From our good friend George, an interesting article in the Boston Globe about the Placebo Effect: We know it works, so should we use it as a medical intervention?
From Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow's piece:
But as evidence of the [placebo] effect’s power mounts, members of the medical community are increasingly asking an intriguing question: if the placebo effect can help patients, shouldn’t we start putting it to work? In certain ways, placebos are ideal drugs: they typically have no side effects and are essentially free. And in recent years, research has confirmed that they can bring about genuine improvements in a number of conditions. An active conversation is now under way in leading medical journals, as bioethicists and researchers explore how to give people the real benefits of pretend treatment.But there's a bit of an ethical dilemma involved in the placebo effect: The deception.
...any attempt to harness the placebo effect immediately runs into thorny ethical and practical dilemmas. To present a dummy pill as real medicine would be, by most standards, to lie. To prescribe one openly, however, would risk undermining the effect. And even if these issues were resolved, the whole idea still might sound a little shady--offering bogus pills or procedures could seem, from the patient’s perspective, hard to distinguish from skimping on care.And yet, we know there is a mind/body connection. The placebo effect causes real, physical healing. Consequently, shouldn't we use this most natural of cures?
In the last decade-plus, however, the accumulating data have sparked a renewed interest in the placebo as a treatment in its own right. Numerous studies have shown that it can trigger verifiable changes in the body. Brain scans have shown that placebo pain relief is not only subjectively experienced, but that in many cases the brain releases its own internal painkillers, known as endogenous opioids. (This placebo effect can even be reversed by the opioid-blocker naloxone.) Another study, published in Science in 2009, found that patients given a topical cream for arm pain showed much less pain-related activity in the spinal cord when told it was a powerful painkiller. A 2009 study found that patients benefited as much from a fake version of a popular spinal surgery as they did from the real one; asthma patients have shown strong responses to a mock inhaler.So here's the killer question, given my interest in the intersection of psychology and faith:
Is God a placebo effect? And would it matter?