ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Placebo as Healer: Legitimate or Sham

Updated on January 1, 2017

At the beginning of the assigned video, "Placebo: Cracking the Code" it is asserted that the "placebo effect challenges the foundation of modern medicine." Why is this the case? Why is the concept of the placebo effect particularly important and relevant to the field of health psychology? Finally, what ethical issues are involved with the use of the placebo as a pain control treatment in research and in actual clinical treatment? In effect, is a doctor who prescribes a sugar pill (even if it works) to lessen symptoms harming a patient? What do you think of the use of the placebo?

According to Health Psychology (2015) the placebo effect is “the medically beneficial impact of an inert treatment”; in other words a treatment that effects the patient not because of its own nature, but instead because of its therapeutic value (Taylor, 2015, p. 321). The Placebo: Cracking the Code video states that the "placebo effect challenges the foundation of modern medicine"; this is the case as it proves that certain treatments are not effective because of their nature, but rather the patient’s belief in their effectiveness. If the therapeutic value alone is enough to have an effect on the patient then it would be difficult to prove whether or not there was actually any value to the procedure itself. Health Psychology is a “field devoted to understanding psychological influences on how people stay healthy, why they become ill, and how they respond when they do get ill” (Taylor, 2015, p. 3). The fact that health psychology is a field that is devoted to understanding psychological influences with regards to health, makes the placebo effect particularly important and relevant to the field of health psychology as it is based on the notion that belief alone is enough to cure or alleviate symptoms. The placebo effect presents the idea of the mind being able to control the body when the patient has a strong enough belief of the outcome that will occur.

The placebo effect is also subject to a wide range of ethical issues when the effect is used to control or treat pain in research and in actual clinical treatment. In research the ethical issues are more limited because while the research subject might not know everything about the study, they do agree to their participation in the study. The main ethical issue with this is the fact that the research subject wants the treatment be effective and they want to make the researchers happy; researchers also want the study to be a success so they are more likely to rate the results higher than they should (Novella, 2008). The best way to avoid this ethical issue is to make all research studies double-blind studies; meaning that neither the subject nor the researchers know which subject has the real drug and which has the placebo. In actual clinical treatments there are even more ethical issues because the patient who is suffering from pain is being given a sugar pill without their knowledge of taking part in a research study or innovative treatment method. This could lead to the patient suffering for longer than necessary and possible legal ramifications. I believe that the placebo effect is real and that the mind can in fact affect the body; however I also believe that the placebo treatments should only be used on people who agree to try a treatment that is more innovative or holistic. The patient should not be told that the pills are sugar pills, but they should be informed that the pills are not their normal medication. The patient should also have to sign off on the treatment, which would reduce legal problems if the patient is informed that they were/are taking sugar pills.


Novella, S (2008). The Placebo Effect. Science Based Medicine. Retrieved From

Taylor, S. (2015). Health Psychology (9th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)