Placebo Treatment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The effectiveness of many medical interventions hinges in part on the 'placebo effect,' a person's self-healing power that is stimulated by his or her belief in medical treatments. Health professionals can incite that same effect by giving the patient a chemically inactive pill without revealing its true nature. This strategy is ethically problematic because it conflicts with the patient's right to autonomy. However, the alternative - prescribing a 'real' drug - entails harms too, such as unpleasant or dangerous side effects, and more encompassing problems such as microbial drug resistance. This article examines whether placebo treatment is a form of patient deception and, if so, in what circumstances - if ever - such deceit can be justified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Applied Ethics
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780123739322
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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