Ravines and Sugar Pills: Defending Deceptive Placebo Use

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (1):83-101 (2015)
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Abstract
In this paper, I argue that deceptive placebo use can be morally permissible, on the grounds that the deception involved in the prescription of deceptive placebos can differ in kind to the sorts of deception that undermine personal autonomy. In order to argue this, I shall first delineate two accounts of why deception is inimical to autonomy. On these accounts, deception is understood to be inimical to the deceived agent’s autonomy because it either involves subjugating the deceived agent’s will to another’s authority or because it precludes the agent from acting effectively in pursuit of their ends. I shall argue that providing an agent with false beliefs is not inimical to their autonomy if they are only able to effectively pursue their autonomously chosen ends by virtue of holding those particular false beliefs. Finally, I show that deceptive placebo use need only involve this latter sort of deception
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