Initiatives in the Humanities and Bioethics

credit: timetrax23Interventions aimed at promoting placebo responses inevitably raise ethical concerns. Such mind-body interactions also pose questions for philosophers, historians and scholars of other medical traditions. Additionally, the history of medical rituals and placebo effects is a valuable source of current research ideas. Conversely, the placebo effect and the therapeutic relationship have the potential to illuminate critical philosophical questions. Our program therefore benefits greatly from the input of scholars in the humanities, including ethics, philosophy and history. Highlights of our previous work in this arena include:

  • In collaboration with bioethicists and philosophers at the NIH, we have produced ethical analyses that are an important voice in ongoing debates surrounding the use of placebos.
  • Our philosophic and theoretical papers have contributed to new hypotheses and insights about the relationship between the mind and the body.
  • Our team has produced major papers on the history of placebo effects and placebo controls that have had a significant impact on scientific research in the field of placebo studies.

Related Publications

Raicek J, Stone BH, Kaptchuk TJ. Placebos in 19th century medicine: a quantitative analysis of the BMJ.  BMJ 2012: 345:38326

Wells, R, Kaptchuk TJ. To Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, May Do Patients Harm: The Problem of the Nocebo Effect for Informed Consent. The American Journal of Bioethics 2012; 12(3): 22–29.

Kaptchuk TJ. Placebo studies and ritual theory: A comparative analysis of Navajo, acupuncture and biomedical healing.  Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Jun 27;366(1572):1849-58.

Finniss DG et al.  Placebo effects: biological, clinical and ethical advances.  Lancet 2010; 375: 686-95.

Miller FG et al.  The placebo effect: illness and interpersonal healing. Perspectives Bio Med 2009; 52: 518-39.

Miller FG, Kaptchuk TJ.  Deception of subjects in neuroscience: an ethical analysis.  J Neurosci 2008; 28: 4841-3.

Kerr CE et al.  A missing mind-body link in the early history of placebo.  J Roy Soc Med 2008; 101:89-92.

Miller FG, Kaptchuk TJ. Sham procedures and the ethics of clinical trials.  J Roy Soc Med 2004; 97: 576-78.

Kaptchuk TJ, Kerr C.  Unbiased divination, unbiased evidence and the patulin clinical trial.   Int J Epidemiol  2004; 33:247-51.

Kaptchuk TJ.  Powerful placebo: the dark side of the randomized controlled trial.  Lancet 1998a;351:1722-25.


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