The December 2007 issue of AJOB is now online and it includes two target articles:
Clash of Definitions: Controversies About Conscience in Medicine
by Ryan E. Lawrence, Farr A. Curlin
Defining the Scope of Implied Consent in the Emergency Department: Defining the Scope of Implied Consent in the Emergency Department
by Raul B. Easton, Mark A. Graber, James Hughes, Jay Monnahan
As always, each target article is accompanied by a group of peer commentaries. December’s issue also features two editorials: “Mandating Vaccination: What Counts as a “Mandate” in Public Health and When Should They Be Used?” by Matthew K. Wynia; and “Playing with God: Prayer is Not a Prescription” by Glenn McGee. The full text of the latter is available for free. Here’s a selection:
Despite some very vocal advocates, the idea that prayer is a cure for disease just doesn’t have a prayer. Harvard researchers and the Templeton foundation poured nine years and $2.4 million into the sixth and most comprehensive study to date of the effect of prayer by strangers (“intercessory prayer”) on patients’ health. And this month they announce, as have those who led the other five studies, pretty definitive results: prayer by strangers across thousands of miles had no effect on side effects for 1,802 heart bypass patients. There’s just no getting around the evidence that there is no meaningful correlation between prayer by strangers and patients’ health.
Those who continue to preach for remote control prayer are undeterred in the struggle to turn religion into biomedical research. The studies just haven’t been done correctly, they argue. Perhaps people didn’t get the prayer right, or did not know how much to pray. Or maybe patients were scared (which may very well explain why heart patients who were told they were the subject of prayer did more poorly than those who were unaware).
But the problem with patients putting their faith in intercessory prayer is that it tries to turn religion into biomedical science, at great cost to both.