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The Statistics on Faith Healing v. Modern Medicine

Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology


The Emotional Outcry

Joel Watts, on his website, is lamenting one death from faith healing: http://unsettledchristianity.com/2013/04/i-once-was-lost-but-now-im-found-another-child-death/

and it is a shame. Why? because no one attacks medical science or doctors like they do faith healing advocates when a death occurs. Unfortunately, medical deaths vastly outnumber the number of deaths incurred by those who practice faith healing yet no one cries out that the surgeons or doctors should be arrested or that their children should be removed from their homes or that the hospital be closed down.

Those are all the things that they do when 1 child dies from an attempt to use faith to heal their illness: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51629861#.UXcGzkryCSo

Prosecutors on Monday sought to have the couple jailed, but Lerner permitted them to remain free because their seven other children had been placed in foster care.

The Statistics

If you look at statistics, that is if you can find accurate ones as faith healers do not keep records and rarely report to government agencies their success and failure rates, you would find an anomaly that is basically ignored. First one figure on faith healing

In 1998-APR, Dr. Seth Asser, a critical-care pediatrician at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, and Rita Swan, head of the advocacy group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty (CHILD) authored a paper in the professional journal Pediatrics. Asser studied 172 reported deaths of infants and children between 1975 and 1995. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/medical3.htm#)

172 deaths in a 20 year span {less than 10 a year) and you must keep in mind that there is no guarantee that medical science could have saved those children. Now the next figure includes adults but the numbers are so large you get the idea of how many children EACH YEAR die at the hands of medical professionals using medical science:

Even more significantly, the medical system has played a large role in undermining the health of Americans. According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments: • 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery

• 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals

• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals

• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals

• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs

Thus, America’s healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.(http://www.health-care-reform.net/causedeath.htm)

A Lack of Coverage

Not to mention the millions of children without medical insurance coverage because their parents can’t afford it:

40 million people in the U.S. do not have access to healthcare. The social and economic inequalities that are an integral part of American society are mirrored in the inequality of access to the health care system. (Ibid)

To be honest I did look for children medical death’s specifically but I found that it was not that easy to find separate statistics. The sites I found mainly combined adults with children BUT I did find this:

What would it cost to prevent the vast majority of children’s deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea? About $6.7 billion over the next 12 years—to put it in perspective, that’s less than a quarter of the cost of the 2012 London Olympics. Pneumonia and diarrhea claimed the lives of two million children worldwide in 2011. (http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/keeping-two-million-children-from-dying-each-year/)

It seems that the cost to save 2,000,000 children PER YEAR is quite cheap yet the money is nowhere to be found. And people go ballistic over 1 child’s death at the hands of faith healers.

The hypocrisy is endless when it comes to the enemies of God. By the way that is just 2 diseases that affect children worldwide. If the opponents put as much effort and money into fighting disease around the world as they do to fight 1 small group or family in America who uses faith to heal their loved ones, then maybe they would have an argument against faith healing. But they don’t in either case.

Or if they fought against medical mistakes as hard as they do faith healing maybe tens of thousands of people each year would survive their stay in the hospital but they don’t and we lose people to unnecessary deaths.

Here is a more manageable statistic:

But while such a tally is tragic, that does not mean this year will turn out to be unusually bad. Roughly 100 children die in an average flu season, and it’s not yet clear the nation will reach that total. (http://www.timescolonist.com/life/health/often-elderly-are-victims-but-100-kids-die-of-flu-on-average-each-year-20-so-far-this-season-1.48048)

2 years of flu season out races faith healing deaths for 20 years. The bias against faith healing is immense and unrealistic. Just think what would be accomplished if the government did not waste its time and resources incarcerating families for faith healing and focused on spending their time and money on other more pressing needs.

Some Final Thoughts

Now this is not to say that any faith healing method or group are okay. Not everyone who practices faith healing is of God and they cannot expect God to intercede on their behalf, but they do anyways because they are misguided and not taught correctly.

If one practices faith healing they need to make sure it is truly God’s will and they need to make sure they go to a true christian who has the gift of healing. Faith healing is not denying a person or child of medical care but it does not necessarily replace medical help either. One has to be led of God to do the former and they need to look to God to help in the latter.

Medical science on its own can do nothing, it is not God and has no power over life and death thus the believer needs to use faith no matter which medical treatment they seek. It is all faith healing.

