In a recent MSNBC.com article, I discovered that many physicians prescribe placebos. The researchers claim that half of the doctors surveyed admitted to prescribing a placebo to a patient at one point.
One of the authors of the study, Rachel Sherman (a medical student), said that this “illustrates that doctors believe expectation and belief have therapeutic potential.”
One part of the article made me wonder… It said that some doctors tell their patients that they are prescribing a placebo (4 percent of doctors surveyed). Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of prescribing a placebo? Maybe these doctors missed that lecture in medical school. Wait, no.. we learn about placebos as early as high school! Why in the world would you tell your patient, “It’s a placebo”?!?
I just find it amusing that doctors prescribe placebo. I suspect that a number of these cases would be for patients, or their parents, who insist on getting some sort of medication even though their physician says they have nothing to worry about.
It makes me wonder if I’ve ever been prescribed a placebo. Although I’ve never insisted on taking something. I don’t think my mom has ever insisted to the doctor that I be prescribed something either.
Personally, I think that the only time I’d be tempted to prescribe a placebo is for an insistent patient. I realize that there are ethical objections to the practice, though.
In a perfect world, maybe there would be no need for informed consent. The patient would have complete trust in the doctor and the doctor would be perfectly competent. Of course, in a perfect world, there would be no need for doctors…