white-coated lies

Discussion in 'Science & History' started by ExpectantlyIronic, Jan 22, 2008.

  1. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    When I was a boy, I came down with a case of foot warts: painful devilish things. A doctor gave me some corrosive stuff that was supposed to eat through them. I quickly applied it to a tooth that had fallen out--due to my abnormal curiosity--and was delighted to see it almost completely decay in two days. Unfortunately, my warts seemed quite resistant to it.

    When my Grandmother learned of my ailment, she handed me a potato. I was told to take it outside and bury it. Despite strongly suspecting my Grandmother's bizarre wart-remedy to be a lame ploy to get me out of her kitchen, I ended up doing as I was told. One does not get to do something as absurd as bury a potato every day, after all.

    To keep a short-story short, the potato remedy worked. Back then I considered the whole thing a coincidence. Maybe it was. Or, more likely, burying the potato worked as a placebo. Yes, placebos work against warts, despite there being no obvious reason why they should. I know because Radio Lab and Google told me so, and combined they are surely incapable of lies.

    So is there a legitimate place for placebos in modern medicine? Maybe doctors asking patients to bury potatoes is going too far, but it is common for them to prescribe sugar pills that they tell their patients are real medicine. On one hand, this sort of cure is no better than that of witch doctors, and requires the doctor to lie. On the other hand, it works.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2008

  2. Merc

    Merc Certified Shitlord V.I.P. Lifetime

    I had problems with warts, only on my hands. Once I convinced myself to forget about them, they went away.

    Placebos could be beneficial, depending on the situation.
  3. Malificus

    Malificus Likes snow

    The only reason a placebo would work over a real cure is if people believe in the placebo, but not the cure.

    So if there is cause for medicine, it's best to actually give medicine. Placebos won't cure everything. They sometimes let people ignore the effects without actually solving the problem.

    But there are cases for placebos, like with hypochondriacs.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2008
  4. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    There are many cases where non-placebo sorts of cures are slow and widely known to be potentially ineffective. Old German medical superstitions (i.e. placebos), on the other hand, tend not to have been tested enough to make any drawbacks to them widely known. So it is easy to see how a placebo might be useful even when there is a "real cure" available. Obviously, placebos should not take the place of medicine that has proven more effective, but a case could be made for using them along side it.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2008
  5. soot

    soot Registered Member

    My concern with those in the medical profession using a placebo to treat an actual diagnosed illness or injury would be liability.

    In order for a placebo to work the patient needs to believe that the placebo is a real treatment.

    In order to get the patient to believe that the medical professional would have to lie, since I doubt very much there has been extensive testing done on the medicinal benefits of burying a patato in the yard.

    While it might be fine for one's grandmother to "prescribe" a patato burial for a case of warts, it's another thing all together for a doctor to prescribe a sugar pill for the treatment of, say, meningitis.

    While a placebo might actually cure meningitis it's more likely that it wouldn't have any effect at all.

    If you were a doctor, would you really want to face the law suit that would arise when a patient's parents find out you treated their child's meningitis with a placedo rather than an antibiotic whose efficacy has been scientifically proven?

    I wouldn't (although I am not a doctor), and I can't imagine anyone else would either in today's litigious society.

    Consequently, I think the place for placebos in modern medicine is pretty small.

    I think they should be an option in cases of terminal illness where conventional treatments have proven ineffective.

    If, for instance, one was diagnosed with cancer and all of the conventional treatments had been attempted with little to no avail, I wouldn't have much of a problem also offering a placebo that is framed as some new wonder drug that kills cancer in 75% of all cases in which it's been employed.

    Chances are it won't have any effect, but as you guys have alluded to, the curative powers of the human mind and body are amazing. If a placebo is the only option then I guess "Any Port in a Storm".
  6. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    You can't really have a discussion about placebos without bringing up faith healing and homeopathic medicine. It would seem that such things are more dangerous than doctor prescribed placebos, due to the fact that they may discourage people from getting proper medical treatment. On the other hand, some people will avoid proper medical treatment simply because of its cost, and a placebo would certainly be better than nothing for them.

    Could not being superstitious be too expensive for some people? It's certainly an interesting question.

    There has been extensive testing done on the effectiveness of placebos, though. So if a doctor prescribes a placebo without saying anything more then that it's medicine, then he technically wouldn't even be lying.

    Obviously a doctor should prescribe the most effective treatment for any given case, but it's inaccurate to say that placebos aren't scientifically proven to be effective. The placebo effect is quite real.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2008

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