Placebo effects and healing through belief system - Thesis Example

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Placebo Effects and Healing through Belief System Introduction A common unintended outcome of positive belief or faith in clinical practice or medical treatments, the ‘placebo effect’ serves an important function in all therapeutic processes. Although a universal and simple fact, placebo effect is difficult to define, partly due to its absurd character (Proctor, 2005, p…
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Download file to see previous pages 358). It has been thoroughly proven to contribute to all therapeutic practices and to be a very important component of traditional healing methods, particularly religious or spiritual healing, where symbols (e.g. objects, images, words) commonly comprise major therapeutic elements. A potent healing tool, the placebo effect does not comprise all non-biomedical treatment, several of which include medication and other particular treatments (Rajagopal, 2006, p. 186). This paper argues that the placebo effect is a real and very effective healing instrument, extensively, liberally, and ingeniously used in local and traditional healing practices all over the world. The effectiveness of the placebo effect is not simply ‘psychological’; its power emanates from one’s belief system. The cultural model of medical anthropology stresses the effectiveness of ethno-medical practices, referring to a broad array of findings that they alleviate illnesses. This alleged efficacy of ritual healing indicates that belief system in some way has the capability to heal. In fact, anthropologists have generally assumed that ritual healing is effectual in alleviating maladies (Dixon & Sweeney, 2000, p. 55). Singer (1989) condemned how some anthropologists supported traditional healing practices, viewing its continued existence a counteractive process intended to deal with the outcomes of the inability of societies to offer sufficient medical care (as cited in Harrington, 1999, p. 66). Scheper-Hughes (1990) proposed a different perspective: that both critical and clinical medical anthropology have been unable to cope with the issues raised by the ethno-medical practices against the materialist principles of biomedicine (as cited in Winkelman, 2008, p. 338). An unspoken approval of the ethno-medical practices of other cultures by anthropologists as being potent and effective may suggest that their system of practices can be integrated into the biomedical model. Scheper-Hughes asserted the importance of gaining knowledge of and appreciating other ethno-medical healing processes as requiring methods different from those stressed by biomedicine: “[I]f medical anthropology does not begin to raise the possibility of other realities, other practices with respect to healing the mindful body, who can we expect to do so?” (Winkelman, 2008, p. 338) Analysing the foundations for the legitimacy of such traditions is rationalised based on cultural relativism and through a recognition of their physiological outcomes. Traditional healing practices not merely create a meaningful knowledge or appreciation of health circumstances, they are also generally successful through various processes commonly tackled by biomedicine (Barnes, 2010, p. 54). Biomedicine has largely ignored or underestimated the efficacy of ritual healing practices, claiming that for the most part they offer positive outcomes through ‘suggestibility’—“self-fulfilling expectations of improvement somehow trick people into feeling that they are better when, in fact, they are not” (Winkelman, 2008, p. 338). Some could disregard the evident positive outcomes as placebo effects, but responses to placebo treatments are true; personal belief system and expectations can have major impacts on biological responses and mechanisms. Such ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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