Aretha Franklin Surgery a "Success": Should God Get Credit?

Singers Aretha Franklin, left, and Bebe Winans perform onstage during the 50th annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center on Feb. 10, 2008, in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Singers Aretha Franklin, left, and Bebe Winans perform onstage during the 50th annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center on Feb. 10, 2008, in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


(CBS/AP) Aretha Franklin remains mum on the ailment that led her to undergo surgery Thursday, but she's not shy about saying who deserves credit for making the operation "highly successful."

"God is still in control," the ailing Queen of Soul said in a written statement. "I had superb doctors and nurses whom were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country."

Franklin, 68, whose hits include "I Say a Little Prayer, "certainly knows how to belt out a tune. But her belief in the healing power of prayer is decidedly off-key, according to researchers who study the effect of prayer on health.

One of the biggest and most rigorous studies to date showed that heart patients who were prayed for by people they didn't know actually fared worse, not better, than heart patients who weren't the recipients of so-called "intercessory" prayer.

The study, published in the Aprtil 4, 2006 issue of the American Heart Journal, involved 1,802 patients who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery at six hospitals. One third of the patients received intercessory prayer after being informed they might or not receive prayer, one third did not receive prayer after being told they might or might not receive prayer, and one third received prayer after being told they would receive it.

The names of patients were provided to the members of three Christian congregations, two Catholic and one Protestant. The patients were placed on a prayer list for 14 days starting the night before surgery. Each congregation was told to include in their prayers the phrase, "for a successful surgery with a quick, healthy outcome and no complications."

What happened?

Prayer had no effect on the patients who were told they might or might not receive prayer. But the rate of complications was higher in the group who knew they were being prayed for.

"We wondered as investiators whether the addition of prayer plus the knowledge of being prayed for might be positive in an additive way," said study co-author Dr. Charles Bethea, of Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, according to theheart.org. "Those receiving blinded prayer fared the same as those who were not prayed for. Paradoxically, those in the awareness group, those aware of prayer being provided for them, actually fared worse."

Bleak.

But, study co-author Dr. Jeffrey A. Dusek, director of research at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, tells CBS News it's all about faith.

"The patient's perceptions and beliefs are critically important to how they recover," he says. "If Aretha Franklin thinks the prayers helped her, then they likely did."

Amen.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Does praying help heal the sick or is it just a fantasy?