High crimes and prayers

Feb
6
2009
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
29
Comments

This week the medical profession hit a new low when a UK National Health Service nurse was suspended for offering to prayer for an elderly female patient at a nursing home in mid-December.

 

Although the 79-year-old woman was not offended by the prospect, she was a little taken aback and happened to mention it to another nurse.  Eventually that casual comment made its way to the North Somerset Primary Care Trust, which suspended the nurse in question, a Mrs. Caroline Petrie, 45, indefinitely without pay.

 

Today the Daily Telegraph noted that thousands of other NHS staff could be at risk of being similarly reprimanded, for praying for or even offering to pray for their patients.

 

As Dr. Trevor Stammers, chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship noted, nurses who make home visits often build up relationships with patients and religion often enters the conversation.

 

Mrs Petrie, a Baptist, who is being represented by a religious rights lawyer, vehemently denied that she was forcing her faith on anyone  - only offering her usual mode of care. “Prayer is a valuable part of the care I give.” 

 

And as Stammers says, Petrie was hardly ramming her beliefs down the patient’s throat. “There is a difference,” he said, “between making an inquiry about prayer and suggesting someone does it.”

 

Prayer ‘not related to health’

A spokesman for the NHS Trust defended its actions by quoting the Nursing and Midwifery Council Code of conduct, which “makes it clear that nurses ‘must not use [their] professional status to promote causes that are not related to health’.”

 

I’m not going to get into the debate over religious freedom, because that, to my mind, isn’t the point.  The point is actually whether prayer is an effective healing tool. 

 

I beg to differ that prayer does not affect health.  For one thing, copious evidence shows that prayer is a potent form of intention that has shown a hugely beneficial effect on outcome when studied in a variety of contexts. 

 

As I recount at length in The Intention Experiment, prayer – on animals, plants and human beings – has been shown in scientific studies to work. Although the big prayer studies at Harvard and Duke University showed no effect of mass prayer on cardiac patients, both had major basic flaws in study design.

 

According to the Bob Barth of the Office of Prayer Research, these studies only represent a small proportion of prayer research. Of the more than 227 studies investigated by his office, 75 per cent have shown a positive impact.

 

So, according to the research, there was a good likelihood that Petrie’s positive intention would have had a beneficial effect.

 

Power of the placebo

Even if there is no actual healing effect of prayer on the receiver. prayer can exert a powerful placebo effect. Medical science admits that the placebo works between 60 to 70 per cent of the time.

 

A recent analysis of 46,000 heart patients, half of whom were taking a placebo, made the astonishing discovery that patients taking a placebo fared as well as those on the heart drug.

 

The only factor determining survival seemed to be belief that the therapy will work and a willingness to follow it religiously. Those who stuck to doctor’s orders to take their drug three times a day fared equally well whether they were taking a drug or just a sugar pill. Patients who tended not to survive were those who had been lax with their regimen, regardless of whether they had been given a placebo or an actual drug.

 

So if the patient thought prayer would help her, it probably would.

 

Then there is the beneficial effect of prayer on the body. A study at the University of Pavia in Italy and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford showed that saying the rosary had the same effect on the body as reciting a mantra. Both were able to create a ‘striking, powerful, and synchronous increase’ in cardiovascular rhythms when recited six times a minute. 

 

Compared to the proven deleterious effect of most nursing home treatments (for instance, the evidence that most psychotropic drugs given nursing home patients just hasten their decline and death), I’d say that prayer was just about the best medicine Caroline Petrie could offer.

 

 

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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29 comments on “High crimes and prayers”

  1. Our words...prayers and thoughts are powerful. One day the world will know this, and we'll all be transformed...whether it's a healing or a change of thinking, our words cause change.

  2. Prayer without fear is life given backt to life,prayer is the identification between you and your being, prayer is and always will be your one ticket to being connected to your being your choice of when this is important to you..
    Blessings..
    Hector

  3. Between 2002 and 2007 I was diagnosed with and operated on for colon cancer, after which I had two round of chemotherapy and one of radiation therapy. Along with those standard treatments I was offered and accepted multiple doses of prayer by my sergeon, my oncologist and the nurse in charge of a study in which I participated. I've no doubt that the prayers were as effective as the more traditional treatments in my successful outcome.

