Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 21–33 | Cite as

Ritual in Western Medicine and Its Role in Placebo Healing

  • John S. Welch


Ritual has long been thought to play an important role in the healing processes used by ancient and non-Western healers. In this paper, I suggest that practitioners of Western medicine also interact with patients in a highly ritualized manner. Medical rituals, like religious rituals, serve to alter the meaning of an experience by naming and circumscribing unknown elements of that experience and by enabling patients' belief in a treatment and their expectancy of healing from that treatment. These are all critical elements necessary to mobilize the potent placebo effects reported elsewhere to result from doctor-patient interactions.

medical ritual physician-priest placebo 


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Copyright information

© Blanton-Peale Institute 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • John S. Welch
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Scientist Training ProgramUniversity of California at San DiegoUSA

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