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Hist Philos Life Sci. 2005;27(1):81-99.

Medical miracles and the longue durée.

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Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7 L 3N6, Canada.


The hematologist-historian author became interested in the nature 'medical miracles', following a request to write a report on a set of bone marrows that was sent to the Vatican as a possible miracle cure in a cause for canonization. She questioned the prevalence of medical miracles, their structure, and relationship to other 'official' miracles that are recognized by the Church. Evidence was drawn from a variety of sources: oral testimony of pilgrims at feast day celebrations, ex voto paintings, and 160 miracle files in 67 canonization records of the Vatican Archives. Some changes can be detected through time, but the results also testify to remarkable longue durée in the healing experience: the patterns of suffering and despair, the gestures of pleading, the presence of beds and dreams, the astonishment of the caregivers, and above all the simultaneous recourse to medicine and religion both.

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