“My Body Does Not Fit in Your Medical Textbooks”: A Physically Turbulent Life With an Unexpected Recovery From Advanced Parkinson Disease After Prayer

Dirk J. Kruijthoff, MD; Elena Bendien, PhD; Corlien Doodkorte; Cornelis van der Kooi, PhD; Gerrit Glas, MD, PhD; Tineke A. Abma, PhD



Aim • The purpose of this article is to enhance our understanding of prayer healing by studying a case which was described as a ‘remarkable healing’ by a medical assessment team at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre (UMC) in the Netherlands.

Method • This retrospective, case-based study of prayer healing investigated numerous reported healings using both medical files and patient narratives. A medical assessment team evaluated the associated medical files, as well as any experiential data. The instances of healing could be classified as ‘remarkable’ or ‘unexplained.’ Experiential data were obtained by qualitative, in-depth interviews. The study was transdisciplinary in nature, involving medical, psychological, theological, and philosophical perspectives. The object was to understand such healings within the broader framework of the science-religion debate.

Results • We present the case of a female patient, born in 1959, with Parkinson disease who experienced instantaneous, nearly complete healing in 2012 after intercessory prayer. At that point the disease was at an advanced stage, rapidly progressive, with major debilitating symptoms. High doses of oral medication were required. Following this healing there was no recurrence of her former symptoms, while the remaining symptoms continued to improve. She regained all of her capacities at work, as well as in daily life. The medical assessment team described her recovery as ‘remarkable.’ The patient reported that she had always ‘lived with God,’ and that at a point when she had given up hope, ‘life was given back to her.’ This recovery did not make her immune to other illnesses and suffering, but it did strengthen her belief that God cares about human beings.

Conclusion • This remarkable healing and its context astonished the patient, her family, and her doctors. The clinical course was extraordinary, contradicting data from imaging studies, as well as the common understanding of this disease. This case also raised questions about medical assumptions. Any attempt to investigate such healings requires the involvement of other disciplines. A transdisciplinary approach that includes experiential knowledge would be helpful. Against the background of the science-religion debate, we feel that the most helpful approach would be one of complementarity and dialogue, rather than stoking controversy. (Adv Mind Body Med. 2021;35(2):4-13.)

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