Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Feeling Good About Placebos

Date:
February 16, 2004
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
A Michigan State University medical ethicist believes giving a patient a placebo the old-fashioned way – using some kind of "dummy" medication – is deceptive and in most cases should not be done.

SEATTLE – A Michigan State University medical ethicist believes giving a patient a placebo the old-fashioned way – using some kind of "dummy" medication – is deceptive and in most cases should not be done.

Related Articles


However, Howard Brody, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also said that nowadays there are more ways to produce a placebo effect than just handing the patient a fake pill, ways that are not only ethical but also effective.

Brody, a professor of family practice at MSU and former director of the university's Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, said health care providers may appear to face an ethical dilemma: Should a placebo be prescribed and the patient lied to about what he or she is receiving, knowing that at least in some cases the placebo can be a powerful means of healing? Or should the provider carry out his or her ethical duty by telling the truth?

Fortunately, he said, the dilemma disappears because there are other ways to produce a placebo effect without using any form of "dummy" medication.

"This new way of thinking defines the placebo effect as a special kind of mind-body interaction that occurs in a health-care setting," Brody said. "Doctors may never prescribe placebos – dummy pills – but can make use of the placebo effect every time they see a patient. Seeing that the 'placebo effect' does not depend on the 'placebo' is key to making use of its healing potential in an ethical way.

"Features of the healing environment usually include a physician or healer that listens carefully to what you say and gives you a realistic and sound explanation of what is happening to you," he said. "People express care and compassion for your fears and suffering, and you leave feeling more in control of your life and your illness."

In addition, Brody said evidence exists that creating positive feelings in the health care environment goes a long way in treating a patient.

"Scientific studies have shown a link between all these elements of 'good healing' and persons feeling improvement in their symptoms and coping better with their illness later on," he said.

Brody said giving a patient a "dummy" pill and telling him or her it's a painkiller or antibiotic is "ethically suspect, if not blatantly unethical."

"Most patients, given a capsule or an injection and being led to think that the substance was a powerful painkiller or antibiotic, would feel tricked if they later discovered that it was really a sugar pill or a salt water solution," he said.

When it comes to using placebos in medical research, Brody said ethical problems are rarely an issue.

"Research subjects are routinely told of the way a trial is designed when they agree at first to be a part of the study – the so-called 'informed consent,'" he said. "Proper informed consent requires letting the subjects know that they might get either the 'real' medicine or a placebo. So no one suffers any unethical deception."

Placebos play crucial roles in medical research. Using a placebo with a control group lets researchers know if the "real" medication is working.

Also, in what are known as "double blind" studies, it's important the researchers do not know which subjects are getting real medication and which are getting placebos.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Feeling Good About Placebos." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040216083959.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2004, February 16). Feeling Good About Placebos. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040216083959.htm
Michigan State University. "Feeling Good About Placebos." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040216083959.htm (accessed November 1, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The MelaFind device is a pain-free way to check suspicious moles for melanoma, without the need for a biopsy. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battling Multiple Myeloma

Battling Multiple Myeloma

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The answer isn’t always found in new drugs – repurposing an ‘old’ drug that could mean better multiple myeloma treatment, and hope. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) New information that is linking chronic inflammation in the prostate and prostate cancer, which may help doctors and patients prevent cancer in the future. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) Blood transfusions are proving crucial to young sickle cell patients by helping prevent strokes, even when there is no outward sign of brain injury. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins