Informed Consent and the Ethics of Placebo-Based Interventions in Clinical Practice

  • Marco AnnoniEmail author
  • Franklin G. Miller
Part of the Headache book series (HEAD)


In this chapter we explore the ethics of informed consent with respect to the prescription of effective treatments, like acupuncture, that according to evidence-based standards have a prevalent placebo component. First, we review empirical studies demonstrating that placebo effects may significantly modulate symptoms in highly prevalent conditions, taking migraine as our case in point. Next, we chart the ethical implications of prescribing interventions that have been found slightly more effective than placebos and yet significantly better than no treatment—a class of remedies that we label as “placebo-based interventions.” We argue that, provided certain conditions are met, doctors may ethically prescribe placebo-based interventions in nondeceptive ways. By contrast, we contend the prescription of placebo treatments is incompatible with informed consent unless the true nature of the remedy is transparently disclosed to patients.


Placebo effects Migraine Acupuncture Informed consent Doctor-patient communication 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Consiglio Nazionale delle RicercheIstituto di Tecnologie BiomedicheRomeItaly
  2. 2.Weill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA

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