Is it Unethical to Administer Placebos?

Subject: Health Care
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 1
Word count: 444
Topics: Medical Ethics, Ethics, Health, Nursing

In the article, Elliott (2016) examines the aspect of the placebo effect and whether the practice involving the use of placebos is ethical or unethical. As such, I intend to use evidence from this article to construct ideas from the past history into the use of placebos in the current social and clinical contexts. Moreover, I will utilize the facts on clinical communication and criticism against the use of a placebo to build the research around the issue of deception and how further it convolutes into an unethical practice. Additionally, I will adopt ideas from this study to build a discussion regarding the use of placebo against a patient’s knowledge that may elicit dependency on that identified drug or otherwise raise the aspect of neuroses. Concisely, I will use ideas from this article to support the discussion on the hypothesis that it is unethical to administer placebos.

In the paper, Biller-Andorno (2004) outlines the radical shift manifested by the changing attitude in medicine towards the use of placebos. In this respect, this article will pose significant in identifying the perception on whether the use of placebos can be termed as an ethical blunder or ethical imperative. Furthermore, I will also use details drawn from the questions posed in the article regarding conditions that ascertain the clinical use of placebos as unethical to outline numerous ways deception is perpetuated in the practice. Lastly, evidence on ways of enhancing placebos as imperative through the process of transparency will help build recommendations as far as the use of placebos is concerned.

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Köteles and Ferentzi (2012) conducted a study to assess attitudes of laypeople towards clinical placebo use. Results and findings present in this study will be helpful in identifying similar literature that supports ethical placebo use, for example, the complexity involved in the high preference to the effectiveness of therapy when compared to the ethical issues surrounding the aspect of deception. I will also use ideas from this study to evaluate the use of placebos despite the existing controversial issue equating the rationality and reality of the practice. The facts from this study will also be instrumental in ascertaining different stances of approaching the use of placebos amidst ethical and unethical concerns raised by proponents and opponents respectively.

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  1. Biller-Andorno, N. (2004). The use of the placebo effect in clinical medicine–ethical blunder or ethical imperative? Science & Engineering Ethics, 10(1), 43-50.
  2. Elliott, D. B. (2016). The placebo effect: is it unethical to use it or unethical not to? Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics, 36(5), 513-518. doi:10.1111/opo.12315
  3. Köteles, F., & Ferentzi, E. (2012). Ethical Aspects of Clinical Placebo Use: What do Laypeople Think? Evaluation & the Health Professions, 35(4), 462-476.
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