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The Placebo Effect: Defendable Deception? Essay

2061 words - 9 pages

Buddha once said, “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” The human brain possesses abilities and powers far beyond what one could ever imagine. Throughout the years, various studies have proven the brain’s capability to heal the body in a phenomenon known as the placebo effect. In short, this effect occurs when a doctor prescribes faux pills or gives fake operations to his patient, and the patient still recovers because of the immense power of the mind. Though employing the placebo effect means a doctor deceives his patient, this practice encounters much success; therefore, it should be allowed.
In the medical world, a stark difference between placebos and the term “placebo effect” exists. Substances, like sugar pills or fake injections, which have no medicinal effect, bear the name “pure placebos” (Saljoughian). “Impure placebos,” on the other hand, do elicit an effect for some illnesses, but not necessarily the illness for which the doctors prescribe them, for example: vitamins and antibiotics, which have a medicinal purpose (De Craen). When doctors use the terminology the placebo effect, they refer to “patient’s response to a treatment that is attributable to some reason other than the treatment’s pharmacologic effect,” (Niemi). In order to provoke the placebo effect, a doctor prescribes either a pure or impure placebo, without telling the patient. These different definitions hold significance because of the diversity of their meanings.
Widely used throughout history, placebos date as far back as Greek and Roman physicians (Saljoughian). The well-known Greek doctor Hippocrates stated that “many patients… have taken a turn for the worse…by the declaration… of what is present,” thus implying that placebos are acceptable ways to cure ailments (Saljoughian). In the year 1807, Thomas Jefferson spoke of the effect when he said that one of the greatest doctors he used “more bread pills, drops of colored water, and powders of hickory ashes, than all other medicines” (De Craen). Mr. Jefferson called the doctor who made this statement “one of the best physicians he knew,” showing that our former President and founding father supported this way of treatment as well (Waddington). Approximately one hundred years later, Dr. Richard Cabot, graduate of Harvard Medical School, told of his upbringing as a doctor, when learned “to use placebo, bread pills, water subcutaneously, and other devices,” (De Craen). In 1799, Dr. John Haygarth wrote the first documented recognition of the phenomenon now known as the placebo effect (Booth). Haygarth accidentally discovered the placebo effect when trying to make a profit by replacing a popular treatment of the time period, metal rods that supposedly relieved disease called “Perkins tractors,” with his own fake imitations (Waddington). Haygarth recorded astonishing results, which proved that the faux wooden tracts were just as effective as the metal ones (Saljoughian). In The Lanclet paper, T. C. Graves...

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