In his classic 1952 paper, Hans Eysenck did not attempt to explain why therapists' beliefs are so resistant to proof -- it was beyond the scope of his analysis. But now a group of psychological scientists are attempting to do just that.
A new diet-a-day will not make the weight go away. What will make it go away is finding and following an eating and exercise plan that works for you, day after day, year after year. Eventually having a fit, thinner, healthy body will no longer be a novelty. It will simply be a way of life.
To be sure, many conditions require surgery, and surgical procedures have contributed to important increases in longevity and quality of life in industrialized settings. But the few sham surgery trials that have been done have likely uncovered the tip of the iceberg.
As he dug further into the scientific research, Daniel noticed time and again that doctors would paint the placebo effect in a negative light. They'd be inclined to abandon treatments when placebos generated just as positive a response as medications. But why were they doing this?
In medicine, especially when it comes to therapies and evaluating what works and what doesn't, it's crucial even in the 21st century to be wary of what once was dubbed the placebo effect, or as it more properly should be labeled, the placebo response.
What if placebos and their effects are not as "inert" as we once thought, that they might really provide therapeutic benefit? This raises a new ethical question: Are we harming patients by withholding treatments like placebo therapy that might actually help them?
Scientists and doctors have been studying placebos for more than half a century. These inert "sugar pills" remain highly controversial, yet they are widely used in clinical treatment today -- especially in the area of pain management.
Sooner or later we'll see for ourselves what Penny Sarchet and countless others have uncovered -- that what we take in, what we believe, has a correlation to our health. The days of thinking that the body operates independent of our beliefs about it are fading away.
While some negative outcomes have nothing to do with patient expectations (adverse events are known risks with all treatments), the "nocebo effect" is especially pernicious because it can contaminate good care and is preventable.