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Ben Goldacre, doctor and author of Bad Science, explains what the placebo effect is and describes its role in medical research and in the pharmaceutical industry.
Prescribing placebos doesn't NEED to be unethical. Sure, it is if you tell them that it's something else, but there's no reason your doctor couldn't honestly tell you that a she thinks that a placebo treatment will help you. If a patient inquires about the placebo treatment works, some jargon about how studies have shown the treatment to have a beneficial psychosomatic effect should only make it MORE effective for most patients, who have no idea what that means. It's only unethical if you claim a pharmacological effect that does not exist.
Whosawhatsis: misleading by obfuscation is still a form of deception, ie. lying.