What alternative health

practitioners might not tell you



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“…what is wrong with giving placebos to patients as long as they help? The answer, I'm afraid, is a lot. This strategy would mean not telling the truth to patients and thus depriving them of fully informed consent. This paternalistic approach of years gone by is now considered unethical. Also, placebo effects are unreliable and usually short-lived. Moreover, endorsing homeopathic placebos in this way would mean that people may use it for serious, treatable conditions. Furthermore, if we allow the homeopathic industry to sell placebos we should do the same for big pharmaceutical companies – and where would this take us? Crucially and somewhat paradoxically, we don't need a placebo to generate a placebo effect. If I give my headache patient an aspirin and do this, as all good doctors should, with empathy, time and understanding, the patient will benefit from a placebo effect plus the pharmacological effect of the aspirin. If I prescribe her a homeopathic remedy, I quite simply deprive her of the latter. It is difficult to argue that this approach would be in the interest of my patient. What follows is straightforward: homeopathy is yet another beautiful theory destroyed by ugly facts.” Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (22nd February 2010)