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How doctors can ethically harness the placebo effect

Discover Magazine, June 27, 2012

In a recent commentary in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Cory Harris and Amir Raz of McGill summarize the data from recent surveys of physician use of placebos in clinical practice in several nations. They find that prescribing drugs like antibiotics or supplements like vitamins as placebos is now a widespread practice. This is happening without any public guidelines or regulations for placebos’ use, which raises an important question: How, exactly, should physicians be using the placebo effect to help patients?