Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I was interested to see the reports that half of German doctors prescribe placebos. Presumably not all the time no matter what, only when they feel appropriate.

These doctors say the treatments often work, and I cautiously believe them, particularly when they were used instead of anti-depressants. The placebo effect is a documented fact, even if we don't quite know how it works - but it raises interesting ethical and legal dilemmas.

Is it right for a doctor to 'trick' their patients, even if it may help their condition? Is the doctor immune from prosecution if he or she prescribes a placebo and the condition worsens?

These placebos even include injections and sham surgeries, which seems a bit much, but I'm probably being squeemish.

The German equivelent of the BMA advised that better training should be given on the use of placebos and, most importantly, for international guidelines on their use. That seems quite sensible to me.

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