Deadly blessings : faith healing on trial /

A critical examination of three forms of "spiritual healing": Christian Science, psychic surgery, and psychedelic psychotherapy.

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Main Author: Brenneman, Richard J.
Format: Book
Language:English
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Three California court cases, all involving what Brenneman ( Fuller's Earth ) calls ``alternative healing,'' are the focus of this probe. The author, a Sacramento-based reporter and former Christian Scientist, first considers a Christian Science couple whose 17-month-old son died of bacterial meningitis when they put faith in God and refused medical care. They were cleared of involuntary manslaughter charges. The second case involves Jose Burgarin, ``Brother Joe,'' a Filipino psychic surgeon in Sacramento who went to jail after a sting operation exposed quackery. Lastly, Brenneman delves into the strange saga of Betty Eisner, a psychologist whose practice combined the use of LSD, communal acting-out of hostility and, according to former members of her therapeutic community, group sex. Her license was revoked after a patient died during a hot mineral bath session. Even though Brenneman's cases seem well-chosen examples of irresponsibiity, the material does not support his blanket condemnation of nonconventional healing. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Here, investigative reporter Brenneman examines at length three court cases involving faith healing. One involves a Christian Scientist couple and the death of their child; the second, a scam revolving around a Filipino ""psychic surgeon""; the last, the death of a man undergoing ""hydrotherapy"" with a renowned California psychologist. Brenneman provides a useful, if sketchy, overview of faith healing in the US, encompassing a broad range of cults and fads in mysticism and transcendentalism from theosophy to Masonry to today's ""channelling"" and crystal crazes. He then details the circumstances of the death from meningitis of 17-month-old Seth Ian Glaser, whose parents, along with a Christian Science ""practitioner,"" prayed and tried to will away the ""evil"" causing the sickness. Paramedics were never called, and first-aid was not attempted until it was too late. In fact, says Brenneman, the trio continued to pray for the child's revival hours after his apparent death. The parents and healer were found not guilty when the prosecution failed to prove that ""any other action would save his life."" The second case involves a remarkable scam known as ""psychic surgery."" Jose Bugarin--""Brother Joe""--has hands that allegedly ""become electromagnetic in energy,"" enabling him to remove tumors (which prove to be everything from pasta to blood, soaked cotton balls) and cure cancer. He was found guilty of unlawful medical practice and fraudulent treatment when his partner, a ""healer"" specializing in the reading and treatment of auras, testified against him. Brenneman's final case has its roots in Freudian and Jungian psychology, with the added element of LSD experimentation and New Age therapeutics. In 1976, a man died while undergoing hydrotherapy (a hot mineral water bath, designed to treat his ""character disorder"") under the supervision of psychotherapist Betty Grover Eisner, a former associate of Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts. Charged with five counts of gross negligence, her license was revoked and all appeals denied. Brenneman strains to withhold judgment and to disguise his skepticism, but with little success. He does, however, offer an abundance of revealing information within his slanted, loosely organized, and digressive presentation. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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