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The Placebo Effect: Ethical Or Unethical

874 words - 4 pages

The use of placebo has been a breakthrough that has been used to advance pharmaceutical understanding for many physicians. A placebo is a sugar pill that is used to heal a person’s sickness by tricking the brain into thinking that the pill the person is taking is the medication that is healing the sickness. The physiological change that takes place in that person’s body is the effect of the placebo; It is called the placebo effect. If a person finds out he or she has been given the placebo, the effect does not take place due to his or her level of understanding. Today, according to the JME, the use of a placebo is the one of the most popular drugs a physician gives to a patient” (Gold and Lichtenberg). Although the advances in science that have taken place by using this method have been spectacular, there is still an issue regarding the ethical background that revolves around the use of a placebo in a trial for a new medication. The use of a placebo is deemed to be ethical only if the patients physician follows the guidelines given by the AMA that protect a patient against deception and lack of autonomy (Gold and Lichtenberg).
In medicine, a patient’s autonomy is essential for proper medical care. Autonomy is the ability for an individual to have rights regarding the amount of control a physician has over his body when subject to medical care. When using a placebo, the level of autonomy a person has is tested. There are two types of trials used to test a medication with the use of a placebo. In a clinical trial, only the physician knows that his patient is receiving a placebo. Therefore the patient has no control over what medication he is given and the effect the medication has on his health. However in a controlled trial, the patient reads and signs a consent form that states that the patient is aware that there is a probable chance that he or she will receive a placebo during the trial (Gold and Lichtenberg). The simplest manner of making sure the patient understands that the possibility of being given a placebo, makes all the difference concerning if the use of a placebo is ethical or unethical. For these reasons, most physicians believe that in a controlled trial the use of a placebo is considered ethical, therefore making the use of a placebo in a clinical trial unethical.
When conducting a controlled trial, the results that come out of the trial are less effective than the results obtained by a clinical trial. The only problem with a...

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