Tim Farron, ASA, Placebos & Faith
There have been many blogposts on this won’t cite them all but I will add my two pence.
For clarity, I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
That being said, I agree with ASA’s ruling:
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told HOTS not to make claims which stated or implied that, by receiving prayer from their volunteers, people could be healed of medical conditions. We also told them not to refer in their ads to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.
Rav Wilding yesterday on The Wright Stuff thought the leaflet was harmless because it said “can” and not “will”. ASA’s ruling makes sure that people that the ad should not claim that would lead to people to believe that prayer could heal them of medical conditions. Not “would” but “could”.
I belief in the power of faith and belief to help cure people of ailments not major things like cancer or HIV though. The power of belief as many scientists, athiests, secularists will tell you is incredibly powerful and can be incredibly beneficial. It can also be incredibly harmful.
It doesn’t matter what that faith is. Whether it is faith in God or faith in a particular treatment, faith is an incredibly powerful healing tool.
In fact there is a name for an effect of a treatment that is down to faith and nothing else, its called the placebo effect. Placebo effect is defined by the medical dictionary as:
A beneficial effect in a patient following a particular treatment that arises from the patient’s expectations concerning the treatment rather than from the treatment itself.
Is it therefore wrong for someone to offer a drug, surgery or the offer of praying without any substantial evidence that it works but knowing that if the patient believes it will work, then they may well feel better because of it.
Society has ruled on the first two that it is absolutely wrong but third one is ok because of religious freedom. I think if you are offering a medical service and yes I would call faith healing and praying for healing to be a medical service should comply with the same rules that everybody else has to.
Why should I or anyone else for that matter not be able to offer medical treatment or healing without substantial evidence and/or offer a belief in a treatment that I know will help the patient feel better if the patient believes that the treatment works whilst religious groups can?
Asking for religious exemptions like Lisa Harding is (who has blocked me on twitter and from viewing her site because I disagree with her), smacks of double standards.
I agree with Tim that there needs to be a fair process, which treats all equally and that makes no exemptions because of religion.
That being said, I think Tim & I would come down very differently on what that fair process might entail.