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Faith healing

Faith healing is the use of solely 'spiritual' means in treating disease, sometimes accompanied with the refusal of modern medical techniques. The term is usually used by Christians who believe God heals people through the "laying on of hands". Faith healing has not scientifically been proven effective, although its practitioners often cite much anecdotal evidence of cases where it has been successful. Doctors often ascribe any success to the placebo effect or to spontaneous remission: some people will heal with or without treatment, and it is natural to credit the most recent treatment for the cure (this form of reasoning is called post hoc ergo propter hoc).

The majority of people who practice faith healing do so in cases of otherwise incurable disease. However, there are groups that believe in faith healing as the sole intervention in any health problem.

Faith healing can pose serious ethical problems for medical professionals when parents refuse traditional medical care for their children. In some countries, parents argue that they have a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom that gives them the right to refuse medical care and rely on faith healing, but many argue that because faith healing has been shown to be no more effective than a placebo, it would be unethical to rely on it. Doctors consider it their strict duty to do everything that they can in the interests of the patient. If they judge that modern scientific treatments are required to save the child's life or health it is their duty to use them, in direct contradiction to the parent's wishes. In 2000, in Britain, a government ruling allowed a child, against much protest from the parents, to be treated by doctors.

See also: Homeopathy -- supernatural healing -- laying on of hands -- Christian Science