Examples of deceptions and descriptions of techniques to detect them.
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PRAYING for patients undergoing heart surgery does not help to save them, according to a study of heart patients.
Mitchell Krucoff of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues divided into four groups 700 people scheduled to have procedures such as the insertion of a catheter into their heart. Established Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist congregations prayed for the patients in the first group. The second listened to soothing music, imagined "peaceful, beautiful" places and received a series of 45-second-long "healing touches" from medical staff. The third group got prayer as well as music, imagery and touch therapy, and the fourth nothing.
The researchers found that prayer made no difference at all: the patients were no more or less likely to die, develop major heart problems or be re-admitted into hospital within six months of their surgery (The Lancet, vol 366, p 178). However, the two groups of patients who received music, imagery and touch therapy were slightly less likely to die after six months.
Despite the negative result, Krucoff is keen to do more studies. "We know nothing about what we are doing here," he says. "We don't have a prayer-proof room."