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Charlotte Blease
Philosopher of Medicine, Program in Placebo Studies, Harvard Medical School, United States of America.

Consensus in placebo studies – Disagreement is overstated.

In the relatively nascent field of placebo studies empirical studies have burgeoned. Yet debate about how to define the terms ‘placebo’ and ‘placebo effect’ has not abated. A number of prominent scholars (drawn from medical practice, as well as philosophy, psychology, and anthropology) continue to propose (and defend) different conceptual models for these terms; the perception that conceptual debate persists is often given as one justification for new definitions. Paradoxically – in spite of this lively debate – this paper finds considerable underlying agreement about definitional matters within placebo studies. Drawing on key insights from philosophy of science, and by exploring the nature of scientific consensus and normal scientific research, this paper argues that well-developed placebo concepts form the basis for a placebo paradigm. The paper concludes that conceptual disagreement is overstated.



Dr. Charlotte Blease is a philosopher of medicine currently based at the Program in Placebo Studies, Harvard Medical School where she is a Fulbright Scholar and Irish Research Council/Marie Curie Awardee. Dr. Blease has published extensively on ethics and philosophy of science in relation to placebo studies in the BMJ, Journal of Medical Ethics, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, etc. More broadly, she researchers philosophical issues relating to patient-doctor encounters.