Enlightened doctors can benefit your health. They have a range of helpful ideas at their fingertips and a desire to incorporate them into their practice.
Such doctors are educated, open minded and progressive practitioners. They exhibit genuine love and compassion for patients, as well as a willingness to treat the “whole man”, not just a sick body.
Going a step further, an enlightened physician could also be described as one who boldly embraces medicine and spirituality, and supports the role of prayer in maintaining and restoring health.
This may seem somewhat unconventional to contemplate. Yet Dr C. Everett Koop, an influential United States Surgeon General who recently died aged 96, included prayer and the power of spirit in his healing work.
Trained as a paediatric surgeon, Koop often prayed at the bedsides of those receiving medical and surgical care, despite the ridicule of colleagues.
For this physician, integrating faith with medical practice was essential in helping others. In 1973 he wrote, “It used to be said in World War II that there were no atheists in foxholes … I have found there are very few atheists among the parents of dying children. This is a time when religious faith can see a family through trying circumstances.”
Koop believed that the church could effectively work with the medical community. He remarked that “Taking a look at history, the church has always been the safety net for the ill, the disenfranchised, and the poor. The original hospitals were Christian, as were the hospices, the poor houses, and the orphanages. A remnant of that still remains, but after 1964 Medicare and Medicaid changed the entire climate of social help. With these two programs we thought everyone, no matter how old or poor, was entitled to some kind of health insurance. This led the churches to say, “Hey, we’re not necessary any longer.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Many ways come to mind that Christians can get involved.”
While many of us might think that it’s difficult to combine faith and medicine, especially in Australia’s secular society, Koop believed that the popularity of mind-body medicine had made faith and prayer very acceptable. His own enlightened understanding led to sustained widespread public interest in alternative therapies, which today in America and elsewhere, often includes prayer and meditation.
Is Koop alone in his views? Apparently not. There are other doctors, such as physician and neurosurgeon David Levy who wrote a book on how he has brought prayer into every aspect of his medical practice.
Co-written with Joel Kilpatrick, “Gray Matter: A Neurosurgeon Discovers the Power of Prayer…One Patient at a Time” , tells how Levy gained courage and boldness when he saw how prayer brought peace to patients, lightened the atmosphere in the operating room, and improved his own state of mind. Levy addressed a patient’s spirituality and made prayer a regular part of patient interactions. “The response” he reports, “has been impressive. I have seen lives brought to a level of spiritual, emotional and physical health that my patients had never enjoyed before.” (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011, page 11)
Mary Baker Eddy, an early pioneer in Mind, body, Spirit medicine, also felt that prayer should be a regular part of patient interactions. While those who practice her healing system usually seek healing through prayer alone, nothing prevents them from seeking other forms of health care.
Although Eddy’s system was spiritually based, she had the deepest respect for physicians who were earnestly seeking nothing but the best health outcomes for their patients. That’s why she gave readers this advice which is included in a short article titled Christian Healing. “If you employ a medical practitioner, be sure he is a learned man and skilful; never trust yourself in the hands of a quack. In proportion as the physician is enlightened and liberal he is equipped with Truth, and his efforts are salutary; ignorance and charlatanism are miserable medical aids.”
Today, as the need for greater diversity in health information and practices is sought by the public in ever increasing numbers, it’s good to know that there were, and are, doctors like Koop and Levy, that are enlightened and liberal enough to include spirituality in medicine.