Medicine and Spirituality Research

Can spirituality lead to better health? Since 1999 I have been exploring this question in a research grant in collaboration with multiple institutions. The STEP (Study of Therapeutic Effect of Prayer) was done in collaboration with Dr. Herbert Benson. The study design paper and final results are presented below.

Article in the Washington Post on Prayer in Medical Practice

STEP study with Harvard Medical School
The effect of intercessory prayer (IP) on outcome in cardiac cases has been evaluated previously, but results are controversial. The goals of the Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) are to evaluate the effects of receipt of additional study IP and awareness of receipt of additional study IP on outcomes in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery. STEP is not designed to determine whether God exists or whether God does or does not respond to IP.
Download PDF of Design of STEP Study

The results of the study were published in the American Heart Journal in 2006. It found that patients receiving or not receiving intercessory prayer before and after coronary bypass surgery had the same complication rate of about 52%. However, if patients were aware of receiving intercessory prayer then they has a higher complication rate of 59%.

Download PDF of Results of STEP Study

 

SIAMOS study funded by Templeton Foundation
Spiritual intervention and Medical Outcomes Study (SIAMOS) was conducted to see if prayer/meditation/scripture reading could be done in a hospital setting and if they may lead to better outcomes among patients undergoing bypass surgery.

Feasibility Pilot Study Of Spiritual Intervention And Medical Outcomes (Siamos) Of Patients Undergoing Coronary Bypass Surgery
For centuries spirituality and faith have been an essential part of the healing process, yet it is unclear if spirituality can improve health and medical outcomes. (Sloan, 1999 and Sloan, 2000) The belief that prayer can provide healing power is pervasive in the American culture. A Time magazine poll indicated that 82% of Americans believe in the healing power of personal prayer (Time, June 1996). Moreover, 73% of those polled believe that praying for someone else could help cure illness. A 1993 study from New England Journal of Medicine showed that over 25 percent of the population have used prayer as a therapeutic option for healing (Einsenberg, 1993). In a follow up survey this number increased to 35 percent in 1997. (Einsenberg, 1998) Prayer is often used to complement medical care and not compete with medical care. (Bearon, 1990)
Read Full Pilot SIAMOS Study
SIAMOS Poster presentation

Presentation on Spirituality and Medicine
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Often for medical and nursing student I talk on Spirituality and Medicine using this presentation