Clinical Placebo Use: Ethical and Unjustified
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Over the last 60 years, there has been a shift in how the patient-physician relationship is viewed. This shift has resulted in patients having a more active role in the decision-making process in regards to treatments. Modern informed consent requirements seem to demand patients are fully informed in order to offer consent and the absence of deception. An unexpected problem arises when we consider the ethical use of deceptive placebo use in the clinical setting within this modern framework. I wanted to known if there was space within the modern informed consent framework for the lack of information required for effective placebo use, such that the missing information did not constitute deception. Authors, such as Barnhill and Kolber, often misinterpret the AMA doctrine and hold the policy to establishing a categorical prohibition against deceptive clinical placebo use. I will show that these authors have misread the AMA doctrine, but in doing so, their discussions begin to offer some of the missing justification for the AMA policy. I will evaluate three dominant stances within the literature and evaluate them in light of four hypothetical cases. In doing so, I will establish that none of the defenses are able to completely justify the AMA view. Accepting this, I believe that Shaw, working within the negative informed consent framework, offers the most robust defense.
Neese, Virginia Beth (2016). Clinical Placebo Use: Ethical and Unjustified. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from