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When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, where do you turn? Who has the answers to help you? Many turn to religion in times of distress. Joining Andrew for this Patient Power program is Dr. Richard Sloan, author of Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine. Dr. Sloan is Professor of Behavioral Medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital at the Columbia University Medical Center and Chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine at New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Some people choose to believe that they can use religion to heal their illness, sometimes avoiding clinical experts after a diagnosis. Dr. Sloan has done a wealth of the research on the subject and contends that there is no evidence to prove that faith can heal. During the program he discusses why the studies that claim otherwise are flawed. He talks about faith healers, and addresses money being spent on that type of healing when it could be a resource to advance research as well as ethical concerns that should be considered. Although Dr. Sloan dispels many myths about the connection between medicine and religion, he does advocate that one should turn to faith to carry themselves through the hard times.

This program is certainly different from most other Patient Power programs, but seems to tie in nicely to the goal. Find support where you can and get the best care possible for your condition. If you’ve ever been curious about the role that religion plays in your health, this program is a must-listen.

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Andrew Schorr:

Hello. Thank you for being with us on Patient Power. I am Andrew Schorr. So as the lady says, I'm an almost 11 year leukemia survivor now and I've met a lot of cancer patients along the way and other people diagnosed with very serious conditions, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, even ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. When you get a diagnosis like that it is a ton of bricks dropped on your head, and if you're married, you're spouse, your family. When I heard that leukemia and it applied to me not only did I think I'd be dead the day after tomorrow, and here it is 11 years later and there's no sign of leukemia right now, so obviously we're doing well, but at that time it was as black as black could be. And while that information was given to me by a doctor and then there were all sorts of medical appointments that would be following, you pick yourself off the floor and you say, well, is there something I can do beyond whatever the doctor says. Or, yeah, in the case of cancer maybe there's very powerful drugs, chemotherapies, and monoclonal antibodies and radiation and all these things that are coming to bear, and, yeah, I guess I'll go along with that, but maybe there's more.

Now, if you're religious you might check with your pastor, your minister, your priest, your rabbi. I checked with my rabbi big time and started talking a lot about what had my life been about and what could it be about and what faith did I have. If you aren't religious maybe you suddenly become religious and depending on where you are you may become blindly religious. You may have such faith in a higher power that that can talk to your body, talk to your cells and make a clinical different in your condition, not just how you're feeling about it but actually the outcome. Makes sense. A lot of us believe that, a lot of us think, yeah, I want to believe that. Okay. So doesn't it make sense that a scientist would study it.

Well, one has, many have perhaps, but one has written a book now and it's called Blind Faith, and it's written by Dr. Richard Sloan, Ph.D. professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University. He's in the psychiatry department at the medical center there. Dr. Sloan, welcome to Patient Power. And when you studied this and the effect of blind faith, what did you find?

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