© 2019 David Thiessen


David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on February 04, 2019:

I have no problem with the way I represent the topic. I do not follow your lead but God's

Ben Berwick from UK on February 01, 2019:

*Shrug* if this comment is not permitted through then so be it, however I have been no ruder to you than you have to me, so perhaps you should consider how you have represented (or failed to represent) the values you claim to value.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on February 01, 2019:

That was the last comment I will post from you on this topic. We will not agree and I resent you coming to my website and insulting me. I have been patient but it is at an end.

Your distorted argument is not honest nor open-minded so I am ending it now.

Ben Berwick from UK on February 01, 2019:

Your failure to understand how percentages work, what they mean, and your own ‘evidence’ are all indications, taken with the fervour with which you defend a demonstrably flawed system, that you are anti-science. You appeal to ignorance (such as your idea that faith healing ‘might’ be more successful than your own link details). Based on the available facts, facts as per your own source, we can only draw one set of conclusions. Appealing to ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ won’t wash.

I also note you have completely ignored my point about the progress of medical science in reducing mortality rates and improving life expectancy. Any cursory glance at historical data regarding disease demonstrates this fact. Prior to the advent of medical science, faith healing and power of prayer failed to prevent the spread of things like the Plague, yet you would have us believe, through your misrepresentation of percentages and figures, that it is morally right for a parent to abandon proven means of saving lives for something that’s not proven. That, to me, is completely *immoral*. No parent has the right to ignore sound, proven means of helping their child, and they certainly should not get a free pass if that child dies. After all, you have much outrage for failure of medical science where it happens, where’s your outrage when faith healing fails?

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 31, 2019:

I find that a bad argument when you are looking at the millions of lives lost through medical science.

You cannot say that faith healing loses 80%, you do not know how many countless lives have been saved or healed via true faith healers.

Your accusations are without merit as I never said I was anti-science but defended the people who suffer at the hands of others like you who cannot see the forest for the trees.

They should not suffer because they make legal medical choices

Ben Berwick from UK on January 31, 2019:

Perhaps you should consider your own boundaries. Your overwhelming support for a system that your own demonstrated failed to save 172 children *who would have almost all survived* had they seen a doctor reflects your own bias (see http://www.religioustolerance.org/medical3.htm).

In other articles you claim to be pro-life but have problems with parents putting their children children into a system which, based upon available data, fails to save 80% of them. That’s hardly being pro-life. You’re turning a blind eye to this fact because you hate science, even though a comparison of survival rates for disease (not to mention life expectancy) throughout history would reveal that, as our understanding of science and technology has advanced, life expectancy has improved and in developed parts of the world, many diseases are far less dangerous than they used to be.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 31, 2019:

You have the last word which I will disagree with. Your lack of understanding of faith healing and your overwhelming support of medical science that is far incapable of handling the diseases of the world is noted.

It is none of your concern how many people go to a faith healer. That is their business, not yours. They have free choice just like you do. They get to treat their children their way, not yours. Learn your boundaries

Ben Berwick from UK on January 31, 2019:

David, your last comment ironically massively distorts *my* arguments, much as you have done throughout our discussion, with several strawman arguments (attacking points I have not made). Case in point, you mentioned how medical science cannot stop death - I never claimed it could. That’s but one example, which anyone reading this conversation can see for themselves.

You believe I am outraged over faith healing and that it represents bias against religion - no. I am *concerned* that you advocate for something which is nearly impossible to produce figures for and therefore is unproven, over something that is proven to be safe. You say percentages mean nothing, which simply tells me you don’t understand how they work or what they mean. I am hardly pleased that 40,000 people died due to acts of neglect, but as mentioned before, those incidents represent 0.06% of patients who went through the NHS. This obviously means the vast majority of patients were not killed due to neglect.

How many patients see faith healers and of those, how many were cured and how many died? You can’t provide this information yet expect faith healing to be held up as comparable to medical treatments. Appeal to ignorance is not an argument.

Nor do I demand perfection from faith healing - I simply want *you* to stop, to think and look at your own anti-science bias. In the Middle Ages, when medical science didn’t exist, millions died of Bubonic Plague across Europe. Now, the Plague only occurs in isolated cases in Europe, thanks to advances in medical science. It saves far more lives than are lost.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 29, 2019:

It is so sad that you keep distorting my comments and applying adjectives that do not accurately describe my words. You really should read what you write and how you word your sentences.

You are a person who feels that you can tell other parents what to do while keeping them from telling you what to do. Percentages mean nothing. as for the rest of your post, I will let you have the last word.

