Your doctors evaluate your pain and conclude it is due to something benign (i.e., you don't have cancer, a broken bone or other health-threatening condition). Then they give you a prescription for a placebo. Should you sue these doctors? Or thank them?
In a clear and compact article entitled "The Magic Cure," Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow helps answer the question.
We all know that placebos -- treatments with no active ingredients -- can have some healing effects. Consequently the gold standard of medical testing includes a control arm that enables researchers to determine how much improvement in patients' condition is due to the treatment being tested (and not due to the placebo effect).
Tuhus-Dubrow touches on the ethical dilemmas of prescribing placebos and then offers a few explanations of how placebos might work, including the relationship between a pill and its meaning, and the effect of the clinician-patient bond on the effectiveness of various treatments.
She closes with the same conclusions I've shared with you on earlier blog posts: "[T]he research in this field could start to put a measurable healing value on doctors’ time and even demeanor, rather than just on procedures and pills. And that could change medicine in a way that few blockbuster drugs ever could."
Medicine is an art based on science. As the science advances, so must the art. With innumerable forces creating distance between clinicians and patients, I hope that this blog and the stories found in Only 10 Seconds to Care help readers foster healing clinician-patient bonds.