A Limited Defense of Clinical Placebo Deception

Yale Law & Policy Review 26:75-134 (2007)

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Abstract
Placebo treatments, like sugar pills and saline injections, are effective in treating pain and perhaps a host of other conditions. To use placebos most effectively, however, doctors must mislead patients into believing that they are receiving active medications. While placebo deception is surprisingly common, its legality has rarely been tested. In November 2006, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a new ethics provision categorically prohibiting doctors from using placebos deceptively. In so doing, the AMA shifted the legal landscape, making it almost certain that courts will decide that placebo deception violates informed consent requirements. I argue that the AMA's new policy is overbroad, insensitive to patient preferences, and likely to have unforeseen consequences. While deception is often exploitative, placebo deception can genuinely benefit patients. Absent stronger evidence to justify a ban than we currently have, deceptive placebos should be treated as scarce medical resources--used sparingly but not categorically prohibited.
Keywords Placebo  Beneficent Deception  Deception
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A Duty to Deceive: Placebos in Clinical Practice.Bennett Foddy - 2009 - American Journal of Bioethics 9 (12):4-12.
The Moral Case for the Clinical Placebo.Azgad Gold & Pesach Lichtenberg - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (4):219-224.
Placebo and Deception: A Commentary.Anne Barnhill & Franklin G. Miller - 2015 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (1):69-82.
Ravines and Sugar Pills: Defending Deceptive Placebo Use.Jonathan Pugh - 2015 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (1):83-101.

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