Wednesday, November 25, 2009

in praise of placebos

The UK parliament's Science and Technology Sub-Committee debated homeopathy this morning, you can watch it here.

I have to admit I'm a bit softer on this point than many scientists. I think we should appreciate that the placebo effect is real. The belief that you are doing something to treat your malady can mobilise the body's defences and induce a real improvement in some people's condition, so if something "only works as well as placebo", that means it does something. And as medical doctors aren't allowed to give you a sugar pill and pretend it's a drug, we need people who can apply placebos and actually believe in them. Which is what homeopaths do. As long as they aren't stopping people from getting a better treatment where one exists, I don't mind them doing what they do.

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