An older article, but nonetheless a good discussion of nocebo effects, sometimes thought of as the “evil twin” of placebo. Notice how the article plays with the idea of what is “real” vs. suggestion/sham/imagined. This real/not real distinction is at the heart of the curative imaginary and one of the interventions we aim make in exploring placebo and nocebo through a feminist/queer/disability lens.
We’re excited to announce a special placebo/nocebo issue of Ars Medica – a literary journal that explores the interfaces between arts and healing (ars-medica.ca). Ada and I are co-editing the special issue and invite those with an interest in placebo/nocebo and medical arts and humanities to submit your work! Ars Medica publishes poetry, narrative, creative non-fiction, fiction, and visual and other digital media arts and in the fall of 2017 it will be all about placebo and nocebo. Explore with us issues of embodiment, the “cut” of what harm vs. what heals, ritual, meaning responses, and the cultural situatedness of health, healing (and harming!). Call is attached!
Laurence Kirmayer describes the difficulties that placebos raise for biomedicine, where explanatory narratives are mechanistic in such as way as to demand direct chemical or physical impact to be seen as causal. Thinking through placebo and healing rituals he comes to the conclusion that “The term ‘placebo’ names a social situation not a substance.”
We agree! Here is another place where our concept of placebos as verbs gets further traction.
For more on Kirmayer’s work, see “Unpacking the placebo response: insights from ethnographic studies of healing” in Placebo Talks (eds. Raz & Harris), Oxford University Press. 2016.
In her lovely account of the edited collection “Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion,” Maria Popova focuses in on the essay by Jo Merchant, titled “Heal Thyself.”
“I think there is a placebo effect not only on patients but on doctors,” Dr. Kallmes adds. “The successful patient is burned into their memories and the not-so-successful patient is not. Doctors can have a selective memory that leads them to conclude that, ‘Darn it, it works pretty well.’” Read the entire article.
We’re fascinated– and skeptical in the best sense of the word– by this research into the genetic bases of placebo responses.
A very brief but evocative video expressing one of our own key claims: placebos are verbs!
“How do you tell a patient that their paralysis, blindness, or seizures are “all in the mind”? As the doctor Suzanne O’Sullivan explains to BBC Future, our thoughts and feelings can move the body in mysterious ways that are just as frightening as any physical illness?”