The crack in the biomedical box
Zelda Di Blasi on the placebo effect – the ghosts that haunt the house of biomedical objectivity.
Crocodile dung, lozenges of dried vipers, blisters and bloodletting. Until this century most medications were pharmacologically inert, if not harmful. Since the age of the scientific revolution the realms of magic, spirituality and superstition have been pushed aside by the rational, objective and scientific biomedical model. The discovery of penicillin, aspirin and cortisone are only a few examples of the triumph of science and rationality in the conquest of illness and the combat of quackery and charlatanism. But, interestingly, remarkable medical achievements and scientific proof have often been obtained by using the very thing that was associated with trickery and deceit – the placebo.
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