Home > Uncategorized > Tim Farron, ASA, Placebos & Faith

Tim Farron, ASA, Placebos & Faith


Tim Farron has got into trouble with the LibDems for signing a badly worded letter (which he admits was badly worded) to ASA on ASA’s decision to ban a leaflet that claims “God Can Heal”.

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.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Cara Anderson
    April 2, 2012 at 14:19

    I used to read your blog, but given that you resorted to attacking someone at the end of your posts who appears to have just disagreed with you, i cant do that anymore.

    I’ve read the blog of the person you say blocked you and she appears to have published lots of comments from various people including you. I also don’t see that she is asking for ‘religious exemptions’ as you claim? It seems she wants freedom of religious expression which can only be a good thing for liberals to protect. Your attack (which I also read on twitter and found to be overtly aggressive in places) seems like sour grapes to me.

    • April 2, 2012 at 14:51

      I’m sorry you feel that way.

      I don’t see it as attacking her but simply disagreeing with her position. To me Lisa is asking for religious exemptions purely because she is asking for a leaflet with medical claims on it not to be subject to the same rules everyone else is subject to.

      Religious freedom should be protected but if it strays into other areas such as making medical claims it should be subjected to the same rules everyone else is. Thats not attacking their religious freedom just making sure everyone else plays be the same rules.

      As for twitter, I don’t think continually pushing a point is aggressive. Yes, the debate got heated and yes I wrote the post whilst I was still fairly riled up about the debate.

      Would you be as disappointed if I attacked a Labour or a Tory politician in the same way? Or is it somehow more acceptable to attack an argument coming from a politician of a different party?

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