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Physicians Believe in the Power of Prayer

Parade, Spokesman-Review, December 1, 1996, p. 18.

In a recent survey of 269 doctors, a remarkable 99% said they were convinced that religious belief can heal. In fact, that's 20% higher than the figure for the general public.

Why do doctors feel this way? "Because we've seen the power of belief, said Dr. Herbert Benson, author of "Timeless Healing," which offers scientific evidence that faith has helped to cure medical conditions. "We've seen that belief is powerful in conditions including angina pectoris, asthma, duodenal ulcers, congestive heart failure, diabetes, all forms of pain. We see it all the time, and we can't deny it."

What's more, 75% of the doctors believe the prayers of others can help a patient's recovery, and 38% said they think faith-healers can make people well. The survey was conducted by Yankelovich Partners at a meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians in October.

Physicians recognize the limitations of drugs and surgery, noted Dr. Benson, who added: "The real breakthrough is the acceptance of these approaches by modern medicine." On Dec. 15 , he will head a Harvard Medical School conference on spirituality and healing, to be held in Boston, with another scheduled for Los Angeles in March.

"We have scientific data showing that people who use self-help&md;relaxation, nutrition, exercise and belief&md;reduce their visits to doctors by 30% to 60%, said Benson. "In a prepaid system, that's money in the bank."