Article Text

other Versions

PDF
Paper
Placebo treatments, informed consent and ‘the grip of a false picture’
  1. Shane Nicholas Glackin
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shane Nicholas Glackin, Department of Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology, University of Exeter, Rm 350, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK; shane.n.glackin{at}gmail.com

Abstract

It is widely supposed that the prescription of placebo treatments to patients for therapeutic purposes is ethically problematic on the grounds that the patient cannot give informed consent to the treatment, and is therefore deceived by the physician. This claim, I argue, rests on two confusions: one concerning the meaning of ‘informed consent’ and its relation to the information available to the patient, and another concerning the relation of body and mind. Taken together, these errors lead naturally to the conclusion that the prescription of placebos to unwitting patients is unethical. Once they are dispelled, I argue, we can see that providing ‘full’ information against a background of metaphysical confusion may make a patient less informed and that the ‘therapeutic’ goal of relieving the patient of such confusions is properly the duty of the philosopher rather than the physician. Therapeutic placebos therefore do not violate the patient's informed consent or the ethical duties of the doctor.

  • Autonomy
  • Informed Consent
  • Philosophical Ethics
  • Philosophy of Medicine
  • Truth Disclosure

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles