding of the word "placebo" to include the various impacts upon our health of belief one way or the other about the existence and nature of God.

Dr. Bernie Siegel, now Professor Emeritus of Oncology Surgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, published Love, Medicine, and Miracles, a landmark book in 1986, in which he discusses the direct link between belief and health in the field of oncology.

A classic study reported in the Southern Medical Journal of December, 1988, was replicated and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in October, 1999. In these two double-blind studies done with patients in large cardiac hospitals in California (1988) and Missouri (1999), significant results were an-nounced. They showed dramatic decreases in cardiopulmonary arrests; pneumonia; need of diuretics, antibiotics, or intubation; and significantly lowered rates of mortality among the 192 patients in the California study and among the 466 patients in Missouri who were prayed for daily by name by Church prayer groups across the country, as compared with the patients in the control groups not prayed for.

Dr. Larry Dossey, a previously agnostic physician, came to re-alize the solid contribution of these studies and has published a few books on the subject such as Healing Words, in which he states that the link between health and prayer is so thoroughly demonstrated in so many such studies that it should be an issue for malpractice claims if a physician does not pray for his patients.

Many will still challenge these studies and conclusions, even though the studies were conducted in accordance with strict scientific guidelines. But for those who practice their religious beliefs, health is statistically shown in these studies to benefit greatly and life extended many years. I doubt that anyone who insists on double-blind studies on a subject before believing it would ever use this method to select a spouse.

I'm John Price, an Episcopal priest, and while a chaplain at St. Luke's Hospital in Houston, day by day, I saw the link between mind and body -- faith and health.

  (Theme music)

The Rev. John W. Price, is an Episcopal priest and recently retired from the Chaplaincy at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. He is also Assisting priest at Palmer Memorial Church, Houston, Texas. 

The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects, National Institute for Healthcare Research, funded by the Templeton Foundation, three-volume work, July 1993.

Love, Medicine, and Miracles, by Dr. Bernie Siegel, Professor Emeritus of Oncology Surgery, Johns Hopkins Medical School, New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

Southern Medical Journal, December 1988; 81:826-829; and JAMA, Oct 25, 1999; 159-#19). These studies showed dramatic decreases in cardiopulmonary arrests, pneumonia, need of diuretics, antibiotics, intubation, and rates of mortality among the 192 (California, 1980's) and 466 (Missouri, 1990's) patients who were prayed daily for by name as compared with the 201(CA) and 524(MO) in the control groups not prayed for.


Seventeenth-century view of faith healing (from Iconum Biblicarum, 1627) This scene, from Chapter 2 of Mark's Gospel, is actually more complex than it seems. For, after the paralyzed man was delivered with great effort, through a hole in the roof, Jesus did not heal him, but forgave his sins instead -- healed the mind instead of the body, you might infer. Or, perhaps, healed them both in so doing. The Bible does not say.