Bioethics Blogs

Placebo as Therapy: Context, Ethics, and Recommendations

By Somnath Das
This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.

I am a Senior at Emory University and am currently pursuing a double major in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Currently, I am applying to medical school. My interest in healthcare lies primarily in understanding the behavioral motivations of patients as they navigate through various healthcare systems. I also wish to study how to effectively translate innovations powered by biomedical research into accurate health information for patients and optimized healthcare delivery. Neuroethics allows me to focus these interests onto patient dignity and rights when considering the role novel therapeutics and interventions in treatment. Studying this fascinating field has given me a perspective on the role deontological considerations play in both neuroscience and medicine as a whole. It is with this perspective that I hope to approach my patients with a balanced worldview, taking into account both individual rights as well as stakeholders and developers participating in a rapidly changing field. 
Placebo therapy is broadly characterized as the administration of an agent that possesses a physiologically inert effect. However, current research suggests that placebo in fact has observable therapeutic outcomes across a wide spectrum of disorders. Thus, placebo’s efficacy should be investigated thoroughly by researchers, ethicists, and physicians in order to evaluate and develop protocols to implement placebo therapy in an effective manner. It is necessary that researchers communicate to physicians and clinicians about the efficacy and rigor by which research has quantified placebo’s effect.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.