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   Inside Out - North East: Monday March 2, 2007
The power of hands?
Spiritual healing session
"Within minutes the pain had gone." Ailsa Marsh.

Spiritual healer

David Cunningham, a spiritual healer from Wearside, claims to have healing hands - the ability to channel energy from God to cure the sick.

His patients have included several Hollywood A-list Stars.

But others believe he's preying on the vulnerable to create false hope.

So is his healing work misguided or does he have supernatural powers?

The power of touch

David Cunningham has no medical training but he says he can cure anything from a terminal disease to a sprained ankle - simply by touch.

His life changed when he was living in the Middle East.

David on release from Iraq
Return from Iraq - a life changing experience for David

In 1990 David was a hotel manager in Kuwait - when Iraqi tanks rolled in.

He recalls what happened next, "I was awoken to gun shot...

"We were put in two buses and shipped across the desert and taken to Baghdad".

David was one of dozens of Western hostages used as a human shield to protect military installations from American bombs.

"I was there for three months… we were fed on rice, cucumber and tomato. Seven of us lived in one bedroom.

"I knew it would change my life. I made a pact with God that when it was over, I would use my healing gift."

From frontline to faith healing

After his traumatic experiences in Iraq, David set himself up as a healer in London.

His clients included the actress Hayley Mills who was suffering from whiplash following an accident.

She was so pleased with David's healing work that news spread of his talents.

Soon David moved to the United States where his clients included Demi Moore and Bruce Willis.

Ailsa Marsh
Ailsa Marsh - enormous pain relief following her consultations

But three years ago, he returned home to Wearside to set up the Spiritual Healing Centre.

Ailsa Marsh is one of his many clients, and she believes that David's healing powers are very real:

"David Cunningham gave me light when I had none... I was dying. Mentally I was shot to ribbons and I had nowhere else to go."

Ailsa was seriously ill with ME at home in Northumberland for more than five years:

"I could not walk from one end of the room to the other. I used to hang onto the walls and scream in agony like I was being tortured."

Doctors could find no cause and offer no cure - and then she met David:

"He put his hands this far from my shoulders - and it was the most amazing I will never forget it.

"He put his hand over my right shoulder… and the pain went like that.

"Excruciating pain for six years in an instant - it was gone. The real excruciating torturous, awful pain disappeared."

Today Ailsa is living in London - she has a job and a life, "No, it's not an overstatement to say he saved my life - and saying that doesn't even come close.

"He brought this amazing light and colour into my life where there was none."

Dramatic changes

Another client, Margaret Leslie, has had similar experiences.

"He is absolutely my hero," she says.

Margaret Leslie
Margaret Leslie says that she feels virtually cured

"On four or five days of each week I was having a migraine - they interrupted my whole life.

"The ultimate message from my GP was I was going to have to live with it. I was so desperate.

"After one treatment I felt much much better.

"It took five treatments to feel virtually cured.

"It's a dramatic change it really is... I have got my life back my personality back."

The sceptic's view

Despite these stories Professor Chris French, a Psychologist at Goldsmith's College, London, remains sceptical about spiritual healing:

"There are often individual cases which are very dramatic… but we investigate further and find the underlying cause is still there.

"There is a huge difference between feeling better and getting better...

Chris French
Professor Chris French remains sceptical

"The truth is that we have no way of measuring these energies... we are looking at no more than suggestion."

Chris French believes that the dramatic results may be the result of a 'placebo effect':

"It is not implausible that we are looking at a placebo effect and natural remission."

But Margaret Leslie isn't convinced:

"It was such a dramatic improvement it would be a hell of a coincidence," she says.

Healing in action?

David Hitchen was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in 2006 - his doctors have told him there is nothing more they can do.

Now he's seeing David once a week:

"I was absolutely desperate. This is a pretty difficult situation. The doctors don't seem to be helping us."

David Hitchen believes that spiritual healing is making a difference.

David Hitchen
David Hitchen says the effect has been "electric".

But for all David Cunningham's sincerity, some critics remain unconvinced, including Professor Chris French:

"One of the most important factors is the placebo effect… if we are talking about healing above that then the evidence isn't there that faith healing works.

"What we need is properly documented evidence."

David Cunningham says that he never gives false hope - he doesn't
promise anything, but he will try to see if he can get a response.

He openly admits that his treatment doesn't work every time.

"There are people who for whatever reason don't respond. - a deep subconscious reaction that perhaps it is their time to go home to God."

Cure or placebo?

But could the improvements be down to conventional medicines?

David doesn't ask for his clients' medical records - he uses his power of touch.

David Cunningham
David Cunningham - the power of touch?

"I can scan their bodies with my hand and I can feel their disturbance," he says.

He believes that strong negative emotional responses to events in our lives create blockages in our energy system which emerge as physical symptoms:

"I believe that everything comes from the self.

"When we are not at peace, when we are not in harmony when we are not loving ourselves unconditionally or our fellow man when we are not at peace in our soul this dis-ease-ment will manifest itself in our physical body."

Professor Chris French thinks this is a dangerous message.

But David Cunningham sincerely believes that his hands can heal.

So far, there's little to suggest that there is solid medical evidence to back up his claims.

But when doctors can offer no cure - David Cunningham can provide something that mere medicine cannot - and that is hope.


The National Federation of Spiritual Healers provides a full list of spiritual healers across the UK.

David Cunningham can be contacted via his website or by phoning 0191 417 8231.

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Spiritual healing fact file

Healer praying
The power of spiritual healing has long historic roots

Spiritual healing is sometimes referred to as faith healing or divine healing.

It involves using spiritual methods to treat disease and illness.

Faith healing may involve the "laying on of hands".

Spiritual healing was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The Bible has a number of references to faith healing including in the work of Jesus and his disciples.

From the Renaissance the practice of taking sick people on pilgrimages to shrines became common. Places such as Lourdes in France are still famous for their supposed healing powers.

The first famous American healing evangelist was Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920's.

Another well-known faith healer was Oral Roberts in the 1940's. Faith healers such as Jack Coe and A. A. Allen capitalised on the interest created by Roberts. Many travelled with large tents, holding open air events.

Kathryn Kuhlman achieved fame as a faith healer in the 1950's and even had a TV programme on CBS. Other healing evangelists followed her lead and developed their own TV shows or slots.

Modern healing evangelists include Benny Hinn, John Wimber, leader of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship movement, and Richard Rossi.

Spiritual healing has not been proven to be scientifically or medically effective.

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