Friday, July 6, 2012

The ethics surrounding placebo effects

Karen Rommelfanger, assistant director of the neuroethics program at the Emory Center for Ethics, wrote about the placebo effect in the Huffington Post. An excerpt:

“Placebos are generally inert substances, like sugar pills, thought to relieve patient symptoms through an expectation of getting better. It seems that, in some reported cases, simply the act of taking medicine or believing that medicine might work can impact patient outcomes. Because of this, placebo effects have historically been discounted as effects that aren't medically ‘real.’

“But what if placebos and their effects were not as ‘inert’ as we once thought, that they might really provide therapeutic benefit? This raises a new ethical question: Are we harming patients by withholding treatments like placebo therapy that might actually help them? …

“Indeed, while placebos are generally defined as having no inherent effectiveness in physically curing illnesses, a growing body of neuroscientific evidence challenges this assumption. Accumulating data suggest that placebos have measurable effects on the brain as well as objective (physicians can measure improvement in patients) and subjective (patients report feeling better) benefits for patients. …

“Some have called placebo effects ‘the endogenous (or your body's own) healthcare system.’”

Read the whole article in the Huffington Post.

The placebo effect and psychogenic illnesses


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