Studies have shown the efficacy of placebos in clinical practice, but the ethical issues are less well defined. To answer the question: is the placebo effect ethical, we evaluate the placebo effect alongside the four ethical principles of medicine
Placebos are widely used in medical practice, although the exact numbers are not known. Surveys have shown that somewhere between 57-97% of doctors admit to using placebos in their clinical practice. Placebos would not be used so prevalently if they did not have positive effects, but it's vitally important that placebos are used as ethically as possible to avoid harming the doctor-patient relationship. Here, we outline different types of placebo usage, the ethical considerations and the current medical guidelines for placebos in clinical practice.
In 2013, a survey of UK primary care physicians revealed that 97% of them had used placebos in their career, with 77% of them using placebos at least once a week! We take a look at this and what it means for both patients and doctors.