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Praying for credibility

he had his doubts about its validity.

Alison McCook

Ever since Bruce Flamm first read a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine in September 2001 demonstrating the benefits of prayer on fertility,1 he had his doubts about its validity. Following the appearance of news stories about the controversy last June (see http://www.the-scientist.com/news/20040614/04), Flamm, an obstetrician/gynecologist based at Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, Irvine, says he has seen more evidence to feed his suspicions. Moreover, one of the study's coauthors is now serving jail time for an unrelated matter.

The double-blind study found that couples were twice as likely to conceive using in vitro fertilization (IVF)-embryo transfer if strangers from other countries prayed for their success. However, questions soon emerged about the study's methodology, which required different tiers of prayer groups asking for different outcomes, rather than a simple prayer/no-prayer design. In addition, none of the IVF couples provided informed consent. Last summer, the...

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