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Meditation 600
The Wrong Lesson

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Earlier this week there was an item on the national morning news. (CBC Newsworld) It's unusual that an item of such local interest would make the national news; perhaps they were looking for a feel-good story to offset the doom and gloom from Iraq and Afghanistan.

A woman who was attending a meeting had a heart attack. Fortunately for her, the event attracted a number of professionals - and there happened to be four doctors, including an emergency room specialist, in attendance. Also, a cardiac defibrillator was available in the building. While the rest of the attendees expressed wishes for her recovery, the doctors worked on the woman with both CPR and the defibrillator. The woman's life was saved.

This, to me, reinforces two points the medical community has been making lately: first, the necessity for early medical action in case of heart problems; and second, the desirability of placing cardiac defibrillators in public spaces so they are immediately available for an emergency.

Had this incident occurred at, say, a Humanist Association meeting, then I am pretty sure the doctors involved would have made these very points - if they were given the opportunity to go on national TV.

However, it occurred at a Winnipeg mega-church. So instead of a valid medical lesson from the doctors, we got:

"It was very clear that it wasn't just our knowledge or our compressions or our mouth-to-mouth. God was there."

"It's the most miraculous thing I've been a part of in a long time,"

This from trained physicians! We can be fairly sure that had the very same doctors run into this situation at the local mall rather than at church, the issue of God and miracles would not have arisen. It would have been early care and an available defibrillator.

Suppose that instead of a mega-church in a major city, the woman had her heart attack at a rural church - and her best chance for care might have been a local volunteer fireman with CPR training. No doctors, no defibrillator, and the hospital perhaps a hour away. The congregation might have prayed even more fervently than the Winnipeg one, but the odds of survival would not have been in the victim's favor.

Obviously these physicians have religious beliefs - after all they were attending church. But still, when they act in their professional capacity and successfully achieve what they have been trained to do, then they need to get out the real lesson about the need for equipment availability and for prompt treatment. There is no evidence that God, miracles or prayer had the slightest impact. Focussing on them is the wrong lesson.