Beyond the placebo effect

We just discussed the placebo and nocebo effects in class last week, just about the time that this article appeared on Wired: Forget the Placebo Effect, It’s the ‘Caring Effect’ That Matters.  The author, Nathanael Johnson, writes briefly about a study in which the same placebo was administered to test groups in either an empathetic or brusque manner, and only the first case had noticeable results.  Johnson turns this into a case for incorporating caring into the medical process as a way to reduce overtreatment and keep patients from needing to seek alternative treatment to cure their illness, even if “science” cured their disease.

Clearly Johnson isn’t writing from an anthropological perspective and I have a couple of immediate reactions.  I’m certainly in favor of compassionate care.  What I would hate to see is a schedule of mandated ‘caring’ that results in a “you got everything on the checklist so you must be better” approach.


One thought on “Beyond the placebo effect

  1. After reading your comment I was wondering what kind of approach Johnson was going to take, and yes his wording jumped at my. I got these little twitches of, “Its going to be ok Cross. He doesn’t have the same background as you, but he is still presenting an interesting topic. Yeah it could be worded “better”, but you just got to suck it up big boy”. I would love to see the humane, and physical sides of healing merge. I would be too curious as to what the end product would be. We could easily see the love child of the two forms in our lifetime, along with any issues it might cause. I’d be willing to be ethics will come up a lot, and knowing America, lots of lawsuits will follow the early stages of transition.
    When I first read,“you got everything on the checklist so you must be better”, I thought you were crazy. This is a subjective issue, how could you condense caring into a checklist form? Then I stopped and thought about it. I see where you could have concern. If it can be made profitable, I have little doubt the attempt will be made. I can hope that it doesn’t botch the whole movement towards sunshine, and bubblegum super medical system. On a side note, the theory behind the nocebo effect has me interested. I plan to periodically note how I word statements with similar intent. I know there is the whole asking nicely vs rudely, but I’m curious how far the concept goes.

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