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Is It Spirituality or Superstition?

January 26, 1998

How wondrously fortuitous it must be for managed-care execs, hard-pressed to show they can reduce health care costs without compromising quality or access, to be discovering that "spirituality can reduce health care costs" and "God or some higher power sometimes intervenes to improve the medical condition of a seriously ill person" ("Prayer Aids Healing, HMO Execs Think," Dec. 15).

I am not closed to the idea that what is often vaguely called "spirituality" might help us heal. And I suppose it was inevitable that managed-care moguls would see the exquisite bottom-line potential in that. But to invoke the notion of a supernatural God or "higher power" that intervenes in the course of an illness is downright superstitious.

Of course, it could be used to help explain the failure of medicine to live up to its own billing. Or providers could suggest to their patients that they simply didn't pray long or well enough. Or, as I was told when my prayers went unanswered, in God's eyes you're not deserving enough to have them answered.

THOMAS ROBISCHON, Culver City

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