Intended for healthcare professionals

Minerva Minerva


BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 06 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1278

Prayer is a cheap and universally available treatment, but does it work? A double blind randomised controlled trial in Archives of Internal Medicine (1999;159:2273-8) suggests that it can. Researchers recruited a cross denominational team of Christians to pray for half the patients admitted to one coronary care unit. The patients they prayed for, who were unaware of the prayers, had lower scores than controls on an unvalidated instrument for measuring adverse outcomes. Prayer had no impact on length of stay, and the researchers didn't look into its effects on mortality alone. Controversially, patients were denied informed consent.

Fire is the third commonest cause of accidental death in children and smoke alarms are an effective way of preventing it. The people who most need smoke alarms, however, rarely have them (Archives of Diseases in Childhood 1999;81:400-3). In one study, only 16% of council tenants in London's deprived electoral wards had functioning smoke alarms. Substantially more people owned an alarm, but only half were properly installed. The commonest problem was a lack of batteries.

Visual impairment is a common problem in India's rural villages. Yet, even where treatment is readily available, uptake of ophthalmology services is poor (Archives of Ophthalmology 1999;117:1393-9). In one blindness prevention programme, eye camps close to 48 …

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