Program on Medicine and Religion

Miracles: Spirituality/Medicine Interface Project

In 2007, Sulmasy and colleagues published a report on miracles titled “Spirituality/Medicine Interface Project” in the Southern Medical Journal. This issue represented the first time a multi-article section of a medical journal had been devoted to the subject of miracles.

Given all the talk in popular circles about miracles and medicine, a serious treatment of the topic was long overdue. And given the views expressed by the Buddhist, Islamic, and Jewish contributors to this issue, culturally competent clinicians needed to be aware that the idea of miraculous healing is accepted far outside the confines of fundamentalist Christian communities.

Perhaps no word is more abused in medicine than the word miracle. Sometimes this word is used to describe the work of a surgeon who has successfully performed an operation that no one has done before, or to report that a medical scientist has produced a wonder-drug. At other times the word is used by tabloids to describe a story about a so-called miraculous cure. These sorts of uses of the word miracle make genuinely religious people cringe.

The notion of religious miracles, however, sits awkwardly inside the temple of scientific medicine. The idea that a patient is praying for a miraculous cure concerns many physicians. Skepticism about miracles is most common among scientifically educated persons who balk at the idea that anything can happen contrary to the laws of nature.

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