Special Report: Faith and Medicine – How Belief Impacts Treatment

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Dr. Emily Pauli says, "The mind is a very powerful tool."

When it comes to the importance of a powerful mind, you'll want to take Dr. Pauli's word for it.  She directs research at the Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville, where they run clinical trials for new medications.

She tells us many trials work the same way.  They compare the effects of a new drug to the effects of a placebo.  Patients and often the doctors administering the two don't know the difference.

Dr. Pauli says, "The placebo looks identical to the actual investigational drug product, but it has no active ingredient."

Still, despite the lack of substance, Dr. Pauli says about one in three patients see effects from the placebo.  She suggests a number of reasons why - environmental factors, changes in behavior like adding more exercise.  But at least part of it comes back to the power of our mind.

Dr. Pauli adds, "There is research that shows that patients that think they are going to get better by taking a medication will actually have a response to the placebo."

Some in the medical field suggest the response to placebos has gotten stronger.  An article in Wired magazine in 2009 stirred up controversy by claiming medical research had to adjust to account for people reporting better effects from placebos.  And since placebos draw on little more than the belief that the medicine will work - it seems reasonable that it's our growing faith in medicine that's driving the effect.

Dr. Pauli admits, "Confidence in the modern medical system absolutely plays a role into your belief and your trust in that system."

Labs like hers feature cutting edge science, but they're also proving the importance of what many of us already hold dear - our faith.

"Faith is what Jesus tells us to have in scripture all the way through," says Pastor John Dees of Crosspointe Church.  He's not a doctor, but he knows how important belief can be - especially for healing.  Here he speaks of God, "I can trust him, even if I don't understand it.  I can trust him.  And if you can trust in the chaos, it sure gives you some peace."

But the thing is - it doesn't matter where you find your  peace.  Have faith in your Lord.  Have faith in your doctors.  Because no matter the source, science shows faith can dramatically change the way we fight disease.

Dr. Pauli points out, "There's the neurobiology research that indicates that your attitude affects everything."

It turns out in any venue, belief makes a difference.

Pastor Dees says, "Belief is always a wonderful thing.  Look at a football team.  If they don't believe they're going to win the game, they're not going to win the game."

Many people who enter the Clearview Cancer Institute are already deep into the fourth quarter, down by three.  But a little belief can help even the score.

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