New Developments in Distant Healing

Tong Yun

PureInsight | September 16, 2002

Throughout history, people have been searching for an effective therapy for illness, looking for the secrets of sustainable health. This is especially true in this modern age of advanced technology as innovative medical treatments, advanced medical equipments, and medicines continue to be developed at a rapid pace. However, medical innovations cannot catch up with the growing rate of difficult, obstinate illnesses, such as cancers. In fact, “a savvy, adaptable, and resilient killer, cancer—in its approximately 200 forms, has persisted despite highly toxic regimens, massive public education programs, and armies of researchers working worldwide. ‘The history of cancer therapy is that the cells are much smarter than the clinicians, and [they] quickly evolve pathways that can bypass the treatment,’ says Ray Warrell Jr., CEO of Genta, in Berkeley Heights, NJ.”[1] Hence, there is a growing interest in complementary and alternative medicine. One of the more revolutionary treatments is known as distant healing. “Distant healing is any purely mental effort undertaken by one person with the intention of improving the physical or emotional well-being of another.” [3]

A quarterly published British medical journal, Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, recently published a composite article titled, “Research Methodology for Studies of Prayer and Distant Healing”, which discusses in detail the new findings from research in distant healing. [2]

The author of “Research Methodology for Studies of Prayer and Distant Healing,” Elizabeth Targ, MD, is a psychiatrist and director of the Complementary Medicine Research Institute at California Pacific Medical Center. Dr. Targ has been studying distant healing for more than six years and is one of the country’s leading researchers in this area. [3]

“Research funds from federal agencies are now being directed into studies designed to understand the scientific merit of complementary and alternative medical treatment. For example, during 2000, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded $54 million to fund 125 research grants related to complementary and alternative medicine.” [3] In addition, they requested proposals related to distant healing and prayer. This reflects increased interest among the science community. [4]

Dr. Targ explained, “Various forms of distant healing are widely practiced around the world, including prayer and psychic healing, and well-controlled trials have demonstrated the effects of distant healing on humans, animals, and other biological systems.” [3]

In one of the finest scientific experiments ever done on distant healing, a 6-month randomized control trial worked with 40 patients with advanced AIDS. “Each patient knew that it was possible that distant healing efforts might be directed at them (the experimental condition) or not (the control condition). The study was ‘double-blind,’ meaning neither patients nor the doctors treating them had any knowledge of whether that patient was in the experimental or control condition. At the end of 6-months, patients in the distant healing group (1) had gotten significantly fewer new AIDS-defining illnesses, (2) showed lower illness severity, (3) required significantly few doctor visits, (4) required significantly fewer days of hospitalization, and (5) showed a significantly better mood than control patients.” This research finding was published in the Western Journal of Medicine in 1998. [5,6]

This is only one of the many cases that show the medical effects of distant healing. For another example, in September 2001 The Journal of Reproductive Medicine published the result of a masked, randomized trial to “assess the potential effect of intercessory prayer (IP) on pregnancy rates in women being treated with vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF-ET).” “The IP group had a higher pregnancy rate as compared to the no-IP group (50% vs. 26%, P= .0013).” [7]

Dr. Targ pointed out that the advantage of distant healing is obvious when compared with traditional healing method. For example, there is a proven reduction of the frequency of hospital visits and stays, as well as a reduction of medical bills.

But generally speaking, distant healing has not earned the attention it deserves. Dr. Targ said, “My goal is simply to pave the way for free and fair scientific discourse on subjects that have previously been considered nonrational. It is our responsibility as scientists and physicians [for those ideas] to be based on fact, not opinion. If there’s a benefit to distant healing, physicians and patients should consider it along with all the other proven treatments for disease.” [3]

“The methodological limitations of several studies made it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of distant healing. However, given that approximately 57% of trials showed a positive treatment effect, the evidence thus far merits further study.” [8] Medical scientists find it extremely difficult to account for the medical merits of distant healing from studying the cells or molecules of the study subjects. Perhaps the mystical medical effect of distant healing has revealed the very fallacy of modern science. Modern empirical science is limited to subjects that have already been recognized as “suitable,” and claims ignorance about subjects that exist beyond this scope. Such conventional thinking restrains people from being able to truly study and learn the details of the universe. To some extent the blind spot of modern science may be expressed in a Chinese saying, “One is blind to The Mount of Tai due to a leaf covering his eyes.”

Throughout the breadth of Chinese history, there have been countless cases where people acquired physical health or treated illnesses through practicing Qigong or through pursuing personal cultivation. However, the trend has gradually diminished because modern scientists have not been able to explain their medical effects. Yet in recent years repeated discoveries of medical effects due to a combination of spiritual and physical therapies have triggered a revolution in people’s thinking. Distant healing is known to be quite similar to supernormal abilities. “Professional healers have a great deal of training, and many people think they also have an inborn gift.” [3] Qigong masters are reputed to have these characteristics as well.

2. “Research Methodology for Studies of Prayer and Distant Healing.” Dr. Elizabeth Targ. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, Volume 8, Issue 1, February 2002, p. 29-41.
5. “A Randomized Double-Blind Study of The Effect of Distant Healing in a Population with Advanced AIDS.” Sicher, F., Targ, E., Moore, D., & Smith, H.S. Western Journal of Medicine. 169: 356-363, 1998.
7. “Does Prayer Influence the Success of In Vitro Fertilization-Embryo Transfer? Report of a Masked, Randomized Trial.” Cha KY, Wirth DP, Lobo RA. The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 2001 Sep; 46(9): 781-7.
8. “The Efficacy of 'Distant Healing': A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials.” John A. Astin, PhD; Elaine Harkness, BSc; and Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD. Annuals of Internal Medicine, 2000 Jun 6; 132(11): 903-10.

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