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Shadow MedicineThe Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies$
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John Haller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169042

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169042.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 14 October 2019

“The Powerful Placebo”

“The Powerful Placebo”

Chapter:
(p.61) 3 “The Powerful Placebo”
Source:
Shadow Medicine
Author(s):

John S. Haller

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231169042.003.0003

This chapter studies the role of placebo in medicine. As a product of postmodernist medicine, the placebo had undermined the positivist model of biomedicine by interjecting subjectivity, uncertainty, and ambiguity into the clinical encounter. However, in the 1955 article, “The Powerful Placebo,” Henry Beecher suggested that placebos could work through physiological and biochemical mediators to the point of exceeding the effects of an active pharmacological drug, a hypothesis that challenged the very definition of the placebo as an unreal or inert identity. The advances in research regarding placebo led to the discovery of endorphins, which have opiate-like properties with the potential to alter pain perception, mood and respiration, and the identification of two specific factors that were deemed essential for its action: a suitable disease and a mutually supportive relationship between the physician and the patient.

Keywords:   placebo, postmodernist medicine, biomedicine, Henry Beecher, The Powerful Placebo, endorphins

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