Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, a cardiologist at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute in the US, has started a trial of prayer for corona-virus infection. The study will involve 1000 patients with COVID-19 infections severe enough to require intensive care. The four-month study will investigate “the role of remote intercessory multi-denominational prayer on clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients,” according to a description provided to the National Institutes of Health.
- Male or female greater than 18 years of age
- Confirmed positive for COVID-19
- Patient admitted to Intensive Care Unit
- Patients admitted to ICU for diagnosis that is not COVID-19 positive
(Not giving informed consent is not listed as an exclusion criterion!)
Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a “universal” prayer offered in five denominational forms, via:
The other 500 patients in the control group will not be prayed for by the prayer group. All the patients will receive the standard care prescribed by their medical providers. “We all believe in science, and we also believe in faith,” Lakkireddy claims. “If there is a supernatural power, which a lot of us believe, would that power of prayer and divine intervention change the outcomes in a concerted fashion? That was our question.”
The outcome measures in the trial are
- the time patients remain on ventilators,
- the number of patients who suffer from organ failure,
- the time patients have to stay in intensive care,
- the mortality rate.
On this blog, we have seen many other ‘corona-quacks’ come forward with their weird ideas. I ask myself why we give them not the opportunity to test their concepts as well? Why do we not spend our resources testing:
- ultraviolet blood irradiation,
- dietary supplements of all kinds,
- essential oils,
- cow dung and urine,
- dozens of herbal remedies,
- colloidal silver?
In my recent book, I included a short review of the literature on prayer as a medical intervention. This is what I wrote:
- Prayer can be defined as the solemn request or thanksgiving to God or other object of worship.
- Intercessory prayer is practised by people of all faiths and involves a person or group setting aside time for petitioning god on behalf of another person who is in need. Intercessory prayer is organised, regular, and committed. Those who practise it usually do not ask for payments because they hold a committed belief.
- The mechanisms by which prayer might work therapeutically are unknown, and hypotheses about its mode of action will depend to a large extent on the religious beliefs in question. People who believe in the possibility that prayers might improve their health assume that god could intervene on their behalf by blessing them with healing energy.
- These assumptions lack scientific plausibility.
- Numerous clinical trials have been conducted. Most of them fail to adequately control for bias, and their findings are not uniform.
- A systematic review of all these studies is available. It included 10 trials with a total of 7646 patients. The authors concluded that the findings are equivocal and, although some of the results of individual studies suggest a positive effect of intercessory prayer, the majority do not and the evidence does not support a recommendation either in favour or against the use of intercessory prayer. We are not convinced that further trials of this intervention should be undertaken and would prefer to see any resources available for such a trial used to investigate other questions in health care.
Lakkireddy says he has no idea what he will find. “But it’s not like we’re putting anyone at risk,” he says. “A miracle could happen. There’s always hope, right?”
Personally, I have a pretty good idea what he will find. I also find Lakkireddy not all that honest and think his assumptions are deeply mistaken:
- Lakkireddy cites an extensive list of references; however, the Cochrane review (usually the most reliable and independent source of evidence) that arrived to the conclusions I quoted above, he somehow ‘forgot’ to mention.
- As the review-authors tried to indicate, further trials of prayer are a waste of resources.
- There are many much more promising interventions to be tested, and by conducting this study, he is diverting research funds that are badly needed elsewhere.
- The study seems to have several ethical problems, e.g. informed consent.
- Contrary to Lakkireddy’s belief, he will harm in more than one way; apart from wasting resources, his study undermines rational thought and public trust in clinical research.
PERSONALLY, I FIND THIS PROJECT DESPICABLE!