But how do you research faith healing scientifically? “It was very difficult,” says Kruijthoff. “If you’re setting up a study, you need something standardized. A pill is an example: a patient takes it and you can test it and see if it’s repeatable. A prayer isn’t: it is diffuse and it is mixed, with different emotions realised.”
When Kruijthoff researched reports from other physicians, he came across very little documentation. For inspiration, he turned to Lourdes: a place long known for faith healings and the academic evaluation of those healings. “We wanted to do the same way. So we formed a committee of five specialists. A surgeon, a neurosurgeon, an internist, a hematologist/oncologist and a psychiatrist. there was something else in the eye area, for example, we agreed that we would visit an eye surgeon.”
Religious biases were also considered, says Kruijthoff. “We opted for an equal mix of religious and non-religious experts in the selection. We did this to avoid prejudice as much as possible. This also happened in Lourdes. They said: it doesn’t matter if he is a Christian or not – Christian doctor examining the situation This is a medical evaluation.
At the start of the study, there were 89 enrollments, says Kruijthoff. “Of the 83, 27 eventually stayed. This was due to various conditions we had set ourselves. For example, we only chose recoveries from the 90s, because otherwise it was too difficult to build a reliable record. But stories with back problems were also rejected, because such complaints cannot be judged on photos.”
In the end, 11 of the cases were labeled “medically noteworthy”. Kruijthoff: “In these cases, the course of the disease was very different from what one would expect. In these people, it was conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s disease or chronic inflammation. It was striking that in many cases she was suddenly healed.
The label “medically remarkable” is different from “medically inexplicable,” says Kruijthoff. “It was a difficult consideration for us. You use medically inexplicable if there is no explanation for the cure. But with diseases like Parkinson’s disease, the condition can sometimes have a more positive course. But there remains very special that the healings took place so suddenly.”
Nevertheless, Kruijthoff is cautious in his conclusions. “You can’t prove he was healed by prayer. All we can say is that the healing was sudden and there was a temporal relationship to the prayer.”
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