  4. It seems to me the reasoning behind these paragraphs as well as the resourcs of this website should be communicated and offered to Mrs. Petrie and her lawyer.
    It would be good evidence in her defence.
    Andrew

  5. Very interesting case.
    We have a nurse who has opened a very large can of worms. Prayer has been studied and found in many cases to have a positive impact on patient outcomes.
    Clearly to me anyway, this evidence will be brought forward in the defense and potential counter suit for a wrongful suspension.
    It is well known that new ideas always go through a pattern of resistence.
    1. Ridicule
    2 Violent opposition.
    3 Acceptance
    It seems that prayer as entered the 2nd stage of opposition.
    There is a tendency within those who are promoting the evolutionary path to view the suspension of this nurse as unfair (which it is) and characterize the person who susupended her as close minded and regressive( which he appears to be)
    To me, that is how the game of evolution is played. I think we can forgive those parts of our consciousness that forget that we are all actors in the drama of life.
    It won't be much lomger that prayer will be applied and appreciated for what it adds to the healing process.
    I would sugest we pray for the highest outcome for all the parties involved.

  6. I feel outraged by the news that prayer is not to be offered for patients within the NHS.
    I am a volunteer at my local hospital and I often go into the hospital Chapel and say prayers.The Chapel makes provision for multi-faiths .
    Has the world finally gone mad!
    Instead of focusing on people who are trying to do positive things to help people they should save their energy for those who are involved in negative actions.
    WHEN IS COMMON SENSE GOING TO REIGN!
    Sylvia
    PS I will pray for these misguided people to come to their senses.

  7. With respect, I have a different opinion. As a retired RN and a buddhist, I would be offended, if, during my days in a nursing home, either temporarily or permanently, someone would "offer to prayer" (you mean to "pray", perhaps?) for me.
    Some of my former (evangelical) staff were at times so insistent and aggressive about this with my elderly clients that they became scared of the caregiver. I am not implying that this was the case with Mrs. Petrie (although her client was apparently concerned enough to mention it to another caregiver). However, if she felt that prayer was needed by her client (how did she establish that?) then I would suggest that she would ask the client whether she would like to speak to a clergy person of her choice. If not, leave it alone. Or if you must, include her in your private prayers.
    In my experience there has been too much active "soul winning" going on, for purely egotistical purposes, with elderly, vulnerable people confined to nursing homes. As a client advocate, I have been very concerned about this and feel the need to speak up about it.
    I consider it inappropriate behavior of Mrs. Petrie.

  8. I agree with Reen. I am a health care professional, and have nothing against religion or prayer, but obviously the beneficial/healing relationship between patient and Petrie has been disturbed by Petrie's behavior.
    Sounds to me like its all about Petrie, and HER methods of healing and not about asking what is good for the patient, which should be Petrie's first concern, as indicated by:
    "Mrs Petrie, a Baptist, (...) vehemently denied that she was forcing her faith on anyone - only offering her usual mode of care. “Prayer is a valuable part of the care I give.”
    This is a highly controversial and even disturbing statement.
    Were I an atheist I would be grossly offended and would no longer be comfortable with a nurse like Petrie. Which, in turn would not be beneficial for my health.

  9. I have just finished doing a Psyc. unit at uni. and there is plenty of research to 'suggest' the many positive aspects of an active faith.

    1. Sure! We'll take a Skype visit. I have a small group of fifth graders called Aspiring Authors who meet after school on Tuesdays (3:15-4:15). I think it would be great to visit with youyaoycejlansk!(Jt)comcast(dot)net

  10. I also agree with Reen. Having been raised in a evangelical church, I know that what some people consider to be prayer is not the same thing that many of you would consider to be prayer. Unfortunately, the prayers of some people are an outpouring of fear-based hatred, not love, and are many times merely an egotistical act to be seen, not sincere thoughts intended to heal. I can't possibly know the true intentions of this nurse, but in my opinion she should have followed Jesus' suggestion of going into a closet to pray silently rather than making a public display of her prayer.

