Dr. Howard Fuerst was perplexed by his stepdaughter the book publicist. The year was 1991, and she had sent him a volume called Quantum Healing by some sort of Indian spiritual healer named Deepak Chopra. Fuerst, a practicing internist in Hollywood, Florida, from 1955 to 1986, did his med school at the University of Pennsylvania, and Chopra's thesis--that the human spirit and the human body are intimately connected--had not been on the curriculum. He skimmed the book and put it aside.
Then he found that he had prostate cancer so advanced that it was deemed inoperable. Standard hormone therapy was prescribed; at best, it was supposed to buy Fuerst two years. He retrieved the Chopra book, which claimed that meditation, the right diet and a Westernized version of Hindu mysticism could prevent or even reverse disease. Fuerst became a Chopramaniac. He meditated 30 minutes a day, prayed for five and recited Chopra's 10 Keys to Happiness. He showed up at every Chopra speaking engagement within a 200-mile radius. Once Chopra joshed, "What are you doing here? You've heard all this before!" Fuerst didn't care. He had nothing to lose.
And then he got well. The tumor disappeared. Tumors sometimes do that, of course. But Fuerst knows whom to thank. "My professors would be turning over in their graves," he says with a grin. "It's a shame more doctors don't listen to him."
A generation ago, it would have been hard to pronounce the words faith and healing together without an implied sneer. Of course, people have never stopped praying for divine intercession on behalf of their stricken loved ones; and some religious groups, like Christian Scientists, continue to see spiritual engagement as the paramount medical technique. But at least since Pasteur and Ehrlich established the connection between microbes and disease in the 19th century, medicine had regarded belief as a distraction at best and, should it make claims to medical efficacy, as a possible symptom of a pathology called fraud.