The other night we admitted a woman with a chronic condition in a very severe exacerbation. She sat huddled up in bed, looking very sick, and pretty much refusing to talk, so most of the history came from an attentive husband. He explained that she’d been diagnosed some seven years ago, “but in 2002 she was healed, so she hasn’t needed any medicines since then.” Umm, right. Turns out she had been in the hospital once in between, but whether because of a misdiagnosis at that time, or because of patient refusal, had not restarted the usual medications. The husband concluded his explanation of the most recent events by saying, “We’re born-again Christians, and we’re just waiting for Jesus to heal her.”

I gave them a fairly supportive answer, and went to report to my senior, who uses Jesus’ name frequently, but not with any decency. I felt obliged to mention their story about healing, since they would undoubtedly tell it to him when he went in, and because it was rather relevant as an explanation of why her disease had been untreated for so long. He shook his head. “That’s nonsense. You can’t be healed of that disease.” Although not the ground I would have chosen, I felt obliged to say something, because I don’t intend to spend the month listening silently to his atheism. “Well, theoretically, I think you can be healed of anything.” “Not metastatic disease!” “Well, yes, that too, if God wants too. Nothing is impossible for God.” “That’s your philosophy.”

But I do wish these folks would have some better sense of tactics. It’s bad enough trying to tell any doctor that you’ve been miraculously healed; it produces a less skeptical response if you actually have been healed, or at least have minimal symptoms. Being on death’s door and requiring an operation is not the position from which to state that you’ve been healed. Please, folks; it makes it hard for the rest of us. (And for consistency’s sake, and politeness, don’t show up to the hospital and let yourself be admitted, and then insist to all and sundry that you’re just waiting for supernatural healing. If you’re here, you have to admit to God’s use of means on occasion.) (But I would still be thrilled if she were miraculously healed, just for the sake of my atheist colleagues.)