  11. Last year I was facing major surgery and reconstructive surgery. One of my nurses who had been rotated onto another ward came to see me the moring of the operation and told me she would be praying for me.
    I have to say it freaked me out! I was and am extremely touched by her caring, but I spent the two hours up until surgery wondering if I was even more ill than I thought. ( As it happens I was, but that is not the issue).
    All of the nurses who came from Kerela would "Praise Jesus : before they stuck a needle in me, which again had me wondering if they needed his help although to them I am sure it was normal routine!
    I firmly believe in the power of prayer as a healing tool. However the manner in which the idea is broached can really contribute to stress and negate any healing influence.

  12. This sounds interesting. I see nothing wrong with it. Though, I can see that people who choose to be offended by it, will. I would not be bothered if anyone of any faith offered to pray for me. Honoured, actually. Though, I am a bit surprised a big deal was made of it in the UK. I thought that uproar only occurred in the US. In the US we have the first amendment that hinders at the same time it protects some. But, technically, UK has a state church. Kids get out of school for Christmas break and they call it Christmas break, in the UK. I'm actually not severely religious but am spiritual. Some of the religious and overly rationalistic do make big deals of this sort of thing.
    I have heard that prayer and the power of intention work, and actually experienced it.
    I guess this is moving beyond the Gaza issue. I had thought that was what the intention experiment was focused on. Amd glad to see, its not limited. But how is that going, the Gaza strip and the intentions toward it?

  13. Some years ago I worked for a home visiting nurse program and was aware of a very troubling care that presented early on a Saturday morning. A patient had been discharged from hospital with a newly revised ostomy and no change in her supplies had been made to accommodate the new stoma. She immediately was in a terrible mess and despite 2 nursing visits to the home, and calls to the ostoly nurse, the patient called again at 11PM. The appliance of off - again. I went to the home and began my nursing intervention. During the long and tedious process of cleaning the skin and applying the new appliance I noticed she had a very prominent picture of Christ on the living room wall. I took a chance - "Let's offer a Blessing for this visit." She agreed and we prayed a simple prayer together.
    Well! the appliance held until her next medical visit - 3 days. You can say all you want to about nursing skill - it was that Blessing that did the trick.

  14. There is lots of research to say that spirituality promotes mental health - being ill is not helpful to anyones mental health. There is also research evidence that people being prayed for - even if they are unawre of this have better out comes. Prayer is merely a type of intention - the nurse sought to get permission to offer this intention. Maybe part of the learning from this in our too politiacally correct society is to simply offer prayers/intentions and wait to see the results without saying ahything.

  15. Interesting comments all. May I clarify one thing: I am not against prayer, and not a disbeliever in the power of prayer/meditation. It is the setting and timing I am opposing, and a certain religious branch which dictates proselytizing - cui bono?
    The home care nurse PEG, assumed she saw evidence of her client's religious orientation and (asked for) a blessing. She lucked out, in more ways than one. However, I have a cross with Jesus in the room my mother used to stay in, and am not a catholic.
    I also have known nurses who do believe prayer is part of their care giving, but they do it silently. No problem there. But to actively "minister" as I believe evangelicals call it, is an invasion of privacy and inappropriate in a nursing home or hospital where, like CHRISTINE, a person may think "the end" is nearer than she is told. Which disturbs the therapeutic environment it should be at all times.
    Only do this when you have established the religious orientation of a client. You might do this during the admission assessment, during which it would be perfectly fine to find out what, if anything, the client likes, needs, or wants spiritually. It is included in the admission assessment sheets in the USA.
    Get permission from the client in writing when she co-signs the admission review and from your supervisor (who in turn should check with the hospital clergy services and even have one of them confirm this with the client).
    And, especially in a room which is NOT private, do this very quietly or even silently, because it may disturb roommates, especially confused ones.
    ☯Namasté☯

