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Long Live Placebo!

Last modified 2014-03-23 18:03

Richard Dawkins is at it again. After confusing faith with science he is now attacking complementary medicine from a scientific viewpoint.

Just as religion and faith are not amenable to scientific analysis and it is perfectly rational for a scientist to have a faith, it is quite possible for a complementary therapy to have subjective benefits as well an eye raising model of the world. Many people (including me) can testify to the benefits of complementary medicine whilst at the same time not buying in to the rationale behind it. It may all be the placebo effect so sniffily dismissed by the mainstream doctors but how many of them will admit to the fact that in many studies of migraine, for example, there were symptom improvements with placebo. The opposite phenomenon, "the nocebo effect" is also marked in migraine. Here the patient expects problems and gets them. ()

Science struggles here to explain and take these things into consideration in studies

Most practitioners on the front line will recognise these phenomena. I was a GP for 30 years and can certainly remember many such instances. To return to Professor Dawkins hypothesis I would say that it is better for complementary therapists to stop trying to rationalise what they do and to forget the alleged science behind things except for the studies that show that things do work, which are absolutely vital to gain acceptance. After all modern medicine worked in 1950 before DNA had been discovered and nobody knocks their rationales. In 2050 our scientific bases will be regarded as out of date but people will still be getting satisfactory treatment for and .

Medicine in all its aspects is an art not a science and to try and force it into a scientific straitjacket is missing the point.

Long live placebo!


Postscript

The mainstream world is getting the message - maybe. This from a recent published study :- On the basis of subjective and objective evidence, we contend that an individual’s expectation of a drug’s effect critically influences its therapeutic efficacy and that regulatory brain mechanisms differ as a function of expectancy. We propose that it may be necessary to integrate patients' beliefs and expectations into drug treatment regimes alongside traditional considerations in order to optimize treatment outcomes.



 

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