Medical Miracles - Are they Real -and- Do Doctors Believe in Miracles?

Are Medical Miracles real? - It would seem nearly 8 out of 10 Americans believe they are. In a recent survey 79% of American said they believe in miracles. What may be more surprising to many is the fact that 75% of doctors surveyed said they also believed in miracles. Even more surprising may be the fact 55% of doctors said they have seen miraculous results in their own patients. 

Heartbeat / EKG

How many miracles take place, and can they be confirmed? There are no real statistics kept for the number of miracles which take place. The Catholic church does not keep track of miracles except when they are related to the canonization of a saint. In these cases, a complete investigation is done, and all claims are carefully researched and confirmed before the miracle is deemed to be authentic.

Since the Catholic church tracks these miracles, and has a trial for each miracle, I will be using their methods and numbers in this post. The first order of business is to determine what is a miracle? The church sets down some very specific guidelines on criteria which must be met in order for a miracle to be confirm as authentic. Even if you do not approve of the Catholic church, I feel their guidelines for the confirmation of a miracle are fair, and yes, scientific.

1. It must be a diagnosed illness. - Let's say you are having headaches, blurred vision, and various other symptoms. You do some research and believe you have a brain tumor. You pray for the tumor to be gone, then go to your doctor. They do tests and find no tumor. Is this a miracle? Perhaps, because there is a chance you did have a brain tumor, but since it had not been medically diagnosed, it does not meet the criteria.

2. The healing must be complete. - If you are healed by a miracle, you will be completely healed, not just partly. For the church to consider your recover or healing to be a miracle, it must be complete.

3. The healing process must be instantaneous. - If you pray for a miracle and six months later you get better, this is not considered a miracle. There is the potential you were healed by any medical treatment or medication you were receiving. Even if you were receiving no medical care, there are times when the human body can self heal. This is often not explained by modern medicine but it cannot be ruled out that you were healed by a natural process within the body, and not as the result of a miracle.

4. In order for the Catholic church to give credit to a certain saint, the person who was healed had to pray to a single individual.

It should be noted that the Catholic church does not believe saints have the ability to perform miracles, that power is reserved for God. They do believe that certain people may have influence with Jesus and can convince Him to perform a miracle. This belief does have a Biblical source. In the second chapter of the Gospel of John we read about the wedding at Cana. Jesus did not want to perform the miracle of changing the water to wine, but his mother Mary insisted and Jesus complied in order not to disrespect His mother. 

Virgin Mary

"When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "What business do you have with Me, woman? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He tells you, do it." - John 2:3-5

Jesus performed the miracle, not Mary, but He did so at her request. The Apostles are created with doing miracles as well, all in the name of Jesus. If Jesus honored their request to perform a miracle while they were alive, why not now when they are sharing His heavenly home.

Many denominations do not believe in praying to saints or individuals. They believe the only intermediary between man and God is Jesus and all requests should be made through Jesus. There is certainly nothing wrong with this belief as Jesus does hear our prayers, but there is some Biblical confirmation for belief in others interceding on our behalf.  

Once a miracle is believed to have occurred, the church begins an investigation followed by a trial. Someone is appointed to argue against the miracle and outside experts are consulted to confirm all aspects of the miracle. The church firsts attempts to find a scientific explanation for the event, then only if no scientific explanation is possible, do they consider it a miracle. In the case of medical miracles the church uses the leading experts in their field to examine the evidence. This may include Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, for this process the church does not even require the source to be a believer, just an expert in their field.

One such investigation involved Doctor Jacalyn Duffin PhD, who is a physician (Hematologist) and historian. Dr. Duffin was asked to give her professional opinion on a medical case. Only after examining the evidence and rendering her opinion did she learn it was a part of an investigation to confirm a miracle. The event sparked an interest in Dr. Duffin and she began a lengthy research project into medical miracles and the Catholic church. In all Dr. Duffin researched some 1400 miracles which took place between 1588 and 1999. She conducted most of her research at the Vatican library.

Dr. Duffin is the past Hannah Chair for the History of Medicine as well as the President of the American Association for the History of Medicine. She compiled the information from her research into a book "Medical Miracles, Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World." At the conclusion of her investigation and research Dr. Duffin came to the conclusion that she does in fact believe the stories of the miracles confirmed by the church. It should be noted that Dr. Duffin does not believe in God, but she does believe in the miracles as reported. I contacted Dr. Duffin many years ago and asked her how this could be. She said very simply that she is fine admitting there are things she does not understand, as in how these miracles took place. Dr. Duffin has written a number of other books some relating to the association of religion and the history of medicine. 

While I respect Dr. Duffin's position, I cannot fully understand it. If an object moves with no visible or recordable force acting on it, then the only conclusion is that another unseen and unknown force acted upon it. In the case of a medical miracle, the person or person's prayed for a miracle, and an unseen force acted upon the individual to cure the illness or heal the injury. If we use Occam's razor, then the logical conclusion is the action is in direct response to the prayers.

[Occam's razor - is a scientific and philosophical term that basically states that the simplest solution to any given problem is probably the correct one. More complex ideas regarding an unknown phenomena are generally inaccurate and should be avoided.]

Do prayers have power? This is of course highly debatable as the actions of an unseen God can very rarely be proven. It is interesting that nearly 66% of doctors encourage their patients to pray for their recovery and overall health. In addition nearly 55% of doctors admit they have personally prayed for patients. According to a recent survey doctors are not more secular or radically different in their religious beliefs than the average person, but most claim they keep their religious and professional lives separate. Of course the fact most doctors believe and even use prayer does not mean it is effective. However, the fact there are hundreds of confirmed medical miracles that have been extensively researched, debated, and evaluated, must be considered.

Over a 411 year period the Catholic church has investigated and confirmed more than 1,400 medical miracles. In addition we have seen that 55% of modern doctors say they have seen miracle's take place in their own patients. It seems obvious there is a non medical, non scientific force acting upon these individuals. The fact science cannot explain it, and the healing seems to be a direct response to a prayer for divine healing, the simplest and most logical answer is that the prayers were answered by a loving God who continues to interact with His people. Just because 80% of people believe in miracles does not make them real. However, the evidence is out there, and if examined openly and honestly there is only one real conclusion. Miracles are real, and they continue to take place in our world. 

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