lying to patients - PHL 116 Bioethics Lying to patients I...

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PHL 116 Bioethics Lying to patients I. Placebos A. Definitions The term placebo literally means “I shall please”. A placebo is any therapy or treatment (e.g., a sugar pill) given to a patient that is used deliberately for its nonspecific (psychological/psychophysiological as opposed to physical) effect of alleviating symptoms of a given illness that it is not specifically geared to cure or eliminate. The placebo effect is a psychological phenomenon in which patients demonstrate improvement when given any kind of medication or treatment, even in cases where the medication or treatment is not specific for treating their condition. The placebo effect modifies both subjectively reported and objectively observable symptoms. It is demonstrated to work for a variety of conditions: e.g., pains, anxiety, seasickness, blood sugar levels, hypertension, baldness and tumors. It is also demonstrated to work across a variety of treatments: e.g., the waiting room, sugar pills, surgery B. Contexts in Which Placebos are Used 1. Research context : A placebo (inert pill-typically sugar pill) is used as a control in research experiments. For example, FDA regulations require that any new drug must perform as well as 1.) currently available medications and better than 2.) placebo. [We will discuss the ethical implications of using placebos in the research context when we talk about research ethics.] 2. Therapeutic context : Doctors might prescribe a placebo to a patient in order to appease them with pills or to benefit the patient. In turn, there are ethical considerations surrounding use of placebo in therapeutic contexts. C. Several Ethical criticisms of Placebo Therapy When a physician utilizes placebo therapy, he/she might be: Reinforcing or encouraging a patients’ belief that drugs provide the best solution to their problems Subjecting patients to unnecessary risk or harm (violates principle of non- malificence) – not all placebos are harmless, what might be an inert substance for one
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This note was uploaded on 06/15/2011 for the course PHL 116 taught by Professor Sullivan during the Fall '09 term at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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lying to patients - PHL 116 Bioethics Lying to patients I...

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