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October 2022

J Fam Pract. 1988 Nov; 27(5): 505-8.

Family practice patients' experiences and beliefs in faith healing.

King DE, Sobal J, DeForge BR.

Gates County Medical Center, Gatesville, North Carolina 27938.

Faith healers have become more visible as an alternative to traditional medicine because of the growth of television evangelism. The extent to which patients engage in alternative therapies such as faith healing, however, is not fully known. To further explore patients' involvement in faith healing, a cross-sectional survey was administered to 207 patients in one rural family practice. Most respondents (58 percent) reported that faith healers are "quacks," but 29 percent believed that faith healers can help some people who physicians cannot help. Twenty-one percent had attended a faith-healing service. Six percent stated they had actually been healed by faith healers, and 15 percent reported they personally knew someone who had been healed. Participation in faith-healing services was significantly higher among blacks (P less than .01) and those with less than a high school education (P less than .01). The finding that many patients embrace faith healing has implications for traditional family practice and may explain why patients sometimes reject medical treatment. Physicians need to be sensitive to patients' beliefs about "faith," and must determine the extent to which patients reject the scientific approach before physicians can become effective "healers."

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