More MS news articles for Oct 2001

'Anything is possible . . . but'

Dentists, doctors skeptical about claims of healing

Sunday, October 14, 2001, updated at 1:12PM
By Kathleen Laufenberg

Don't believe in the type of faith healing that Willard Fuller claims to perform?

Two Tallahassee dentists and a doctor at Duke University found it hard to swallow, too.

"Are you serious?" was dentist Richard Chichetti's initial reaction.

Unless Fuller can scientifically prove his claims, said Chichetti, past president of the Florida Dental Association and former board member of the Florida Board of Dentistry, "It's just nonsense."

"Wow!" was dentist Russ Rainey's astonished response.

"I do believe that anything is possible with God's help," added Rainey, a devout Christian and president of the Leon County Dental Association. "But I have never seen, nor would I have much stock in, what he is claiming."

Although he doesn't think he was healed by attending the armory service, Unity Church in Christ Co-Pastor Bill Worth says his faith has played a tremendous role in keeping him active and healthy. About 12 years ago he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, something he said few people are aware of.

"Clearly, I am not an invalid," said Worth, whose church sponsored Fuller's healing service at Tallahassee's National Guard Armory last month. "I get tired occasionally, but I believe that what I believe has a lot to do with what my body manifests.

"Not every healing is a medical healing," he added. "I think medicine is beginning to understand that."

Harold Koenig, a medical doctor and author of "The Healing Power of Faith," agreed that not all healings have a medical basis.

After stating that "I am highly skeptical" of Fuller's claims, Koenig went on to say that healings have been documented in people who credit their faith with regaining their health.

"There are cases where people have been in a healing and, over time, have gotten better," said Koenig, a professor at Duke University. "There are cert ainly cases like that, although doctors would explain it differently."

Medical doctors might say the spontaneous remission of a disease - such as the lupus healing that a woman claimed to have received at last month's event - happened for reasons unconnected to a person's faith, he said.

Lupus, for instance, "is characterized by exacerbations and remissions," he said. In order to truly assess whether the woman's disease had been cured, he said, a doctor would need to review her medical history from at least six months before she attended the faith healing to at least six months afterward.

Given that caveat, he said, attending such a healing "could stabilize her immune system and that could in turn help the disease become less active."

"The power of belief, the power of faith, can have an enormous impact on the body," he said. "I would not minimize the effects that that can have on the body. It's important to realize that, yes, some people may experience healings through these ceremonies."

If you go to a healing meeting, said Koenig, go without expecting to be healed. God may not physically heal you if that's not part of his plan for you.

"Defer to God's judgment," he said. "Don't insist that your physical healing is the only thing you're going to get out of it. There may be a broader healing that could take place," such as an emotional or spiritual healing, a mending of relationships with family, friends, community - or even God.

"And sometimes, he added, "If you have an emotional and spiritual healing, that may lead to a physical healing over time."

Rainey volunteered to come to one of Fuller's next healings and examine people both before and after to verify whether any actual changes had taken place. That's fine with Fuller.

And Koenig?

Laughing - but definitely not joking - he said: "Now, if something does happen with that, and you get actual proof, you will call me, right?"