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Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce

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Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Nov 2019, 09:51
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Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce pain in patients who believe that they are receiving beneficial drugs. Some doctors say that they administer placebos because medically effective treatment reinforced by the placebo effect sometimes helps patients recover faster than good treatment alone. But administering placebos is nonetheless ethically questionable, for even if a placebo benefits a patient, a doctor might, for example, have prescribed it just to give the patient satisfaction that something was being done.

The ethicist's argument depends on which one of the following assumptions?

A. A patient's psychological satisfaction is not a consideration in administering medical treatment.
B. The motivation for administering a placebo can be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so.
C. Medical treatment that relies on the placebo effect alone is ethically indefensible.
D. The pain relief produced by the placebo effect justifies the deception involved in administering a placebo.
E. Administering a placebo is not ethically justified if that treatment is not prescribed by a doctor.
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Re: Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2019, 22:13
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hinshara97 wrote:
Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce pain in patients who believe that they are receiving beneficial drugs. Some doctors say that they administer placebos because medically effective treatment reinforced by the placebo effect sometimes helps patients recover faster than good treatment alone. But administering placebos is nonetheless ethically questionable, for even if a placebo benefits a patient, a doctor might, for example, have prescribed it just to give the patient satisfaction that something was being done.

The ethicist's argument depends on which one of the following assumptions?

A. A patient's psychological satisfaction is not a consideration in administering medical treatment.
B. The motivation for administering a placebo can be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so.
C. Medical treatment that relies on the placebo effect alone is ethically indefensible.
D. The pain relief produced by the placebo effect justifies the deception involved in administering a placebo.
E. Administering a placebo is not ethically justified if that treatment is not prescribed by a doctor.


Placebos reduce pain in patients who believe that they are receiving beneficial drugs.
Some docs say that placebo effect + effective treatment is better than effective treatment alone.
Even if a placebo benefits a patient, a doctor might have given it just satisfy the patient.

Conclusion: Administering placebos is ethically questionable.

The conclusion is based on the motivation of the doc for giving the placebo. The premise says that even if it is beneficial, the doc's motivation may not be the benefit but just to satisfy the patient. This makes it ethically questionable.

A. A patient's psychological satisfaction is not a consideration in administering medical treatment.

The argument tells us that a patient's psychological satisfaction IS a consideration in administering medical treatment. So this is not an assumption.

B. The motivation for administering a placebo can be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so.

Correct. Our argument does assume that the doc's motivation for giving placebo is relevant to the ethical justification. Because the doc may have given it just to satisfy the patient, the argument calls giving placebo ethically questionable.

C. Medical treatment that relies on the placebo effect alone is ethically indefensible.

The argument doesn't talk about placebo effect alone. TI talks about placebo with effective treatment. Hence this is irrelevant.

D. The pain relief produced by the placebo effect justifies the deception involved in administering a placebo.

The argument says that the doc's motivation makes it ethically questionable.

E. Administering a placebo is not ethically justified if that treatment is not prescribed by a doctor.

The argument does not talk about no prescription from the doc.

Answer (B)
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Re: Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Nov 2019, 12:50
A) A patient's psychological satisfaction is not consideration in administering medical treatment
It is considered - as per the first sentence in the argument

B) The motivation for administering a placebo can be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so.
My choice. If the doctor administers it for relief of pain, that's ethical but not if it prescribed to deceive the patient into thinking something was being done. --> correct

C) Medical treatment that relies on the placebo-effect alone is ethically indefensible
Not implied in the argument

D) The pain relief produced by the placebo effect justifies the deception involved in adminstering a placebo.
Not implied in the argument

E) Administering a placebo is not ethically justified if that treatment is not prescribed by a doctor.
Not relevant
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Re: Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce  [#permalink]

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New post 29 Nov 2019, 17:49
Well, I debated between A and C and ended up choosing C as it can be the assumption that the ethicist's argument can directly depend on.

Now, I can see B might also be the assumption, but it is beyond my current ability to tackle questions of this level. :(
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Re: Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Nov 2019, 08:21
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Conclusion: administering placebos is nonetheless ethically questionable.

Notice that the conclusion discusses "administering" while the premise is about "prescribing." Perhaps the answer―a
necessary assumption―will address this gap. However, there is a larger gap in this argument. What topic is mentioned in the conclusion that is not discussed in the premise? Ethics! We must assume something about what is and is not ethically questionable vis-a-vis prescribing drugs. It would be a waste of our time to try to predict the answer beyond this, since assumptions can be rather unpredictable. Negation of option B breaks down the above conclusion.

The motivation for administering a placebo can NOT be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so - the argument falls apart. The premise supporting the conclusion is the motivation behind prescribing the medicine. So, B is correct.
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Re: Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Dec 2019, 22:39
hinshara97 wrote:
Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce pain in patients who believe that they are receiving beneficial drugs. Some doctors say that they administer placebos because medically effective treatment reinforced by the placebo effect sometimes helps patients recover faster than good treatment alone. But administering placebos is nonetheless ethically questionable, for even if a placebo benefits a patient, a doctor might, for example, have prescribed it just to give the patient satisfaction that something was being done.

The ethicist's argument depends on which one of the following assumptions?

A. A patient's psychological satisfaction is not a consideration in administering medical treatment.
B. The motivation for administering a placebo can be relevant to the ethical justification for doing so.
C. Medical treatment that relies on the placebo effect alone is ethically indefensible.
D. The pain relief produced by the placebo effect justifies the deception involved in administering a placebo.
E. Administering a placebo is not ethically justified if that treatment is not prescribed by a doctor.


Option B provides the link between the placebo being ethically questionable and the motivations for the placebo possibly being bad. If we negate option B, then the argument collapses.

Option B is the correct answer.
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Re: Ethicist: Studies have documented the capacity of placebos to reduce   [#permalink] 02 Dec 2019, 22:39
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