Consenting not to be informed: A survey on the acceptability of placebo use in the treatment of depression

†The Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel
The Journal of nervous and mental disease (Impact Factor: 1.69). 04/2013; 201(4):345-7. DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e318288e2e7
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study was to investigate the opinions of healthy students regarding the acceptability of placebo treatment if they were to experience depression. A survey was conducted among 344 students in five academic centers in Israel. After a thorough explanation of the placebo effect, its efficacy and limitations in the treatment of depression, the study participants completed a 32-item self-report questionnaire. Seventy percent (n = 243) of the participants answered that they would agree to treatment with a placebo as a first-line treatment if they were to experience depression in the future. Eighty-eight percent (n = 297) of the subjects did not think that a physician who administered placebos was deceitful. Once aware of the possible benefits and limitations of placebo treatment, most of our study population was willing to accept placebo as a legitimate treatment of depression. Additional studies on the possible use of placebo as an effective, safe, and acceptable form of therapy are warranted.

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Available from: Pesach Lichtenberg, Oct 29, 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Recent research and ethical analysis have forced a clinical and ethical reappraisal of the utility of placebos in medical practice. The main concern of ethics and law is that using placebos in health care involves deception, which is antithetical to patient autonomy and trust in the physician-patient relationship. This article reviews the various, more nuanced scientific conceptions of the placebo effect, and evaluates the ethical and legal objections to deploying placebos in clinical practice. It argues that the placebo effect may be legitimately accommodated on the basis that it does not engage the requirement for material or quasi-fiduciary disclosures of information, and may also be justified by therapeutic privilege. In addition, this reconceptualisation of the placebo effect offers a new justification for therapeutic privilege in these contexts. Notwithstanding this, using the placebo effect in clinical practice raises regulatory issues that will require special regulatory supervision.
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