The placebo effect is real, no disputing that. It’s weird, it’s complicated and it’s wonderful. There’s no doubt that it’s helpful, sometimes.
But let’s be clear, it ain’t gonna cure your broken leg, your cancer or even that ache in your knee that everyone older than 40 gets on a Monday morning that makes them think about phoning in sick. That might just be me.
And let’s be doubly clear: many if not most of the advocates of things that are really placebos are trying to persuade vulnerable people that whatever horrible thing they are desperate to have cured can be cured by snakewater. Lots of people die because of it.
I’m sure you see the difference between a physician prescribing a placebo and a random person selling someone a placebo in the guise of special medicine that actual doctors refuse to acknowledge is real… lending it legitimacy to many people.
One of them is… dicey and I’m not generally in favour of it. The other is wrong in just about every possible sense.
I have no sympathy at all for the idea that since there’s a placebo effect we’re justified in bullshitting patients.
For one thing, there’s no need: Medical-sounding placebos are just as effective as bullshit-sounding placebos, pretty much by definition. Co-opting someone’s beliefs in nonsense isn’t necessary. A physician would do better to foster their patients’ critical thinking and their critical examination about whether the medicine worked, I think.
But more importantly, patients can also be tricked into feeling better when they’re actually not. That’s one of the many reasons that the use of placebos by actual medial people is really dubious and why their use by people who feel entitled to practice medicine without knowledge or license should be criminal.