Medicine: Humble Humbug

Placebo (Latin: I shall please): A medicine, especially an inactive one, given merely to satisfy a patient.

—Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

"Until lately," said last week's Lancet of London in its lead editorial, "the placebo has never been regarded as quite respectable. In the family of drugs it has always been the flea-bitten mongrel dog, kicked into the kitchen when company calls but uncommonly useful for dealing with undesirables at the back door . . . But the spread of scientific methods to the study of materia medica has led to a remarkable improvement in the status of what [Philadelphia's Dr. Oliver...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!