Prayer and Illness

From today's (July 17, 2005) headlines -
Healing touch, music, aids heart surgery patients - Reuters
Prayer Doesn't Improve Outcome for Heart Patients, Study Finds - Bloomberg
Prayer's Power to Heal Strangers Is Examined - Washington Post

What is the source of these headlines?

A study in the British medical journal The Lancet (v 366, p211, 2005) examined the effect of prayer (by congregations of various religions not directly associated with the patients), as well as other (MIT - Music, Imagery and Touch) therapies. The study involved a total of 748 patients, and consequently, the Margins of Error were rather large. The Relative Risk (Risk Ratio) for cardiac illness following prayer was between 0.77 and 1.24, implying that prayer could be anywhere between helpful (reducing the risk by 23% to 0.77) and detrimental (increasing the risk by 24% to 1.24).

More interesting, MIT therapy was found to lower mortality; however the Margin of Error of the Risk Ratio was large - between 0.15 (85% risk reduction) and 0.82 (18% risk reduction). Possibly, the relaxation or comforting feeling caused by the MIT treatment helps the mitigation of the illness. However, a larger study would be needed to obtain more conclusive results.

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Last Modification - July 17, 2005