It is fruitless to continue as you do not see what you are saying and continually make my point for me. You cannot get outraged over 40,000 deaths at the hands of medical science or even millions of children from diseases that medical science fails to cure like you can at 1 death at the hands of a faith healer.

That means there is something wrong with you and you demonstrate a very harsh bias against religion, faith healers and God. I would do some self-examination if I were you and see how deep your hatred goes and take the appropriate action.

Faith healers have done nothing to you and do not deserve having your hatred sent their way. You are not the protector of children, you are not the parent in charge and science is not an authority over anything. Medical science fails every day yet you turn a blind eye, that is wrong. demand the same perfection from it as you do faith healing

Ben Berwick from UK on January 29, 2019:

I did not claim immunization kills a disease, so you are setting up a strawman argument. However it has dramatically reduced instances of disease in many parts of the world. I have not claimed 100% effectiveness either, which another strawman fallacy on your part.

*Any* death is unfortunate, however you continue to misunderstand the arguments being made. We have one method of treating illness and injury which is proven to work. To give an example, the NHS here in the UK treats 64 million people every year. Errors account for 40,000 deaths, which are of course unfortunate, but in percentage terms, that's only 0.0625% of patients seen by the system. You cannot provide *any* measure of certainty around faith healing as an alternative. What percentage of patients survive? How many people see faith healers? You cannot answer these questions yet expect this unverifiable and unproven notion to sit alongside a system with nearly a 100% success rate at avoiding death through negligence or mistakes.

Strangely, in previous posts you have made remarks about medical being unable to prevent death, which was never a claim I brought up - another strawman.

You say I have no idea what protection is about, but *I* do, for I am a parent and I suspect I have a greater understanding than you of what that actually means, as well as what responsibilities and duties it involves. You may believe it to be perfectly acceptable to place a child's life in danger because of faith - I do not. You may believe ignoring statistically proven means of dealing with illness and injury in favour of something that lacks hardly any data is perfectly acceptable - if you're an adult doing so on behalf of yourself, I would consider you ignorant and stupid but it would be your choice. To deny a child that opportunity - imposing one's faith upon that child as it were, when they are totally dependant upon the adult - is simply wrong.

Given that you are ramping up your aggressive rhetoric and are indulging more and more in deceitful arguments, I imagine that yes, this discussion should be considered over.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 29, 2019:

Again, immunizations do not kill the disease. Every disease still exist in the world today- https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Illnessand... while some immunizations work some people are not so lucky- https://healthimpactnews.com/2015/healthy-people-w... why are you not outraged at those failures?

Your link tries to make science the only authority over life. It isn't I know of many cases where doctors would not accept the fact that faith healing worked. Doctors have been eye witnesses to those results- https://jamesbishopblog.com/2015/12/22/55-of-docto... just because science in general turns a blind eye doesn't mean faith healing doesn't work. Oh and no one needs science's permission to do faith healing.

Your third paragraph is just wrong. You do not get to dictate to others what you would have them do. They are not under your authority. If you do not want to use faith healing that is fine, no one is forcing you to do it, stop forcing others to follow your wishes.

Don't pull that do you understand what it means crap. You are not in charge of what other people get to do. They have free choice and have the right to exercise that freedom just like you do. You have no idea what protection is all about.

I know of both what is your point. Science still fails yet there is no outrage. Since it is not your child, it is not your call. What you have done is prove my point that people will not express the same outrage when medical science makes the same errors as faith healing your argument has been undone by your hypocrisy.

I doubt I will continue this discussion as you are distracting from the main point I made and refuse to listen to reason

Ben Berwick from UK on January 29, 2019:

To address your first paragraph, the failure to get people immunised is not a failure of medical science. The vaccine itself is proven to work - in one year, cases dropped by 80% in the USA, and continued to fall. https://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/history.html

Measles is now virtually gone, as I said before.

As far as your second point is concerned... aside from a lack of records, there have been studies which have shown the notion to be painfully flawed. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/faith-healing/

Thirdly, yes, parents who deny their children access to proper, *understood and known to work* medical care, are indeed forcing their views *and* failing their duty of care as well. They are not providing the right care as, in too many cases, the child does not survive. In others, the child is crippled by a curable disease. In these cases, the parents have not demonstrated parental guidance but instead, devastating neglect.

Do you understand what it means to be a parent? Because I *am* a parent. My duty is to protect my daughter; if I ignore a proven means of doing exactly that, am I being responsible? It’s akin to seat belts in cars - if I don’t buckle her and she gets hurt, should I not face consequences? It’s the same thing.

