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The Placebo Effect

Christian Schnettelker
Creative Commons

Placebo treatments have been making people feel better for a long time. They've been working since long before Franz Mesmerwas run out of 18th-century Vienna for "mesmerizing" a young pianist into regaining her eyesight, after all hope for a medical cure had been lost.  

Doctors have long dismissed the placebo effect as inferior to conventional medical treatments that sometimes fail where placebo works well, including insurgical procedures like arthroscopy, a popular procedure that relieves the pain of arthritic knees. 

The placebo effect is triggered not by a magic pill, but through a combination of expectation, hope, and the strength of the doctor-patient relationship. Placebo is realit's on the rise in America, and technology is allowing researchers to link placebo with physiological and psychological changes and genetic predisposition that could change the way we treat illness.


  • Gary Greenberg- Psychotherapist and the author of The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmasking of Psychiatry
  • Ted Kaptchuk- Professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Director, Program of Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital  
  • Bruce Moseley - Orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, former team physician to the Houston Rockets, first to perform placebo surgery

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.

Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.

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