March 21, 2013

97% of UK Family Physicians Prescribe Placebos

A recent study has found that the vast majority of UK family physicians (97% of those polled) had prescribed a placebo to a patient at at least one point in their career. Placebo pills contain inert substances that have no biological effect on the physiology, but they have been shown to strongly influence the mind.

Some bioethicists believe that prescribing placebos is wrong, because when doing so, the physician intentionally tricks the patient into believing that the placebo is strong and powerful, so much so that it will cure their disease. Thus, the principle of truth-telling between physician and patient is compromised.

However, others believe that placebos are not only good, but that they should be used more often. Most pharmaceutical drugs have serious and unwanted side-effects. Although rare, these side-effects can end up being worse than the disease. Placebos, by definition, do not have any physiological side-effects but through the power of suggestion, often improve healing and wellness.

What do you think? Should doctors prescribe placebos? Is this good or bad?

keywords: placebo, placebos, bioethics, physician-patient relationship, family physicians, medicine, medical, well being, health