For your fifth point, I might ask you to speak to people who have been let down by faith healing but saved by medical science.

Finally, yes, instances of death through neglect are rare. You are not considering the percentages at all, though these provide us with the key details. If 98-99% of patients were not killed through neglect or malpractice, what do you think that means?

Finally, I have already acknowledged that you are not trying to force people away from doctors. I never claimed otherwise in the first instance. Why are you therefore repeating this claim?

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 28, 2019:

There is a lot to your comment which will take a lot of time to address. It may get too long for this format. But here goes- first, there is a measle outbreak right now in the states, vaccines do not kill diseases they just try to keep someone from contracting them. People die from the flu even after receiving their vaccination.

Second, you do not understand faith healing and it does not need to be verified. It takes place all the time from people with the true gift of healing.

Third, parents are not forcing their ways on children. Their duties are to guide the children and bring them the right care even when it goes against secular subjective opinion. Remove parental guidance and there is trouble.

fourth, that moral duty is subjective and left up to the parent's discretion. Just because you do not agree with their choice does not make the parents immoral or violating a moral code. your moral code does not meet God's.

Fifth, talk to people who have been healed and get your information. Medical science fails as it cannot provide eternal life to anyone or stop death from taking place.

Sixth, occasionally, rare? did you read my article and its statistics? Even in this country, doctors' mistakes are not rare or occasional. I think you view the medical profession with rose colored glasses. Also, you ignore what I have written when I said people are free to use either method, doctors and medicine are not anathema.

Ben Berwick from UK on January 28, 2019:

To answer your first paragraph... if, as a parent, you have two choices - one with a proven track record (the measles vaccine for example), or one which is nearly impossible to verify, and you choose the latter and the child dies, do you feel that would be sufficient in the eyes of the law to excuse the parents of any consequences? You would not excuse a doctor of consequences if they caused a death, so why should parents be exempt?

You speak of forcing people to follow a particular way - parents who deny their children access to doctors and accept only faith healing are forcing their way upon their children *and* placing their children in danger at the same time.

To address your second paragraph, I would repeat that parents and guardians have legal and moral duties of care to protect their children. There are laws regarding this. You may not agree with them but they are in place for a reason. Thank you for confirming the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine, which is of course, due to medical science.

As to your third paragraph, you cannot provide any certainty as to causes of death but seem determined to exonerate a failure of faith healing, even resorting to subjective answers around ‘time being up’. You have no firm evidence to offer up faith healing as being even *remotely* as effective as modern medicine, especially given the vast hole in available data that you have already admitted exists.

Finally, you betray your misunderstanding of my position. I recognise and understand that occasionally, doctors will make mistakes, with tragic consequences. Doctors and other medical officials can and do face various consequences when these events occur. They are however, extremely rare when weighed up against the huge volume of patients that go through the system. As you are *already* aware from our previous discussion, some 98-99% of patients are *not* victims of negligence or malpractice. The medical system also offers, in both absolute and percentage terms, much higher survival rates, based on the available facts. None of this is an emotion-based argument, but arguing for a system with little to no verifiable evidence or certainty, because of your subjective, faith-based approach, certainly seems to be emotion-led to me.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 28, 2019:

Because there are proven positive track records of alternatives doesn't mean people are forced to use them. That is forcing people to follow your way not God's.

I doubt you would want to be forced to use faith healing for your family so why demand that others be forced to follow your way?. You did say virtually eliminated so while smallpox still exists it is very difficult to contract the disease.

No the children died probably due to a variety of factors including that their time on earth was over. No one is promised along life. Only in your subjective opinion is it willful neglect. The parents took the medical course of action they saw fit.

You prove my point. You will go after the parents who opt to use faith healing even though it may be unsuccessful yet fail to go after the imperfect medical world for their large amounts of failure with the same emotion, anger, and tenacity. Your hypocrisy is showing and demonstrates you will not go after those people who make the same mistakes because you agree with their methodology even though many more children die

Ben Berwick from UK on January 28, 2019:

With respect, if there are no records, we continue to have no idea about the true statistics around faith healing. We have no idea how many people use them. We have no idea how many people practice faith healing as a profession in any way shape or form. On the other hand, my statements about vaccinations remain true. I did not claim they were gone in the western world, on virtually gone, so I would ask you to heed your own point about putting words into people's mouths.

