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(2016) Biosemiotic medicine, Dordrecht, Springer.

An introduction to the semiotic approach to the placebo responses

Farzad Goli

pp. 1-21

Today, the placebo effect is the Cinderella of a new medical world; a phenomenon which in one night turned from a platitudinous problem and paternalistic sham in practice and a disturber factor in clinical trials, to meaning response, spirit of practice and an extremely valuable subject for research. The word "placebo" is rooted in the Latin Psalm phrase "placebo domino in regione vivorum" – I will please the Lord in the land of the living (Kradin 2011). The word itself has been used in medical literature for centuries, but the first clinical trial was conducted in 1799, in which the author stated: "[A]n important lesson in physic is here to be learnt, the wonderful and powerful influence of the passions of the mind upon the state and disorder of the body" (Price et al. 2008). From the middle of the twentieth century, conventional medicine began using placebos as methodological tools to distinguish between specific and non-specific ingredients in treatment (Papakostas and Daras 2001). The placebo was first introduced as an inert agent solely prescribed for pleasing the patient. There was a paradoxical conceptualization in this way of thinking because doctors used placebos on one hand as an element with no therapeutic effect, but on the other hand, it did show some response in the patient. This paradox resulted in the shift from focusing on the inert content of placebos to the concept of an active therapeutic agent within a psychosomatic context.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-35092-9_1

Full citation:

Goli, F. (2016)., An introduction to the semiotic approach to the placebo responses, in F. Goli (ed.), Biosemiotic medicine, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 1-21.

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