A NY Times article refers to a new study from the BMJ involving the prescribing of placebos to patients. Many ethical dilemmas are raised with this practice. The "placebos" referred to in this study weren't placebos at all, they were either vitamins or different classes of pain management medications. Wiki defines Placebo as:
... a substance or procedure a patient accepts as medicine or therapy, but which has no specific therapeutic activity. Any therapeutic effect is thought to be based on the power of suggestion.
The word placebo is Latin for I will please.
Prescribing placebos is only part of the game. There is also the ordering of expensive lab work and diagnostic tests that go hand in hand with the powers of suggestion. I try to be mindful of the tests that I order and explain the risks and benefits of such tests/treatments.
Sure, there have been times when I've contemplated creating my own "S-Pak" in the hopes of creating a magic treatment. But I've found that presenting basic health information, offering rationale and engaging in two-way communication goes a lot further and is much more meaningful than trying to dupe a patient.