  16. Funny, apparently there have been many studies trying to point out the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. And apparently some have been more thorough than others.
    Both Mrs. Lynne McTaggart ( in The Field) and Dr. Fred Gallo (in Energy Psychology) mention many studies that suggest that intercessory prayer and healing meditations as effective. Dr. Richard Gerber (in Vibrational Medicine) also stresses on loving meditation, and mentions the effects that Trascendental Meditators have had on certain cities' crime rates, as well as Mrs. McTaggart. Healing and crime rates.
    So even though meditation is technically not prayer, both share common elements and bear similar subtle mechanics. And the best thing is that their effects go beyond placebo, as suggested by the Targ and Sicher studies reported in The Field and many other investigations regarding remote healing.
    I agree with Reen in being prudent when inclined to praying for clients. Mostly because of legal statutes that wish to guarantee that everyone's religious beliefs be respected, in this case by not allowing that any religion to benefit "unjustly" in a given individual's dire moment by using prayer with a hidden proselytizing motive. Sadly, some laws are made after a reason is given for them to be made. In the end fear and ignorance may seem to win on this round.
    But if there's a will there's always a way.
    So if not sure of the clients religious convictions or spiritual beliefs, you may try remote healing or remote prayer, in which studies apparently suggest that they function just about the same as hands on healing or hands on prayer only without the placebo statistical factor.

  17. As a Registered Nurse, I'm left wondering how many people realize that the first nurses were indeed Nuns.
    The entire issue is so ironically bizarre that I don't believe I could have dreamed this up in a million years.
    It seems so surreal to me.

  18. Slightly off topic but after last night's Intention I was left wondering something.
    I couldn't get a latch on Irma and felt that my Intention wasn't working. I went on to consider that after the young man, Daniel, who made such an amazing recovery , we have had no feedback.
    My questions are these. Is it possible that the recipient's knowledge of our Intention affects the outcome? Did Daniel heal better because his awareness was not blocking our Intentions in some subliminal way?
    Further , do other people on here feel that they 'work' better when they have a photo of the person needing the Intention to work from?

  19. Having read in The Intention Experiment about cases where prayer had a negative effect on patients, I might be alarmed at the prospect of my nurse praying for me!

  20. ... and, Christine, if a nurse said "praise Jesus" before an injection I would doubt her expertise, and would request a replacement with more confidence in her own marksmanship.
    ;-}

  21. We do not know the content of the prayer. Maybe she prayed a blessing on the woman. That hardly constitutes prayer. I grew up in the Baptist church although I am not a Baptist today. In all those years, I never heard anyone pray for the healing of a patient unless they were asked to come and pray. That doesn't mean people did not pray for healing, it just means that I never heard of an aggressive prayer for healing. However, I did hear people pray God's blessings on people and pray for the comfort of the sick. I can't imagine anyone offended by a blessing. There are so many things in humanity that are inexplicable.

  22. Function & Form: at the end of the day, perhaps it is just an Ad Min. oversight. There are people who want and not want certain things at their disposal (blood, priests/ministers, meat, medicines) all of which are discussed and are made 'black and white' on the Ad Min. sheet. Perhaps all that is needed is for 'pray' to be put on the form too. (as it is causes such a confused situation)

  23. Believe it or not I found that some people do not connect or feel comfortable with GOD< SOURCE< DIVINITY or have a confused orientation to their feelings ( based on childhood conditioning or past experience) So When someone tells me something that they are suffering with, at the end of the session I will say: I will hold you in my meditations. Or sometimes I simply pray for the person, without telling them directly ( as I have a daily prayer session) and I add "if this is meant to heal let it be so". There are other times when I ask myself
    "is this mine to do". So a general prayer sometimes replaces specific well wishes.

  24. I understand that it is only for Americans to decide which type of health system they want.But if this initiative is about collecting ideas, why " asking Americans what they think should be changed (or kept the same) ". Because part of the problem in my opinion is that Americans have not been looking enough for inspiration in other countries sye1#m&st80;s (many of which are better and cheaper at the same time).

Why wait any longer when you’ve already been waiting your entire life?

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