[LINK] electromagnetic fields effect brain activity

jim birch planetjim at gmail.com
Thu Jan 11 17:49:44 AEDT 2007

On 11/01/07, Jan Whitaker <jwhit at melbpc.org.au> wrote:
> At 01:04 PM 11/01/2007, Stewart Fist wrote:
> >For instance, if placebo just means that the patient feels better having
> >been given a pill, then why not say so.  Why give it a fancy medical
> term?

at least it's not an acronym

It's not just the patient (reporting) feeling better.  Observable
physiological changes are common.  Some conditions respond much more than
others to placebos, and to other treatments without a direct causal action,
such as meditation, hot baths, and spells.  For example, the innate (ie
genetically programmed) immune system responds much more to these things
than the slower adaptive immune system.  Colds respond more than broken
legs.  Because the placebo effect can be so strong, the baseline of a
medical treatment is not that it has a statistically significant effect but
that the effect is greater than a placebo.  Hence a double blind trial
compares the treatment not to no treatment but to a placebo.  It's pretty
well established that just putting a person in a medical trial will be
likely produce a relative improvement to their condition even if they are
given no real treatment.

Ideally, medical practice would maximise these placebo-like effects (i)
because they may aid healing, and (ii) because placebos are less likely to
have harmful side effects.  (Or, if they do, it's harder to nail the
doctor!)  Unfortunately, in these days of ethics committees and informed
consent, doctors are less likely to ascribe wildly efficacious potential to
medically inert substances.  On the positive side, we live in a period of
history when there's a reasonable chance doctors may actually be able to do
something positive for most medical complaints, so the placebo effect gets a
guernsey anyway.

But there's also the (true) story of a double blind trial of a new birth
control pill, several of the subjects who were given the placebo experienced
a highly negative side-effect: pregnancy.  The doctor apologised but was
prohibited by the relevant US state law from offering corrective abortions.


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