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James van der Walt

Social Entrepreneur, Ugesi Gold

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I have an ethical question. Is it wrong to use placebos?

I'm starting a rural business. Most of these people are very poor and even cynical about their situation. Now I have a plan to start businesses and learning but I first have to get past the mind set. If I were to offer a placebo pill that helps with "your finances and success" would that be wrong?

The idea is that with the business plans I want people to think that they CAN do this. To fight the ideas of "That this is too complicated or that it's just going to fail anyway". Placebo works on the mind but it's power lies in deceit or believe (maybe even faith). So is it wrong to tell people that this pill will help them get out of this bad situation (together with the community projects I have in mind)

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Closing Statement from James van der Walt

Thank you all for a very good discussion to get a clearer view of what a placebo means. Also thank you Sietse Sterrenburg for the article you posted. I think it shows clearly what this discussion was about.
http://www.ted.com/conversations/6494/i_have_an_ethical_question_is.html

So in conclusion. A placebo is a trick to make your mind think you are being healed which then enables your to heal naturally. But this effect is based in deceit which is not ethical. It is much better to train people to use the power of their mind to get the same effect. The placebo has nothing to do with you getting better after all. Rather embrace the truth and enable people to help themselves.

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    Oct 21 2011: Do you not believe that educating the community is better than attempting to placebo them into acceptance of your ideas? It seems morally questionable to me because the thought of using a placebo seems to assume that the people aren't capable of or willing to learn.

    "So is it wrong to tell people that this pill will help them get out of this bad situation (together with the community projects I have in mind)" My answer would be "Yes. It is wrong. Take the time to build community support that is based on the truth."

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