Background: Recent media attention has focused on patients who use faith healers to care for their medical problems. Many people who use faith healers also consult physicians. This study was done to learn more about how often physicians see patients who are involved in faith healing, and to learn more about physicians' attitudes about, and experiences with, faith healing.
Methods: A 1-page questionnaire was mailed to 1025 family physicians in seven states; 594 participated, for a response rate of 59%.
Results: Approximately one half (52%) of the physicians were aware of at least one patient in their practice who had had a faith-healing experience. Most physicians came in contact with such patients no more frequently than once a year. Fifty-five percent agreed and 20% disagreed that reliance on faith healers often leads to serious medical problems. However, 44% thought that physicians and faith healers can work together to cure some patients, and 23% believed that faith healers divinely heal some people whom physicians cannot help.
Conclusions: These results suggest that family physicians are infrequently aware of faith-healing beliefs and experiences among their patients. Family physicians were divided in their views about faith healing, with a majority expressing skepticism about faith healing and a sizeable minority favorable toward it.