I also did not make any claim with regards to you saying people should not seek out doctors or other medical practices. My concern, as per our original discussion, was in respect of a duty of care for children. As a parent, I have a legal and moral duty to my daughter to ensure she receives the best possible medical care if she is injured or falls ill. If I did not take her to a doctor and instead turned to a faith healer, I would be remiss in my legal *and* moral obligation to keep her safe and look after her. A child cannot make their own judgements regarding medical matters, especially a young child - they are totally dependant upon their parents and/or legal guardians.

You argued it was unfair to prosecute parents under these circumstances where the child died. Yet as you and I are both aware of, there are proven alternatives to faith healing with a clear track record of success.

Statistically, as per the title of this thread, we know most patients who had died (172 children died between 1975 and 1995 due to a failure of faith healing, and these are only the deaths we know of, as per a lack of records), would have almost certainly lived had they seen a doctor. These children were denied that opportunity by the very people who had the most compelling reason to do everything to help them. That is wilful neglect, under any reasonable argument.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 25, 2019:

Np faith healing is not impossible to verify. There are doctor records before the faith healing takes place, then there is the healthy body afterwards. I only said they did not keep records.

As for medical science's triumphs well those are short-lived, temporary and science has not cured uncurable diseases whereas faith healing has. You would be slightly off in your list as measles and tuberculosis are still very much in existence today even in the western world.

also, do not misunderstand what I have written. I have stated that there is room fr medical practices and clearly stated that God did not outlaw it. everyone is free to use medical services if they want; they are also free to use faith healing if they want. Please read my words without stating something I have not said. I am targeting the emotional response and the over-reaction that comes when faith healing is not successful and used by people who do not know God.

Ben Berwick from UK on January 25, 2019:

The biggest problem with faith healing is, ironically, the lack of records. It is, as a means of viable alternative treatment, completely unverifiable. On the other hand, there are many aspects of medical science proven to work, such as vaccinations, which have virtually eliminated diseases that used to be the scourage of even the most advanced nations on earth. Measles, smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, are all virtually gone from the world where the vaccines are available. Among other medical practices, these are proven to work - faith healing is, by your own admission, impossible to verify.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 23, 2019:

You may but I fail to see what you can use as a rebuttal. No records are kept by faith healers and the emotional aspect distorts all the other information available. The idea that modern medicine would have been successful in certain cases of faith healing deaths is highly speculative and unverifiable

Ben Berwick from UK on January 23, 2019:

Hello David, I am Darth Timon (the site appears to have finally worked for me!). I may at some point issue a rebuttal to your faith healing argument, time permitting.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 19, 2019:

I am going to disgaree with you on the life expectancy thng. It is hard to challenge but there really are no figures from the ancient world to amake any ral comparison. and since people lived to olde ages in the past, well...

If you actualt and honestly study ancient history you would find that to be in error as well. There are record and records of ancient presscriptions, solid ones, vidence of prsecision surgery both medical and dental.

As for the Black Death, so was medical science. Medical science still cannot cure certain diseases. So I woul dnot be so quick to jump on its bandwagon

ZeroEqlsInfinity on January 18, 2019:

Here's the thing; the scientific method has brought with it a vast increase of life expectancy and reduced morbidity. Medications and treatments exist which have reduced the lethality of a host of diseases. The average life expectancy in Canada - where I live has increased by over 20 years in the past century, and that is largely a function of better medicine which ties directly to science.

Faith through religion has been around for thousands of years, and was powerless to stop the Black Death in which approximately 50% of the population of Europe died. Praying for a loved one may make a person feel that they are doing something, but in double blind testing there was no statistical difference indicated, and in fact when someone was aware that they were being prayed for, the outcome was worse. see https://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.h...

Indicating that problems exist in the practice of medicine is totally legitimate, and those who are negligent should be held to account. Of course, not all treatments work with equal efficacy for different patients, and diagnostics while improving by the day are still not perfect, and I have a blood great bone to pick with drug companies which grotesquely overcharge for many life saving medicines. That said: The average person lives over 20 years longer today where I live, and the majority of that is due to science in general and medical science in particular.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on January 17, 2019:

I am glad you had a great experience with God. God still performs miracles today

Sought after on January 17, 2019:

Thanks for this piece. I am an evidence of faith healing. After an ectopic pregnancy and surgery which took away one of my tubes; further tests & medical reports showed the only tube i had left was(in their words) not potent. I resolved not to visit the hospital after about 2 years of referrals and treatments. I focused on God's word in my Bible and i got a son without complications in pregnancy. Truly, faith in God (His way) produces desired results.

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