"Dr. Randolph Byrd, a cardiologist and faculty member of the University of California Medical School at San Francisco, studied almost four hundred patients who were admitted to the coronary care unit of San Francisco General Hospital. Most of the patients had had or were suspected of having had a heart attack. They were divided roughly into two groups. Both receved state-of-the-art medical care; however, one group was prayed for as well. Their first names and brief sketches of their condition were given to various Protestant and Catholic prayer groups throughout the United States, who were asked to pray for them.
"This was a double blind study, meaning that neither the nurses, physicians, nor patients knew who was and who was not being prayed for. This meant that preferential care could not unconsciously be given by the health care professionals to one group; nor could the prayed-for group "try harder" to get well, knowing that they were being prayed for. Neither was one group sicker than the other; there were no statistical differences in the severity of illness between the two groups.
"When this meticulous study was over, the prayed-for group appeared to have been given some 'miracle drug.' They did better clinically in several ways:
(1) They were far less likely to develop congestive heart failure, a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid as a consequence of the failure of the heart to pump properly (eight compared to twenty patients).
(2) They were five times less likely to require antibiotics (three compared to sixteen patients), and three times less likely to need diuretics (five compared to fifteen patients).
(3) None of the prayed-for group required endotracheal intubation, in which an artificial "breathing tube" is inserted in the throat and attached to a mechanical ventilator, while twelve of the other group required mechanical ventilatory support.
(4) Fewer of the prayed-for group developed pneumonia (three compared to thirteen).
(5) Fewer of those prayed for experienced cardiopulmonary arrest requiring resuscitation (CPR; three compared to fourteen).
(6) None of the prayed-for group died, compared to three deaths among those not prayed for (this difference was not statistically significant)."
After describing Byrd's amazing study, Dossey comments, "If the therapy being evaluated had been a new drug or surgical procedure, it would undoubtedly have been heralded as a medical breakthrough. Even a noted skeptic of "psychic healing," Dr. William Nolen, author of The Making of a Surgeon, remarked [after reading this study] that perhaps physicians should be writing in their orders, "Pray for my patient three times a day."
When I asked Dossey what conclusions he thought were justified by Byrd's study, he said:
"At a bare minimum, the study is very strongly suggestive that prayer has a phenomenal effect, that it has a life-and-death influence on people, even when they do not know they are being prayed for. This is good old classic Caycean action at a distance."
Conscious efforts to use the power of the mind as an aid to healing are an important part of the emerging holistic paradigm, perhaps the most important part. The true miracles of healing occur because a profound shift has occurred within the individual, not only on a physical level but much deeper. The most important aspects of healing have to do not only with the disappearance of physical symptoms, but with the transformation of mind and spirit. I believe that the degree to which a society recognizes this is an excellent marker for determining the state of its cultural evolution and advancement.