Friday, July 15, 2005

Dept. of Monumental Not-Surprise

Whee! A multi-center study published in this week's Lancet (full text available with free, very quick registration) and delightfully named MANTRA II ('Drone Louder'?) has found that, hold onto your hats kids, remote 'therapeutic prayer' has exactly no effect on the outcomes of heart catheterization procedures. (There's a pleasingly pissy little writeup here, behind free registration, if you don't feel like reading the actual study.)
In MANTRA II, we studied two noetic strategies in patients undergoing coronary revascularisation: an unmasked bedside combination of music, imagery, and touch, and a double-masked, off-site array of combined congregational prayers. Neither therapy alone or combined showed any measurable treatment effect on the primary composite endpoint of major adverse cardiovascular events at the index hospital, readmission, and 6-month death or readmission.
Ain't it grand? They really gave the prayers the benefit of the doubt, too: there was a primary tier of intercessors praying for the patients, and then later a second tier was added to pray for the prayers of the first tier. I dunno, maybe the second round cancelled out the first round. Maybe God was planning on answering the first tier, but then got fucked off with being nagged.

Also note this entertainingly straightfaced passage:
One of the most central issues is the absence of knowledge about dosing of noetic therapies. In the three studies discussed above, three to seven individuals praying, across a range of Christian traditions, were used. The MANTRA pilot study engaged ten congregations of many religious faiths involving hundreds of individuals. The MANTRA II study again involved many faiths in a larger number of congregations. The issues of whether the number of intercessors praying, whether prayers from individuals differ from those from congregations, or whether prayers from different religions have different effects remain unresolved.
So it appears we're still some ways away from 'Take two Hail Marys and call me in the morning.'

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