The Placebo Effect
Pp. 172-174 (3)
John Alan Cohan
The phenomenon of death by suggestion, so often seen in primitive cultures, is linked to the modern
notion of the placebo effect. The role of suggestion in treatment-whether it is folk healing, shamanism, or other
practices-cannot be underestimated. In the placebo effect, almost any treatment will work, though medically inert,
so long as the patient is convinced that it has efficacy. The idea that a placebo pill will cure patients of illness is
so well established a phenomenon that in clinical trials control groups receive a placebo to compare their outcome
with those receiving the trial drug. The success rate of the placebo is in some cases as good as that of the genuine
drug. Shamans, witch-doctors and folk healers often rely on the patient’s strong belief that the cure will be
effective. The placebo effect may be an explanation for the apparently miraculous healings that sometimes occur
through prayer or other religious practices.
Western State Law School USA.