Last Sunday there was an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times titled ‘The Conversation Placebo‘. Here is a quick summary. It starts with the, now commonly accepted, issue of pain costs and opioid use:
‘… pain costs America up to $635 billion annually. The pain remedies developed by the pharmaceutical are only modestly effective, and they have side effect ranging from nausea and constipation to addiction and death.”
And then opens into an honest reflection on client/patient interaction:
“What is often overlooked is that the simple conversation between doctor and patient can be as potent an analgesic as many treatments we prescribe.”
“A substantial portion of ‘healing’ comes from the communication and connection with the patient”
As health professions begin to realise the power of the words they choose, and the fact it is them that says them, questions arise. What if we allowed a patient to believe a placebo was effective, because the belief from the conversation us could provide the impact?
“There are some who argue it is unethical to promote placebos to patients. But increasingly, many say it is unethical not to give placebos a try in situations where patients are not getting relief from traditional means (and where it could not cause harm or replace a necessary treatment).”
What are your thoughts? Is it ethical to encourage (or not discourage) a known placebo (i.e. vitamins) when is it likely to be effective and not harmful?
“… if it helps without causing harm, then it’s legitimate medicine.”
– Hayley Leake