Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa. He made an interesting comment about surgery and outcomes. According to Carson whether a surgery is successful or not, whether a patient lives or dies has less to do with surgical training, the underlying illness, the part of the body requiring surgery, quality nursing care, overall health, or socioeconomic factors it’s God’s will.

“I have always acknowledged God for the successful surgeries. But he also gets the blame for the ones that are not successful. – Ben Carson

Okay then.

Abortion is one of the safest procedures around. The risk of a complication that requires hospital care after a first trimester abortion is 0.05%. That means the 99.95% of women who have a first trimester abortion without complications have God to thank. The mortality rate is around 0.67 per 100,000 procedures.

Let’s compare abortion with c-sections. About 27% of women who have a  c-section have some kind of complication and 10% have serious complications. With a first c-section 0.3% of women end up in the intensive care unit (and that’s just looking at one complication). Using Carson logic God clearly prefers abortion to c-sections, otherwise why would he smite women having c-sections with blood clots, bleeding that requires blood transfusions, infections and hysterectomies?


Maternal Morbidity by c-section history National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 64 No. 4, May 20, 2015
Maternal Morbidity by c-section history National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 64 No. 4, May 20, 2015

And those women who have emergencies, like their baby being in severe distress or the mom hemorrhaging? Well, God must really not like the idea of guiding hands to save a term baby running out of oxygen because the mother is bleeding to death. This could be the only conclusion one could make using Carson’s words and applying then to because emergency c-sections, which have the highest complication rate.

Again, let’s compare. Elective first trimester abortion 0.05% serious complication rate. Primary c-section rate of blood transfusion 0.5%. Primary c-section rate of intensive care unit admission 0.4%. Overall serious complication rate for emergency c-section 25%. If God’s guiding hands then clearly God is in favor of abortion.

I would love to ask Dr. Carson (and I do hope someone in the press to whom Carson’s rep is likely to respond actually asks) if abortion is so evil in God’s eyes why would He allow these procedures to be so successful? Kind of a conundrum, don’t you think?

Unless of course Dr. Carson thinks that only he was the chosen medical Moses and God could only work through his gifted hands and now that He (Dr. Carson) has retired we’re all just out of luck because we have to rely on mere mortals and evidence-based medicine.

Join the Conversation


  1. Isn’t medicine these days supposed to be “evidence based”? Where did Dr Carson get this evidence from? And did it guide his practice?

    If God ordains the outcome, is this kismet or “fate”? And if so, isn’t kismet an Islamic concept?

  2. Kudos and thanks for your continued rational discussions of the many unfounded and often dangerous statements made by our leaders and celebrities. Your supported refutations and clarifications are a refreshing and illuminating voice in an increasing polarized society. As a son, a husband, and a father I appreciate learning the facts on women’s issues (and other medical information you cover) from an informed source. Sadly, too few of those who vote bother reading beyond the slogans.

  3. great study out of Baylor regarding use of prayer prior to cardiac surgery — large groups of patients were randomized to “interventional prayer” (e.g. people were asked to pray for them), self directed prayer (you were asked to pray for yourself) and usual practice based upon the patients personal beliefs. I know you will be shocked to hear there was no difference in outcomes. In Dr Carson’s sense, its good to be humble (as you well know, most surgeons are not) — understanding that despite your best efforts and inevitable failings — people will do well and poorly in ways that are not entirely predictable. But to attribute this to the capriciousness of an omnipotent diety and not the inherent complexities of out biologic systems is somewhere between a copout and insanity.

    1. If this is the same study that I read about, there was some suggestions that prayer was ‘counter-productive’.

      There was an earlier study, sometime around 1870-1880 about prayer and surgery. It didn’t work then either.

      1. there was a trend to worse outcomes in the directed prayer group but it was not statistically significant. prayer was “saved” by a p value!

      2. Ah yes, now I remember, thanks Andy!

        p values are so malleable if you are a true believer. I remember a paper in the Br J Surg many years ago. It was, on the face of it, a trial of mini-hep for the prevention of DVT in orthopedic patients. Actually, this particular unit were violently opposed to mini-hep because they believed—knew—that it caused excess bleeding. The paper had a conclusion along the lines of, “there was more bleeding in the mini-hep group, but this did not reach statistical significance”.

    2. Things may have changed since it was published, but the Cochrane review of intercessory prayer (you can just G**gle “Cochrane CD000368”) was the first and maybe still the only review they’ve ever published that didn’t end with a call for more research. In fact, here’s the authors’ conclusion: “We are not convinced that further trials of this intervention should be undertaken and would prefer to see any resources available for such a trial used to investigate other questions in health care.”

  4. Its a facetious argument – abortion is a procedure, not a surgery. Theres no scalpel/suture/general anesthesia. Dont get me wrong, I think Carson is a nut, but this doesnt illustrate why.

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