Ben Goldacre on the placebo effect

"A maelstrom ensued, and critics focused mainly on the failures of modern medicine: the side effects, and the disappointments, as if these problems could somehow be subtracted from medicine and given to alternative therapies as a benefit."

- Dr. Ben Goldacre

In this provocative edition of Bad Science, Goldacre, a Guardian columnist and physician, commented on the furore ensuing this past week after Price Charles berated the UK's National Health Service for not offering more "alternative" therapies free of charge, and a group of prominent British doctors publicly denounced this policy.

Goldacre argues that the age of miracle cures is over, and we have entered an era of "subtle refinements" at the same time when patients and the media are demanding more and more of the science underpinning healthcare. In the current climate, he claims, the placebo effect thought to be caused by alternative therapies may do more good than harm – and their only side-effects are against our intellects.

You can read the rest of Goldacre’s column, and the accumulating reader comments, here.