Faith Factor: Is spiritual health care credible? |

Faith Factor: Is spiritual health care credible?

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Over the past year or so I’ve spent a fair amount of time speaking with legislators and other officials in Sacramento about the importance of including religious nonmedical care as part of California’s implementation of the federal health care reform law. The conversations will likely go on for at least another year or so, but so far I’ve learned at least one very important lesson: The success of my efforts hinges less upon the reasonableness of my arguments than upon the perceived credibility (read: effectiveness) of this type of care.

Practically everyone I’ve met agrees that, even though conventional medical care is the preferred choice for the majority of people, it obviously does not meet the needs of everyone all the time, and that everyone deserves to rely on whatever responsible form of health care they’ve found to be most effective.

They’re also impressed by the fact religious nonmedical care and#8212; including, for instance, services provided to the general public by trained Christian Science practitioners and nurses and#8212; is already included in a number of federal and state insurance plans like Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal), TRICARE, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), and California’s own CalPERS program. Explaining these services are in no way subsidized by the Church usually addresses any question of Constitutionality.

But regardless of my audience, the underlying question always seems to be, and#8220;Does this prayer stuff really work?and#8221;

While I can’t vouch for every system of religious or spiritual health care, I can tell you that for more than 140 years people have relied on Christian Science, in lieu of conventional medical care, to cure everything from minor ailments to heart disease, tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, and cancer. Thousands of these cases have been verified, many of them medically diagnosed.

For example, I happen to know someone from Truckee who relied on Christian Science to treat his back paralysis. Another used this same approach to overcome severe depression. And a friend from just down the hill in Auburn who spent six months in a coma with a debilitating disease is now a top executive for a multi-billion dollar company, thanks in no small measure to the care she received at a Christian Science nursing facility.

No doubt there are many others just like this. And there likely will be many more who can attest to the fact that there’s more than one effective and#8212; and credible and#8212; approach to caring for one’s health.

and#8212; Eric D. Nelson, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Northern California.

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