Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World

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9780195336504: Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World
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Modern culture tends to separate medicine and miracles, but their histories are closely intertwined. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes saints through canonization based on evidence that they worked miracles, as signs of their proximity to God. Physicianhistorian Jacalyn Duffin has examined Vatican sources on 1400 miracles from six continents and spanning four centuries. Overwhelmingly the miracles cited in canonizations between 1588 and 1999 are healings, and the majority entail medical care and physician testimony.

These remarkable records contain intimate stories of illness, prayer, and treatment, as told by people who rarely leave traces: peasants and illiterates, men and women, old and young. A woman's breast tumor melts away; a man's wounds knit; a lame girl suddenly walks; a dead baby revives. Suspicious of wishful thinking or naïve enthusiasm, skeptical clergy shaped the inquiries to identify recoveries that remain unexplained by the best doctors of the era. The tales of healing are supplemented with substantial testimony from these physicians.

Some elements of the miracles change through time. Duffin shows that doctors increase in number; new technologies are embraced quickly; diagnoses shift with altered capabilities. But other aspects of the miracles are stable. The narratives follow a dramatic structure, shaped by the formal questions asked of each witness and by perennial reactions to illness and healing. In this history, medicine and religion emerge as parallel endeavors aimed at deriving meaningful signs from particular instances of human distress -- signs to explain, alleviate, and console in confrontation with suffering and mortality.

A lively, sweeping analysis of a fascinating set of records, this book also poses an exciting methodological challenge to historians: miracle stories are a vital source not only on the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people, but also on medical science and its practitioners.

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About the Author:


Jacalyn Duffin, physician and historian, holds the Hannah Chair for the History of Medicine, Queen's University, Ontario.

Review:


"For individual sufferers, healing and survival can be both spiritual and physical experiences. Dr. Duffin -- medical practitioner and historian -- boldly delves into a seldom-analyzed relationship between religion and medicine. Medically attested miracles are an unusual topic for research, often featured to praise or ridicule phenomena lacking scientific explanation. The author's meticulous and balanced analysis of past investigations into the miraculous coupled with her keen clinical eye will be widely read and discussed by skeptics and believers alike." --Guenter B. Risse, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Francisco


"This book is an important new study of the relationship between religion and medicine. Penned by a well-established medical scientist and modern historian, it places this relationship at the forefront of research on miracles...it opens up a realm of opportunities to historians, for whom it will no doubt become a seminal work. Medievalists, too, will now have to reconsider their own work in the light of Duffin's findings."--New England Journal of Medicine


"A thoroughly engaging, daring exploration of depositions from canonization proceedings in the Vatican Archives that reveals the centrality of medical judgment and physicians' testimony in the adjudication of miracles during the past four hundred years. Rich in stories about the place and meanings of miracles in everyday life, in Duffin's hands these records offer astonishingly fresh insight into the interplay between religion and medicine and into the wider cultural power of medicine in the modern world." --John Harley Warner, Avalon Professor of the History of Medicine, Yale University


"Drawing upon Vatican canonization records, Jacalyn Duffin's study of healing miracles examines the sometimes competitive, sometimes complementary relationships between pre-modern and modern medicine and the cult of the saints. Her thorough reading of some 1,400 miracle accounts unearths patterns of spiritual healing that have been a vital part of Europeans' lives and her keen eye for detail provides welcome insights into the long-neglected story of faith and its healing potential." --Philip Soergel, Department of History, University of Maryland


"Duffin's account of the medical history of the canonization process is in many respects revelatory....Duffin's interrogation of the records is thoughtful and multilayered; the reflections in her concluding section are of special interest, because they relate to the relationship between religion, medicine, and the miracles of healing."--JAMA


"Written by a medical historian, this research is of great interest."--Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews


"This is pioneering research with great theoretical and practical interest; it should engage anyone curous about the unknown limits of human capacity."--Journal of Scientific Exploration


"Although not the first scholar to broach the subject of miracles through the lens of medical science, Duffin brings a refreshingly new perspective and style... Overall, this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book that should prove valuable to a range of readers, including historians and sociologists of medicine and religion, as well as believers and skeptics of the miraculous." --Journal of the History of Medicine


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2009. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. It is now recognized that spirituality plays an active role in the experience of illness and healing, even when the sufferer turns to medicine for help. The relationship of medicine to the miracles at healing shrines, especially Lourdes, is well known. Less studied are the miracles associated with the canonization of saints. The Vatican Archives house the transcripts of the ecclesiastical investigations of all of the miracles credited to the intercession of candidates for sainthood. These documents contain verbatim accounts of patients, their families, and physicians. The testimony is filtered and shaped by the formal questions of clergy, who are concerned not to be duped by wishful thinking or naive enthusiasm. Jacalyn Duffin has examined either the full testimony or the Vatican summaries of more than 670 miracles reported in 35 countries on six continents from the late 17th century to the 21st. She discovered that more than 96 of these miracles are healings from physical illness. Essentially, they are medical case histories, involving the active participation of doctors. Over the course of centuries, she found, these records display remarkable stability. The stories of illness and healing follow a prescribed dramatic structure, like the arc of a novel, play, or opera, shaped by universal reactions to sickness and recovery. However, Duffin finds, some elements in the miracle files change over time: the number of doctors increases, the nature of evidence embraces new technologies, and the diagnoses considered amenable to transcendent healing shift to incorporate new ideas about medical capability. Placing these findings within the context of church history, Duffin goes on to examine them in light of the ongoing controversy about the effectiveness of distance healing, spirituality and prayer. She thus situates this postmodern debate about the mind/body relationship within the timeless tradition of saintly healing. Seller Inventory # AAC9780195336504

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2009. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. It is now recognized that spirituality plays an active role in the experience of illness and healing, even when the sufferer turns to medicine for help. The relationship of medicine to the miracles at healing shrines, especially Lourdes, is well known. Less studied are the miracles associated with the canonization of saints. The Vatican Archives house the transcripts of the ecclesiastical investigations of all of the miracles credited to the intercession of candidates for sainthood. These documents contain verbatim accounts of patients, their families, and physicians. The testimony is filtered and shaped by the formal questions of clergy, who are concerned not to be duped by wishful thinking or naive enthusiasm. Jacalyn Duffin has examined either the full testimony or the Vatican summaries of more than 670 miracles reported in 35 countries on six continents from the late 17th century to the 21st. She discovered that more than 96 of these miracles are healings from physical illness. Essentially, they are medical case histories, involving the active participation of doctors. Over the course of centuries, she found, these records display remarkable stability. The stories of illness and healing follow a prescribed dramatic structure, like the arc of a novel, play, or opera, shaped by universal reactions to sickness and recovery. However, Duffin finds, some elements in the miracle files change over time: the number of doctors increases, the nature of evidence embraces new technologies, and the diagnoses considered amenable to transcendent healing shift to incorporate new ideas about medical capability. Placing these findings within the context of church history, Duffin goes on to examine them in light of the ongoing controversy about the effectiveness of distance healing, spirituality and prayer. She thus situates this postmodern debate about the mind/body relationship within the timeless tradition of saintly healing. Seller Inventory # AAC9780195336504

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