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I never considered homeopathy as a serious and scientific medicine, and now we have plenty of evidence supporting this (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/12/no-scientific-case-homeopathy-remedies-pharmacists-placebos).

But placebo effect is also a thing that works, strange as it may be. The placebo effect deals with the importance of the brain's role and perception in physical health. So, in my understanding, placebo is better than nothing.

But now I can't treat myself with homeopathy, because I don't believe on it. Other people believe, and are happy with it (benefiting from the placebo effect).

So, my question is, wouldn't be benefitial to illude someone (or yourself) in order to achieve the placebo effect?

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  • $\begingroup$ I would consider making somebody else believe in something that does not work morally wrong. If there is another treatment option that works, it might keep them from using it (or if they try both at the same time, might interfere in the worst case). If there is no other option, you give them a false hope of healing. For yourself, feel free to try. I have trained my mind on homeopathic tablets to believe they make me more focused. I know it is just sugar, my subconscious is tricked into focusing. It might be a Pavlov's response to the taste of those tablets. As it works, I don't care. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Nov 16, 2015 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE. This question appears off-topic. It is not about biology but about sociology and ethics. I suppose it might be on-topic on philosophy.SE $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Nov 16, 2015 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ It's maybe off topic (it's medicine / medical ethics I guess) but I do think it's a good question. There is actually a serious debate among healthcare professionals about whether placebo treatments should be used when no other options are available, because it does bring about a positive response. You can make an argument that it would be unethical to withhold any option that improves the life of the patient, even if we know the effect is merely psychosomatic. The answer is not obvious. $\endgroup$
    – Roland
    Nov 16, 2015 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ This is not about ethics or sociology but the mechanism behind the placebo effect. Great question. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Nov 16, 2015 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @GoodGravy that ethical component comes from you, not the question. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Nov 17, 2015 at 4:48

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The point of a double-blind trial is that treatments are compared to placebo effect. Therefore, conventional treatments that "pass" double-blind trials are better than placebo. If homeopathy is equal to placebo, that means that homeopathy is worse than conventional treatment. Therefore, people who treat with homeopathy are giving worse than standard care.

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    $\begingroup$ But still better than nothing, right? $\endgroup$
    – Chaotic
    Nov 16, 2015 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ That's only relevant if the only option is "nothing", and in the developed world that is not true. It's worse than the realistic options, so comparing it to "nothing" is deceptive. $\endgroup$
    – iayork
    Nov 16, 2015 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Of course a proven uneffective treatment is unethical if there is a proven effective one. But there are many disorders in healthcare for which there is no effective treatment, even in the developed world. What then? $\endgroup$
    – Roland
    Nov 16, 2015 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ You are moving the goalposts, continually concocting new, less and less plausible, scenarios in an attempt to force the answer you want to hear. If your only interest is squeezing out a positive answer for a wildly unlikely situation, and then claiming victory, you're in the wrong place. $\endgroup$
    – iayork
    Nov 16, 2015 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Roland there are many things that can't be cured, but there aren't all that many where no treatment at all, like pain relief or lessening of the worst symptoms, is possible $\endgroup$
    – YviDe
    Nov 16, 2015 at 18:45
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Placebos are good to use in case-control studies. Suppose you have a cohort with depression and a cohort without depression. If you gave the cohort with depression a homeopathic cure and their mood changes for the better, you can't take that as positive results yet. You first have to use a placebo on the cohort without depression to see if their mood remains stable.

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But placebo effect is also a thing that works, strange as it may be. The placebo effect deals with the importance of the brain's role and perception in physical health. So, in my understanding, placebo is better than nothing.

If you think, say, that your lung function is improving, but it's actually not, that's not a good thing. It would be better for you accurately know that you are not healthy, then to wrongly believe you are better.

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  • $\begingroup$ > you think, say, that your lung function is improving, but it's actually not - If you think this is the placebo effect, you have misunderstood it. $\endgroup$
    – rumtscho
    Nov 17, 2015 at 21:48

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