Placebo and the orthodox-alternative medicine debate: A historical and philosophical analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • My paper presents a historical and philosophical analysis of the use of placebo by orthodox and alternative medicine practitioners throughout the 20th century. My main inquiry is how the image of the placebo has shifted from that of a treatment borne in suggestibility and deception–often called a “humble humbug” in 1940s medical articles–to become today's powerful tool and crucial component of modern medical research. While the dialogue between orthodox and alternative medicine has been well established, the way in which it took form has changed throughout the history of medicine. In professional medical forums, contemporary discussions concentrate around the Randomized Clinical Trial, comparing the results of one group receiving a specific treatment with those of a second, a control group receiving a placebo. While orthodox medicine long claimed that alternative medical …

publication date

  • November 12, 2002