Like Grape Nuts, "Christian Scientists" are neither

>> Tuesday, November 03, 2009

This is a terrible idea:

The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments -- which substitute for or supplement medical treatments -- on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual healthcare."

It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill -- Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.

Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.
Except, of course, that it's not. Holy shit. These are people who do not believe in germ theory and whose utterly deranged views on science and medicine actually produce demonstrably higher rates of mortality within their cohort. There are no epidemiological, clinical, or meta-analytic studies that support the efficacy of prayer as an alternative form of "therapy." The two studies that prayer advocates usually cite -- one from South Korea (2001) and one from Columbia University (2004) -- represent legendarily awful science. The former study has more or less been withdrawn from the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, and both featured a co-author with a degree in parapsychology who has claimed elsewhere that amputated salamander limbs can be regrown by faith healers who wave their hands over the lonely stumps.

Regardless of the constitutional questions -- which I think the LA Times article focuses on to an unnecessary degree -- the protection of medical quackery flies in the face of what the goals of health care reform should be: (a) delivering access to the most effective methods of disease prevention and treatment; and (b) reducing health care costs across the board. I suppose "fully prying American health care from the embrace of medieval superstition" would be a reaonable goal as well, but with people like Tom Harkin in the Senate, I'm not holding my breath.

(Via Kevin Drum)


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