Tag Archives: placebo

The Saturday Debate: what’s wrong with treatments that act like placebos?

Here’s your starter for ten as we continue our new Saturday slot posing a view for debate:

In the lively discussion about homeopathy and placebos following an earlier op-ed piece several people made comments about treatments which rely purely on the placebo effect such as: “If a placebo works and is safe and cheap, why on earth should we stop funding it?”

The more general issue of placebos was raised by Lynne Featherstone in an op-ed back in early 2008:

The placebo effect is seen when people are given treatment, such as pills, where the psychological impact of thinking that the

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

Evidence-based policy – MPs call for an end to homeopathy on the NHS

It isn’t often that Members of Parliament are praised, vilified as they are over their expenses, point-scoring and deference to vested interests. Yet this week has seen a moment of real clarity in Westminster, a true demonstration of how our elected leaders can exercise critical thinking and formulate policy based on objective, rational evidence – and all this over some tiny sugar pills.

Monday saw the publication of Evidence Check: Homeopathy, a report by the House of Commons Science and Technology committee (full report available as a PDF here). This report followed months of taking …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 43 Comments

The dilemma of the placebo

A bomb is about to go off, blowing up hundreds of innocent people. One terrorist knows the location. You’ve got them in custody. Do you torture them to find out where it is?

Thus runs the common moral dilemma beloved of Hollywood movies and TV shows, frequently these days it seems staring Kiefer Sutherland. Are you a mealy mouthed liberal or are you willing to take the tough action necessary to fight terrorism?

Real life isn’t that straightforward – it doesn’t present such clear-cut scenarios, and anyway evidence from torture isn’t reliable: could you really be sure the terrorist told you the truth rather than a fib to waste your time? And the tough-guy macho act in real life all too often results in the innocent being harassed, tortured or killed as you charge off in the wrong direction based on incomplete or misleading information (remember Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction that were supposedly just waiting to be found by US and UK troops?).

However, a case a constituent raised with me recently got me thinking about the placebo effect – and the genuine dilemma it presents, particular for those – like myself – of a liberal mindset who believe in giving people as much information and power over their own lives as possible.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 17 Comments
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