A Harvard-Educated Brain Surgeon Reveals how Supernatural Forces Affect Healing, and Offers Tips for Surviving a Hospital Stay
Is there a place for faith in our healing — even in the operating room? According to one prominent, Harvard-trained brain surgeon, the answer is yes.
Dr. Allen Hamilton—who has been practicing medicine for over 30 years—believes that all medical professionals have observed supernatural occurrences in their practices, also known as medical miracles. But most medical professionals never openly discuss their firsthand manifestations of these medical miracles. Hamilton says this silence stems from the way doctors are trained. Medical school rarely includes coursework on spiritual forces in healing. “Nobody said, ‘You are going to see things you can’t explain and see miracles that there are no explanations for,’” says Hamilton.
This unspoken code of silence was part of Dr. Hamilton’s thinking when he decided to publish his acclaimed book, The Scalpel and the Soul: Encounters with Surgery, the Supernatural and the Healing Power of Hope.
The book, published in 2008, chronicles Hamilton’s personal spiritual evolution over the course of his career. Hamilton was never a superstitious man, but a series of powerful encounters with forces beyond his comprehension made him question his beliefs.
Boy Sees His Father’s Spirit “Checking Up on Him”
The first time Hamilton witnessed a medical miracle was early in his career. He was treating a young boy named Thomas who had spent months in a coma while recovering from severe burns. At the same time Thomas was being treated, his father was dying in the same hospital and—at the suggestion of Thomas’s mother—doctors had used the dying father’s skin for grafts in their desperate attempts to save the boy’s life.
One day, Thomas claimed to see his recently dead father standing at the foot of his bed. “I whipped around to look,” Hamilton said, “not seeing anything.”
Hamilton gently told Thomas that what he was seeing was impossible: his father had died. Unfazed, Thomas waved at his father, assuring Dr. Hamilton that if his father had died, then what he was seeing must be his father’s spirit checking up on him.
From Skeptic to Spiritual Surgeon
At the time, Hamilton rejected the idea of a guardian from the other realm, but something about Thomas’s faith stayed with him. He went on to become a successful brain surgeon and surgical consultant for the primetime television show “Grey’s Anatomy.” Hamilton continued catching glimpses of the inexplicable.
He relates a number of theses experiences in his book, such as:
• A Native American shaman telling him to let a patient die
• A woman considered officially “brain dead” who, after surgery, related detailed accounts of conversations between the doctors and nurses during the surgical procedure
• A young fisherman with a malignant brain tumor who died a day after being informed that it was time to “go fishing.
Risking His Reputation to Speak Out on the Spiritual Side of Medicine
As a highly respected practicing doctor with a reputation to maintain, Hamilton had a lot to lose by speaking out about spirituality in medicine. He had become convinced of the existence of a higher force in healing, but Hamilton was rightfully nervous about how his book would be received by the medical establishment.
“It was the weirdest set of reactions,” he said. “A lot of surgical colleagues were dismayed. They couldn’t believe I wrote a book about spirituality.” However, even some of the most vocal skeptics admitted to having had similar experiences. According to Hamilton, doctors “have this schizophrenic relationship with medicine, because we know there is more to it than science.”
In spite of the critical response, many of Hamilton’s colleagues were completely supportive. “[They] were coming forward and saying, ‘I have had a lot of the same experiences.’ Younger doctors especially, medical students and residents, would say, ‘I am so glad someone talked about this because it is something I felt and I have been moved by it and I thought I was alone.’”
Spirituality is still a taboo topic in the medical world, but the reception of Hamilton’s book indicates some progress toward the peaceful co-existence of medicine and miracles, towards medical miracles.
Power of Faith: Falling on Deaf Ears?
The mixed reaction of the medical establishment to Dr. Hamilton’s book is a far cry from what happened back in 1990 when Dr. Bernie Siegel wrote and published Love, Medicine & Miracles, Peace, Love & Healing and 365 Prescriptions for the Soul.
When he first began sharing his views, no one wanted to listen. But despite the chilly reception he received for his ideas, Dr. Siegel did not give up, and today is widely recognized as a pioneer in pushing for the recognition of the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of healing. He says:
Literally 40 years ago I wrote to deans of medical schools I either went to or I was working at to tell them that they made me a wonderful technician, but I didn’t know how to take care of my patients or myself. The administrators, doctors—you just got into arguments and yelling matches about how much money it would cost to change the policy at the hospital. Or you got ignored. So I just stopped and did things myself—and a few years later you’re talking to a room full of doctors and no one’s yelling at you because they’ve seen that it works.
Dr. Siegal’s beliefs are backed up by scientific fact. Study after study has shown that intangible things—such as faith, hope, and love—have an incredible impact on illness and recovery. “Consciousness is not local,” Siegel says, and “hope isn’t about statistics.”
The HOPE Protocol
One example of hope and healing that Siegel related on an online interview was about a doctor who specialized in treating cancer. The doctor wrote about “four cancer drugs, chemotherapeutic agents…they began with the letters EPOH, so they were called the EPOH protocol.” This doctor rearranged the letters, and called it the HOPE protocol. Immediately he “noticed that more patients in his program responded to this treatment than to the doctors who were giving it as EPOH.” Literally all he had changed was the name.
It seems that attitude matters: the attitude of the patients, doctors, loved ones, and even strangers, according to one groundbreaking study. Dr. Elizabeth Targ at California Pacific Medical Center conducted a blinded study on the effect of one or more individuals praying on behalf of someone else. In both the pilot study and a follow-up study, patients who received the standard care protocol plus a “booster” of prayer from others at a distance showed statistically significant improvements in health outcomes compared to patients who didn’t receive prayer.
How to Stay Spiritually Sane in A Hospital
Generally, those in the direst health states are hospitalized, but ironically, Dr. Hamilton says hospitals are the worst, most “toxic” places to try to recover your health, especially from a spiritual perspective.
Dr. Hamilton’s book The Scalpel and the Soul: Encounters with Surgery, the Supernatural and the Healing Power of Hope contains an appendix of action steps you can take to improve your healing and health outcomes. The action steps include essential tips for patients who are being treated or recovering in a hospital setting.
To stay “spiritually sane” in the hospital, Dr. Hamilton advises:
1) Protect Your Individuality: First, hospitals do not like individuality. They’re trying to turn you into a number. That’s the last thing I want. So lose the hospital gown. A gown that opens up in the back with your butt hanging out, and that is how you’re supposed to walk down the hallway to get exercise after surgery is ridiculous. Get your sweats. Get your T-shirt. Get your sneakers and start thinking like an athlete. Start thinking like somebody who’s getting better.
2) Surround Yourself With Positive Energy: If you have your favorite quilt, sleep under that. Surround yourself with things that remind you of the positive influences in your life. I tell patients they have to take responsibility for surrounding themselves with positive energy. If you have a special picture or positive music, bring those in.
3) Create Your Own Healing Ceremonies: If prayer is important, use it. Have a family circle. Very often I’ll say, “Let’s circle up and have everybody tell the patient how important that person is to them and how they’re looking forward to them getting better.”
4) Eat Your Own Food, if Possible: Hospital food is terrible. They cook away everything vital out of it. Have your family make meals and bring them in. Eat food that’s organic and in its natural, potent state, with all the minerals and vitamins.
5) Get Out as Soon as You Can: Hospitals are bad for everybody, but they’re especially bad for people who are sick. They’re toxic. Go home where positive influences are concentrated.