Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where Angels Go To Die: Faith Healing

I was watching Lisa Ling's Our America. It was an episode on faith healing, an industry notorious for charlatanry and corruption. Skeptical from the beginning (particularly when Ling said that she planned on taking a very unscientific approach on the subject), I found myself pleasantly surprised. There were no "I can walk!", "I can see!", or "I can hear!" moments. In fact, at the end, (spoiler alert) Ling acknowledges that Steve (a paralyzed man she was chronicling) and the woman with cancer (the mother of two other women featured in the show) had no noticeable physical benefits from attending the faith healing event. While Ling does not use this fact to deny the usefulness of faith healing (and in fact, ends suggesting that there are other benefits to the "hope" faith healing provides), the episode brought up an issue that--to me--is more problematic than the ineffectiveness of faith healing.

The two women, who's mother has been diagnosed with cancer, believe that when they bring their mother to the faith healing event, she will be healed by God. When Ling inquires as to why they are not opting for medical treatment, they explain that they can no longer afford the chemotherapy. Having personally known others who have found themselves in similar situations (delaying or avoiding treatment because of the cost), I was able to really relate to their situation. Here were people who had been perfectly willing to go the route of conventional, effective treatment, but because of their financial situation, had been unable to do so. Similarly Steve, the paralyzed man featured in the episode, could not receive any major benefit from the medical community. They could not make him walk again. They could not fix him. In fact, as he even mentions, it is really expensive to be paralyzed.

Both stories pointed out a glaring issue---not in the world of faith healing--but in the way America deals with the sick. In this nation (as in all of them), there is a high price to health. This leads many to seek out alternative, cheaper forms of treatment. Here are people, at the what may very well be the most difficult point of their lives, and they are grasping at straws, reaching for someone or something that can give them hope. And the predators of quackery come out of the woodwork. They market themselves to these desperate people. They prey on their weakness and take what money they have left. And of course, I fuss at the charlatans, because it isn't right what they are doing, but at the same time, shouldn't I be fussing at the medical community for denying wellbeing to those who cannot afford it?

I am by no means trying to suggest that there is any value to turning to faith healing. In fact, I think going down that path offers more harm than any benefit it could ever offer. I'm also not saying that there will not always be those who will turn away from medicine for religious reasons. However, good people, who cannot afford to be well, find themselves spending their last moments kneeling before charlatans and con artists. And it will continue to be this way until we find a way to make medical treatment easily and readily available to anyone who needs it. I'll admit that it is getting better, but it's certainly not good enough. And until we, as a people, can offer medical treatment to all, we will have to remain helpless witnesses to the weak as they spend their last days pleading to God and hucksters for a cure.

1 comment:

  1. anonymouswuzzawomanJuly 22, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    Beautifully said, Kyra.

    For others who agree about the sorry state of healthcare in the "richest Land on earth" (another myth?) I suggest ALL find & watch a copy of Michael Moore's "Sicko" &, after retrieving one's TV from out the window where your anger caused you to throw it, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT or vote the sonsab's OUT!
    (Just a thought!)