Doctors are very wary about the idea of medical acim but the idea of miraculous healing has been around for thousands of years. For those people who are facing terminal or severe chronic illness the desire for a miracle healing can be immense. Is this a legitimate hope or a false hope?
Whether miracles still happen today depends on your definition of the word miracle. If by miracle you mean that something is totally against the laws of nature then I would suggest that they never did happen.
However, if by miracle you mean a turn around in serious, or terminal illness when the doctors thought there was very little chance of recovery, then, of course they do still happen.
How can I be so sure? Most doctors who have been practicing for years have stories of people who have done much better than could have ever been expected given their diagnosis, prognosis (expected outcome) and treatment. Discussion on them is usually kept to the coffee room rather than the research unit.
It is also a matter of logic. If you have 100 people with a terminal condition then not all of them die at the same instant. They die one at a time. And for every 100 people then the last 10 will die later than the first 90. That is logical. And someone has to take longer to die than all of the others in that group of 100. Also within that group of the last survivors are some people who have such a good quality of life that some would describe them as miracle survivors.
The important question is whether there is a reason for some to take longer to die than others, or whether it is just chance? Fortunately research has answered some of these questions for us. While chance is probably always a component there are many things that those who survive much longer than others all have in common.
Ground breaking research was published in the academic journal Qualitative Health Research in 2008 which described the quality of such survival as personal resilience. What was really interesting is that all of the survivors had a very large number of personal qualities and ways of interpreting life that were in common to all of them regardless of whether the person was male or female, how old they were (23 – 90 years) or how much education they had during their lives (18 months to graduate degrees and further training).
The survivors decided early on in their illness to live each day with the best quality that they could make. They lived each day to the fullest and their quality of life was self defined. These were people who came to live their own lives, not controlled by others or by their disease process, but so that they could take charge for today.
Of course they were often constrained by their illness. If you are on a drip and confined to one room there are lots of things that you can’t do. However within those constraints there were still lots of things the survivors chose as important for that time, such as being in charge of their own toileting or choosing to put make-up on for visitors. They did not allow their quality of life to be defined by their illness but by their own values and the way they chose to live on that day. The focus was on what was possible not on what they could not do.
Every person was different in the way they chose to define what was quality for them. However it was really interesting to find that by focusing on their own interpretation of quality of life that each person did come to a quality of life that anyone, whether medical carer or dispassionate observer would agree was quality. Each person ended up symptom free for at least an extensive period of time. Their disease remitted or apparently disappeared.
The fact that remission is physically possible means that there is a biological pathway for remission to occur in anyone and so hope is legitimate. Doctors worry about giving what they call false hope. However if there is just one case ever that has gone into remission means that there must be hope and when there is hope there is justification for exploring possibilities for improving the quality of life for those who are seriously and terminally ill.