Intended for healthcare professionals

Personal Views

Faith healing

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 23 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1249
  1. Simon P Stephenson, On sabbatical (
  1. Glasgow

    My 7 year old sister has a headache. “Make me better, Mr Doctorman,” she swoons, all junior school melodrama. As tests of clinical acumen go, this is more important than finals or membership exams: getting it right is finding Buzz Lightyear on Christmas Eve and personally introducing her to Harry Potter. Getting it wrong cannot be contemplated; she would think that I had been lying about being a doctor all along.

    Casting myself as a modern Conan Doyle, I ignore the time honoured sequence of history-examination-investigations and cut straight to the remnants of raspberry ripple in front of her. “You have an ice cream headache.”

    Trust and autonomy aren't mutually exclusive

    “What's the cure?”

    “Simple. Close your eyes and think about somewhere hot.”


    “Africa's fine. Imagine you're in the desert there. The sun is beating down. How do you feel?”


    “And how's your headache?”

    “Gone,” she says, opening her eyes in wonder. Not many interventions in medicine have such an immediately gratifying effect: relieving a tension pneumothorax or acute …

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