Caregiver placebo effect

Placebos by Akacio S. ( /photographyk )

The placebo effect is usually considered to be the curative effective resulting from patients equipping a sugar pill with their belief in its ability to help. But it turns out that the placebo effect can result from the thought of the caregiver as well.

“Belief in or expectation of a good outcome can have formidable restorative power, whether the positive expectations are on the part of the patient, the doctor or caregiver, or both…” says Herbert Benson, M.D. writing (with Marg Stark) about what he calls “remembered wellness” in his book “Timeless Healing – The Power and Biology of Belief”.

Herbert Benson M.D.

Benson shares a number of examples of what is called the “placebo effect”. But perhaps more remarkable is what he learned from a 1979 study he and Dr. David P. McCallie Jr. made of therapies used to alleviate a condition called “angina pectoris” (see page 30). He explains that techniques used in years past which have since proved to have been “misguided” nonetheless often worked even though there was “no physiologic reason” they should have.

He relates that when these “techniques were used and believed in, they were effective 70 to 90 percent of the time...” “Interestingly, later, when physicians began to doubt whether these treatments worked, their effectiveness dropped to 30 to 40 percent.”

In his book, Benson shares a number of examples from studies showing that when physicians convey confidence and expectancy to their patients, the results are better. They seem to instill or reinforce the placebo effect from the patient’s belief.

I’ve known of this phenomenon from my study of Christian Science.

“The chemist, the botanist, the druggist, the doctor, and the nurse equip the medicine with their faith, and the beliefs which are in the majority rule. When the general belief endorses the inanimate drug as doing this or that, individual dissent or faith, unless it rests on Science, is but a belief held by a minority, and such a belief is governed by the majority” writes Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (page 155).

This all can serve to highlight the point that there is a mental aspect to disease and it then follows that there is a mental aspect to healing.

And this is why a treatment that addresses thought through prayer works. Christian Science addresses human thought in order to heal, and it goes higher than the beliefs of the human mind (good or bad) by relying on the truth of our wholeness and health known by the divine intelligence, the Mind that is God.

Perhaps this is what Paul was referring to when he said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phillippians 2:5).

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