Ethical Aspects of Spiritual Medicine. The Case of Intercessory Prayer Therapy

Mihaela Frunza


The main purpose of this article is to explore, from an ethical perspective, one particular branch of what is today called spiritual medicine: namely, prayer therapy. Several landmark studies in the literature will be thoroughly examined, respectively the classical study of Byrd (1988), the replica of Harris et al. (1999), and the controversial study of Leibovici (2001). Beginning with these studies and the related controversies surrounding them, the religious features and ethical consequences of prayer therapy are investigated. The ethical aspects of prayer therapy the informed consent issue, the issue of respecting bioethical principles, and the issue of medical competence in offering such techniques are thoroughly addressed. Finally, an alternative way of framing the prayer therapy discussion is offered, in the context of public-private dichotomy.


ethics, prayer therapy, complementary medicine, religion, public/private debate

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