Placebos the right prescription for the overwrought

The best family doctors are psychologists and trusted friends, not just gatekeepers. Some things can't be cured. People die. Conduct a practice in the real world and you learn that.

Placebo effectThe British Medical Journal has surveyed 679 American internists and rheumatologists to find about half have prescribed placebos.

Some ethicists are aghast.

Dr. Jon Tilburt, who conducted the study, said almost two-thirds of those doctors who offered placebos told patients it was experimental therapy.

Most were given for untreatable conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic pain.

The AMA finds this highly unethical. I think the AMA needs to take a sugar pill.

During my mother-in-law's funeral Monday I had the honor of sitting by the widow of my wife's old family doctor. Dr. Charles Hooper was funny, kind, and trustworthy. I'm certain he gave placebos like they were Halloween candy.

People go to doctors looking for relief. When no cure is available a placebo at least offers that. Dr. Hooper had a saying for patients with colds -- I can give you something and you'll get better in 14 days, or do nothing and you'll feel beter in two weeks.

The best family doctors are psychologists and trusted friends, not just gatekeepers. Some things can't be cured. People die. Conduct a practice in the real world and you learn that.

A year ago, going through an emotional crisis, I called my family doctor and he saw me right away.

He listened, then offered some samples whose main impact on me was a placebo effect. I got better. Was it the pills? No. It was the doctor.

If you're ready to be that kind of friend to people then family medicine is for you. And if the AMA doesn't like the way such doctors must practice, in order to really care for patients, then it ought to take a sugar pill and a lie-down.

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