In continuing my weekly thoughts about the remaining mysteries of LOST, I've decided to talk about the Island's healing properties this week. Lostpedia already has an entire article on healing properties which lists and describes all of the known occurrences of people seemingly being healed by the Island, so I won't repeat what's in that article. But after reviewing it myself, I did notice something that the article doesn't mention. There seem to actually be at least two different kinds of healing that we've observed on the Island: accelerated natural healing and miraculous healing.
Accelerated natural healing is the most common type of healing that occurs on the Island and seems to be a natural phenomenon that can happen to anybody. The basic rule that applies to accelerated natural healing is that any injury or physical condition that would naturally heal on its own in the normal world will also heal on the Island, but at a much faster rate. This includes cuts, bruises, set broken bones, non-bleeding punctured organs, and uninfected gunshot wounds. But many injuries still require human intervention before the Island will do any healing. Broken bones must still be set, bullets must still be removed, infections must be treated, and lungs must be cleared of blood and other fluid, and then, in the words of Richard Alpert, "the Island will do the rest." In each of the various cases that the article points out where people are not healed, the injuries are conditions that would not heal on their own in the real world without medical intervention, or were fatal regardless. Several gunshot wounds were fatal, Donald (the tailie) died from an infection that no one was able to treat, Edward Mars' and Boone's injuries were too severe for Jack to treat, and Jack had to have his appendix removed just like with real-world appendicitis.
My theory about accelerated natural healing is that it is a naturally-occurring phenomenon on the Island that is due to either the electromagnetic properties or some other form of energy that exists on the Island. It is not selective and can and will happen to anybody who suffers these types of self-healing injuries on the Island.
Miraculous healing, such as the unexplained healing of Locke's paralysis, Rose's cancer, or Jin's sterility, is much more rare, and in fact, these are the only three truly known cases that we've seen so far. This phenomenon is much more mysterious, and I can't think of anything that we've seen on the show that could explain why it happened to these three particular people. The only thing that the three cases seem to have in common is that the healing occurred instantaneously upon arrival on the Island, but otherwise, they are quite different. Rose's cancer would've otherwise gotten steadily worse over time until it killed her, whereas Locke's spinal cord injury and Jin's sterility were non-fatal, but permanent and unchanging. Locke apparently had a special purpose and played key roles in manipulating circumstances on the Island, whereas Rose was just another survivor of Flight 815. The Others take Locke's healing as a sign that he's special, but none of them ever mention what happened to Rose or Jin. Perhaps physically, Rose's type of cancer and Jin's inability to produce sperm are somehow able to be healed by the same phenomenon that causes accelerated natural healing on the Island, and is different from Ben's tumor that Jack had to remove. Whatever the case may be, I believe that Rose herself is confusing the two types of healing when she questions why Jack has appendicitis. Apparently she thinks that because of the miraculousness of her own healing, as well as Locke's, the Island should heal all medical conditions, no matter how severe. The truth is, we don't know why the Island didn't heal Jack's appendicitis any more than we know why it did heal Locke, Rose and Jin.
There are, of course, situations where we don't quite know which of the two types of healing has happened. Daniel Faraday's memory is one example. We don't even fully understand what caused his mind to deteriorate; all we really know is that it was somehow caused by his own experiments, which were, incidentally, related to properties which exist on the Island. Perhaps this would explain why Charles Widmore was confident that the Island would heal Faraday's condition. If that's the case, then Faraday's healing would fall under a third category called damage reversal. It's neither an acceleration of natural healing that occurs in the normal world, nor is it particularly miraculous, but it happens on the Island only because the Island's properties are related to the condition itself. But this is just a theory, and we simply don't know for sure which category Daniel's healing falls under.
The healing of Ben's paralysis is another unknown case. Was it a miraculous healing, or would his nerve tissue have healed naturally over a long period of time in the real world? It's difficult to tell, since we don't know the extent of the damage that caused him to be paralyzed in the first place, and Jack never said anything about whether or not Ben would be able to walk again. Ben claimed that he started to feel "pins and needles" as soon as Locke showed up at his house, but this could've just as easily been a timing coincidence.
Okay, obviously I'm still far from figuring out what's actually behind the healing that happens on the Island, and there's still plenty of room to debate these theories and come up with new ones, but at least we have quite a bit of evidence to go by. Or we could just wait and hope that the final season answers these questions.