Advanced Seminar in Philosophy of Medicine (Tuesday - Week 6, HT20)

Research Networks

Whether the treatments we take are believed to be ‘effective’ often depends on whether they are better than ‘placebos’ in clinical trials. Understanding what placebos are is therefore important for human health. In spite of this, a great deal of confusion surrounds what placebos are. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, placebos are neither inert nor inactive, and they can have specific effects, especially for treating pain. Following on from the confusions about what they are, debates rage about how to measure their effects, and whether doctors can ethically use them in clinical practice, and whether placebo-controlled trials are ethical if we have an established treatment. In this seminar series, led by Dr. Jeremy Howick, graduate students will read and discuss the meaning of placebos, how to measure their effects, and whether they are ethical.

This week's seminar is entitled: How placebos and nocebos work: a case study of pain.


Convener: Jeremy Howick
In the Oxford Philosophy and Medicine seminars, we explore topics that are both philosophically interesting, and also relevant to medical research or practice, and the core readings draw on the philosophical as well as the medical literature. The first seminar series was held at All Souls in and covered the Philosophy of Evidence-Based Medicine. In this seminar series, we will explore the what placebos are (ontology), how to measure their effects (epistemology), and whether they are ethical.
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