When I am sick, I go to my doctor. She takes a history, does a physical examination, and tells me what is wrong. I expect that she will tell me what medicine to take, what exercises to do, what to eat or what surgery is needed. I want an answer and a solution. My thinking can be summed up in just one phrase, "Fix it!" But what if there is no medicine, no treatment, nothing to do about the condition? What then? I still want some remedy that will help me. My doctor wants me to be satisfied with her care and to feel better. Perhaps she will recommend a pill or an exercise with no inherent therapeutic value-a placebo instead of sending me on my way, empty-handed. Is it a good idea? Would other doctors do the same thing?
This paper scrutinizes the use of placebos in clinical medicine from four different perspectives. Section I introduces the subject. Section II defines the essential terms and considers the power of the placebo effect in medical practice. Section II evaluates the clinical treatment of patients with placebos from the physician's perspective. The neuroscience of the placebo effect is explicated in Section IV. Section V contemplates the ethical implications of placebo treatment. Jurisprudential concerns are the subject of Section VI. Section VII discusses inappropriate and appropriate clinical use of placebos. Section VII contains my conclusion.
Perlmutter, Steven B.
"Clinical Use of Placebos: Medicine, Neuroscience, Ethics and the Law,"
Tennessee Journal of Law & Policy: Vol. 8
, Article 3.
Available at: http://trace.tennessee.edu/tjlp/vol8/iss1/3